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Eyewitnesses

Readings for Lent

WEEK ONE: “My Son, My Savior!”

Theme: Jesus is both man and God.

Speaker: Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Scripture: Luke 2:6-7, 16-19, 48-51; John 2:1-5; 19:25-27; Acts 1:14

Good morning. I’m Mary, the wife of Joseph the carpenter, the mother of Jesus.

I could tell you many things about Jesus. Most parents have moments when they are very pleased and proud of their children. And with Jesus it was that way too.

I could never fully understand how I was chosen to be his mother, but that was the role—the privilege—given to me. I was visited by an angel, talked to the shepherds in Bethlehem, and met the wise men from afar. All of these things were amazing. But Jesus was also an ordinary boy.

He played little games with me in Egypt; he learned to walk and talk. He asked the funny questions that most children ask. He played outdoors with the other children in the neighborhood, learned the laws and customs of the Torah, and went to Jerusalem with our family and friends for the feast days every year. But though he was ordinary, he was always a little different. You may even know the story of how Joseph and I accidentally left him behind in Jerusalem when he was twelve. We were so worried, but he very calmly told us he had to be there. As so many times before, I just shook my head in wonder at him. I kept the stories in my mind and thought about them over and over again.

For many years he worked diligently with his father in our family’s carpenter shop. But when he began to preach and teach all through the countryside, I started to realize that even though he was my son, I could never be only his mother. About that time we were at a wedding feast and they ran out of wine. I urged Jesus to help and watched him turn water into wine. But at the same time, he spoke to me with an authority that I was called to respect. It was another incident in his life for me to ponder.

My neighbors talked about what Jesus was doing but seemed jealous and refused to respect him. As time went on, he had many followers who loved him but he also caused many people to be angry. You may know the terrible story of his death. Even in all his pain and suffering, he acknowledged that I was his mother and he made sure that his friend, John, would look after me when he was gone.

He was my son and I watched him die.

But he was so much more than just my son. I know he rose again. I met with many disciples who had seen him. Alive again!

He was my son; I gave birth to him. But more important, he is my Savior. I cannot live without him. He died on that cross, not only for me but for all who will believe that he was a man who truly lived and that he was the Son of God!

This is a mystery that I can never understand. The only thing I can do is think about it over and over. In the end, I must just have faith and believe that Jesus, my son, was and is the Savior.

WEEK TWO: Son of Thunder, Friend of Jesus

Theme: We need a relationship with Jesus.

Speaker: John, the son of Zebedee

Scripture: Mark 3:17; 10:35-45; Luke 9:51-56; John 19:25-27

Greetings! I am John, the son of Zebedee. James is my brother and we were disciples of Jesus. He called us the “sons of thunder.” But before that we were fishermen: my father, my brother, and I. We worked hard together. We had no desire to do anything else.

But then we met Jesus and things changed. He called us to walk with him, work with him, learn with him. And we did! James and I weren’t called the “sons of thunder” for nothing! We liked to work hard and play hard, and we expected things to happen. Well, we followed Jesus that way too. Just left Dad with the boats and off we went!

We were there for all of Jesus’ ministry. We saw people healed. We helped feed the crowds who came to hear him teach. We listened to him for hours. How he talked about his kingdom: a kingdom of love and justice! Well, I’m all for that. Just show me what to do and I’ll do it.

Jesus was so powerful that it was exciting to think about what we could do. Sometimes James and I got a little ahead of ourselves. We needed to be pulled back and calmed down.

Once, when we were walking through Samaria, Jesus sent some messengers ahead to arrange for us to sleep for the night. The townspeople refused to let us in. I couldn’t believe it. They wouldn’t let Jesus into their village! James and I went to Jesus and asked if we should pray for fire to rain down on them. It sounds a bit harsh, I know, but this was Jesus. We knew he had come to set up a new kingdom with his power. We thought he could really make a name for himself. But that wasn’t what Jesus wanted at all. So he called us off and we went on our way to another town. (Shrugs.)

Later, James and I were talking about how great it would be when Jesus became king. We hoped that since we were close to him he would use us in a special way. You know—his right-hand men. His most powerful advisors. We wanted him to promise to seat us on either side of him when he ruled his kingdom. He didn’t really get upset, but he asked us if we were ready to take on the task of following him. Of course we were!

The others were sort of ticked at us for asking for special favors. They probably wished that they had asked first. But none of us knew that day what we were asking. Jesus told us that whoever followed him had to become a servant and a slave of all, and we just didn’t get it.

As the opposition to him grew, we all came to realize that Jesus was setting up a kingdom that was not like anything the world had ever seen.

I stood on the hill as he was crucified and felt numb. I loved Jesus. He was my friend, my teacher, my leader. From the cross he asked me to look after his mother. I humbly accepted that responsibility. I knew he could ask me to do so much more. Whatever it was, I would do it.

Knowing Jesus, living with him, loving him, changed me completely. I was a fisherman—a rough, hot-tempered fellow. Because of Jesus, I became a writer, a teacher, a church leader, and even a martyr. He loved me as I was and used me in ways I never dreamed.

I am John, one of the Sons of Thunder. Follower of Jesus. Amen!

WEEK THREE: “I Love Jesus. I Will Serve Him.”

Theme: We must believe and honor Jesus.

Speaker: Martha

Scripture: Luke 10:38-41; John 11:17, 20-28; 12:1-3

I am Martha. I lived in Bethany with my brother, Lazarus, and my sister, Mary. We had the privilege of knowing Jesus, the great Teacher from Nazareth. He touched our lives in the deepest way. But I really ought to start at the beginning.

My brother, my sister, and I live together in a good home in Bethany, just a short walk from Jerusalem. We enjoy opening our home to others. I know how important it is for people to get together to talk and fellowship and have good food.

When Jesus started to heal people and to teach near us, we went to see him. There was a lot of talk about him being the Messiah. We wondered if he really could be the One to help us have our own land again. As we often do, Lazarus, Mary, and I invited a large group of people over so we could visit and learn from Jesus. Well, Mary was so taken with him that she just sat there listening to him while I was flying around preparing food, making sure we had enough dishes—all those things that have to be done. I really wanted to listen to Jesus too, but I had to be a good host to all these people.

Eventually I got frustrated and I told Jesus that Mary wasn’t doing her fair share. Jesus very kindly told me that all the busyness in the house that I thought was so necessary really wasn’t the most important thing. Hmmmm. That hurt a bit, but when I thought about it, listening to Jesus is better than eating or cooking or cleaning.

Jesus soon became the most important person in our lives. As I listened to him, it became clear to me that he was the Son of God. He was the Messiah, but we did not always understand the things he did. This became very clear when my brother became very sick. We knew Jesus had healed many people, so Mary and I quickly sent word to him to come and help us. Surely he would heal Lazarus. But Jesus didn’t come and didn’t come. And Lazarus just slipped away. Fear, sorrow, even anger filled me. Why didn’t Jesus come?

We had already buried Lazarus when Jesus did finally arrive. I was so eager to see him and yet I wondered if I could let him see all the emotions I was feeling. When I saw Jesus all the uneasiness faded away. I ran to him, embraced him, and said, “Master, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now, I know God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus shared the sorrow that Mary and I felt. He loved Lazarus so much that he cried at the tomb. Watching him, I knew with all my heart that this was the Messiah. He was the Son of God sent to save the world.

Then our Lord called into the tomb and brought our dear brother back from death. I am still speechless at this miracle.

Later that week we gave a dinner to celebrate this amazing experience. Once again I stayed in the background, doing what I do best—looking after details. But my sister Mary showed Jesus her love, our love, in a dramatic way. She took some costly perfume and poured it all over Jesus’ feet. The money that she spent would have purchased many meals, but I knew Mary was doing the right thing in spite of some complaining from those who really didn’t understand. Jesus demands everything from us because he is so wonderful and so giving to us. He is the Lord, so what can we do but give our whole life in return?

WEEK FOUR: “I Love Him. I Fail Him.”

Theme: We must trust Jesus’ strength.

Speaker: Peter

Scripture: John 2:35-42; Mark 1:14-20, 29-31; 3:13-19; Matthew 14:22-32; 26:31-54, 69-75; John 21:15-19

Shalom. I am Simon, brother of Andrew. I fished in the Sea of Galilee with my cousins James and John. And Jesus, the Messiah, called me Peter—“the Rock.”

The Rock. What a joke! I am not rock-like at all. I often say or do things before I think through all the pros and cons. I guess you could say I’m a little impulsive. Maybe even a lot! This wasn’t such a problem out in our boats where quick thinking was often necessary. But with my master, Jesus ... Oh, the pain this caused me—and him.

I met Jesus early in his ministry. Actually, I thank my brother Andrew for introducing us. He went to hear this other fellow, John, who was baptizing in the desert, and through him Andrew got to meet Jesus. After that first day with Jesus, Andrew ran and told me that this was the Messiah! I thought Andrew was being a little hasty, but when I met Jesus, everything changed!

The crowds were already beginning to gather around Jesus, partly because he healed my wife’s mother from a terrible fever. He just took her hand and commanded it to leave. After that and other miracles, people followed Jesus everywhere to hear him speak and to see his power.

I believed in Jesus so strongly. It’s hard to describe, but it almost hurt. I wanted so much to be a part of him and his strength. I wanted to show that I could live up to his name for me—Peter: the Rock. I even tried to walk on water for him! Let me tell you about it.

After a busy day, some of us decided to take out one of our boats. Later, when we were in the middle of the lake, we saw something walking toward us on top of the water! It was terrifying! But then I saw it was Jesus and I wanted to run to him. So I did. Looking at him, I was fine. I took two steps on the water, but when my brain kicked in and I realized what I was actually doing, I started to sink. As always, Jesus saved me. He pulled me to the boat and then scolded me for not having faith in him.

Sadly, the same thing happened to me over and over again with Jesus. At the last Passover feast in the upper room I made a big show about always being there for him, but later I fell asleep while Jesus was praying in the garden. When the soldiers came for him, I cut off a fellow’s ear. But Jesus didn’t want that, so he healed the man. When they took him away, I ran!

Then I did the worst thing of all. John and I followed when the soldiers took Jesus to the high priest. John went to Jesus, but I stayed back in the courtyard. Kept my distance, stayed away. And there I lied over and over and said I didn’t even know Jesus. My Master, the one I knew with all my heart to be the Son of God, the Messiah. And I chickened out and lied about knowing him three times. Not only lied, but swore too. It felt awful to do it, and then the rooster crowed. When I was bragging in the upper room, Jesus told me I would deny him three times before the rooster crowed. My heart broke. My master was being abused and I added to his pain over and over and over. That night I cried like I have never cried before.

It was a bad time, those days after Jesus died. We tried to console each other and make sense of the terrible events, but it was impossible.

And then we learned that Jesus was alive! The tomb was empty. He appeared to us in the upper room and many times after that. The best time was when I knew he had forgiven me for the painful mistakes I had made. He asked me three times if I loved him, and three times I said I did. Three time to blot out the denials. Three times to realize that I can only live by looking to him, staying near him, and loving him so much that he fills my life.

Will I ever be strong enough to be “the Rock”?

PALM SUNDAY: “Hosanna! Blessed Is the King!”

Theme: We must praise Jesus.

Speakers: Two children

Scripture: Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19

(A group of children enter the church singing and waving branches. Two break away and do the readings.)

Reader 1: Did you hear?

Reader 2: Did you see him?

Reader 1: It was amazing! Look, over there! Jesus—on a donkey!

Reader 2: Do you hear the noise? People are shouting and praising him. They say he is going to be king!

Readers 1 and 2 together: Hosanna! Hosanna! Save us! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.

Reader 1: Wow! I’m so glad I’m here.

Reader 2: Me too!

Reader 1: We came for Passover this week. I’m from Galilee—my family traveled here with a big group of people. We had heard about this Jesus. He was teaching and healing people near our home for a while.

Reader 2: My aunt, she even took her little ones to see him. I guess his helpers got sort of mad at her and told her and her friends to leave. But not Jesus. He’s even willing to sit with little kids. He held my cousin and prayed for her—an important, busy man like that! He said his kingdom was for little ones too.

Reader 1: But now Jesus is here for Passover and things are happening. We heard that he raised someone from the dead—a man called Lazarus from some other town. And today when he came into the city, people who knew about it started to shout for him. Then those of us along the road started too.

Reader 2: He came in on a donkey—too bad he couldn’t find a horse. But he’s not rich, so they say he just took this donkey and rode it. It had never been ridden before. His followers put coats on it and then other people threw their coats ahead of him on the ground. Some of us grabbed branches to wave, and everyone got so excited!

Reader 1: Well, not everyone. Some of the teachers from the synagogues, Pharisees, weren’t too happy. They yelled at Jesus to stop us from praising him. You know, like he shouldn’t think so much of himself to let us do this. But Jesus told them that if we didn’t praise him, the rocks would!

Reader 2: That’s true! I stood there and heard him say it. The Pharisees were so mad!

Reader 1: We have never ever seen anyone like Jesus. He is wise and has such power.

Reader 2: You see him and hear him and you have to react.

Reader 1: You love him or you hate him.

Reader 2: He is blessed by God. He will be the King!

Reader 1: He will be the KING!

Readers 1 and 2 together: (other children can join in): Hosanna! Hosanna!

MAUNDY THURSDAY (OR GOOD FRIDAY): “I’ll Save a Place for Him.”

Theme: We must serve Jesus.

Speaker: Owner of the upper room

Scripture: Mark 14:12-16

What a time it was in Jerusalem that year! Passover was coming and the streets were getting busy with travelers and families coming to celebrate in this great and holy city. You could feel the excitement in the air.

But it wasn’t all happy and cheerful—oh, no. We people, the Jews, you know, were getting really tired of the Romans and the rulers that they place over us. I didn’t like the situation either, but I had a nice little house; I kept busy with my job and stayed out of trouble. I wasn’t too willing to get involved with the angry mobs.

And then there was this Jesus fellow. People were talking and talking about him and his miracles and his teachings. Some thought this was the One, that he was going to rise up and get rid of the Romans for us, once and for all. Others weren’t so sure, and the rulers at the synagogue did not like him at all.

Like I said, it was an interesting and exciting time. But then who should come to my house but this Jesus himself! All on his own; sort of quiet-like. I had told a few people that I would be willing to rent out the upper room of my house for visitors who might need a place to celebrate the Passover. It’s nothing fancy. My wife and I help set up the room, but people would have to serve themselves.

Well, Jesus said that he and his close followers would need this room to celebrate the Passover and he would send some fellow soon to prepare the feast.

I was renting the room out for a little extra coin, but I didn’t know if this Jesus and his lot had the money! They didn’t even have a place to live—they moved around a lot.

Funny, just talking to him made me want to trust him. So we made the arrangements and I waited for his men.

I went up to the room soon after they arrived, just to make sure everything was all right. It was sort of awkward. They had walked into the city that day and they were dusty. No Jewish person will participate in a meal, especially the Passover, without first doing the ceremonial washing. But they had no servants and I could see that none of them wanted to start out the evening by washing the others. Until they washed, the feast couldn’t begin. So guess who did it? Jesus. That great teacher who everyone was talking about. He bent right down and acted like a servant to all his followers. They were speechless, except for one guy who got all blustery about it. But Jesus was so calm; just kept washing until he had cared for them all.

I listened at the door for the rest of the night. Any person who can lead that many men and still be willing to be that humble is someone to watch. He is a true leader. What I saw when they ate the bread and drank the wine together made me believe that Jesus was not like any other man. I came to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

I wasn’t able to leave everything and follow him, but I did hear about all the other things that happened after they left my house. I am so thankful that I was able to serve him in even that little way—just by offering my extra room. I know he appreciated that. He was willing to wash feet, so he must value all the humble tasks in this world. I left my room open for his followers after that. I had to do what little I could for Jesus.

EASTER SUNDAY: “He Is Alive!”

Theme: Believe.

Speaker: Cleopas (a traveler on the road to Emmaus)

Scripture: Luke 24:13-49

Greetings! I am here to tell you about things for which there are no words. I am here to tell you about things for which there are too many words! I am here to tell you about Jesus!

But before I go further, I have to tell you the whole story.

My name is Cleopas. I was a follower of Jesus—not one of the twelve, but I knew his teachings. I went to Jerusalem for the Passover feast and saw everything that happened that final week. His ride into the city on a donkey, his arrest and trial, and, finally, his horrible death.

I believed in him. I was sure he was the Promised One: the Messiah. He spoke with such authority and he showed such awesome power. He was the Son of God. He was sent to redeem Israel.

But after his death I was so confused. I wept and prayed and talked for hours with the disciples and other followers. We had seen the hatred of the priests and Pharisees and he had prepared us for his death in his teachings. But the reality was horrible. We loved him and he was gone. All our hopes for the Messiah had been dashed.

On Sunday morning, though we wanted to stay, my companion and I were preparing to leave Jerusalem to go home. We were walking to Emmaus, which is about half a day’s walk from the city. Before we left, some of the women who had gone before sunrise to bring spices to Jesus’ tomb came to the house. They were so excited they were practically babbling! They said the tomb was empty; they had seen angels who said Jesus was alive. They went on and on, weeping, laughing. We didn’t know what to think. Some of the other men ran to the tomb and it was empty. They didn’t see angels or Jesus.

We finally left around noon. And as we walked, we tried to help each other make sense of everything that had happened, but we just couldn’t. We were discouraged, confused, and frightened.

Another traveler joined us and started a conversation. He was interested in our discussion and asked many questions about what had happened.

I looked at him and said, “Where have you been, man? How could you have been in Jerusalem for the feast and not heard of Jesus? He was a prophet and we hoped he would be the one to redeem Israel!” I went on to tell this stranger about the events of the week and ended up by telling him how confused we were now with the reports of the empty tomb.

Then this stranger told us that we were foolish! Us! He explained in beautiful language the teachings of the prophets, starting with Moses and proceeding through all our religious writings. He showed us how Jesus had fulfilled these prophecies. We were amazed at his wisdom and insight.

The walk to Emmaus had never gone so quickly, and my friend and I didn’t want to leave this teacher. Since it was late in the afternoon we invited him to stay with us for the evening and continue our discussion.

As we sat down to eat, this man took bread and broke it in front of us. He blessed it, and suddenly it was as if scales fell from our eyes. This man was Jesus!

I cried out to him, but suddenly he was gone! He just disappeared.

But we knew. WE KNEW. He was the promised Messiah. He was our Savior. He was alive! Now the teachings we heard from him along the road made even more sense. As he spoke, we knew he was no ordinary man. How could we not have known it was Jesus!

My friend and I ran as quickly as we could back to Jerusalem. We had to share this with the others.

Once we found them, we cried and could hardly share our story. The words wouldn’t come out fast enough. And in the middle of the story, there Jesus was again.

Jesus. Not a ghost. He ate with us. He talked with us. He taught us.

Jesus, the conqueror of death. The promise of ages. Our Messiah. Our Savior.

Alive.

Hallelujah!

SUNDAY AFTER EASTER: “I Have Seen. I Believe.”

Theme: Jesus leads us to believe.

Speaker: Thomas

Scripture: John 11:16; 14:5; 20:24-29; Acts 1:13

Good morning, fellow travelers. I am Thomas, the twin—a follower of Jesus.

My background, my sibling, the things I did before I met Jesus, they are not important. What is important is Jesus, my Lord and the Master of my life.

I became one of the Twelve, the special group that followed Jesus, soon after he started teaching. Those years with him on the road were wonderful. There were the miracles and the crowds and, best of all, there was what he taught us when we were alone with him. Now, I’m more of a listener than a talker. There were others in the group who were more involved in discussions, but I always paid attention and thought things through. I just needed things to be clear in my mind.

This is how I saw it: Jesus was our leader, our master. He was going to save our people and he needed us to follow and do what he wanted. I would be loyal to him. I believed in him.

Then things started to get murky. The religious leaders were angry with Jesus and we had to leave Jerusalem. We all wondered what was going to happen. Then we received word that Jesus’ good friend, Lazarus, was very sick. His sisters Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to go to Bethany right away. But he didn’t leave right away. Two whole days later, Jesus said that it was time for us to go back to Bethany and Jerusalem.

I had seen his body on the cross. I knew where they had buried him. How could they have seen him alive?

Many of the other disciples questioned Jesus. They said it was too dangerous. But finally I spoke up: “If he is going, let us all go, that we may die together.” That sounds harsh, I know. But Jesus was our leader, and, like I said, once I make a commitment, it is made. I was a follower of Jesus and I would follow even if it became difficult or dangerous.

Many of you know of the events that followed. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, which brought attention to Jesus and enraged the religious leaders even more. We all went into Jerusalem, and at the Passover dinner Jesus tried to explain what was coming. We really didn’t understand what he was talking about. I asked him to clarify—how would we know how to support him if we didn’t really know where he was going or what he was going to do? Again, I just need things to be clear in my mind. But they got no clearer. They got worse and worse, murkier and murkier.

One of us betrayed him, many of us ran, and we did not know what to do.

Jesus was crucified. He was dead.

I was devastated. How could this man I loved and vowed to follow be gone? I went off by myself to think and to ponder. I needed to work this out.

But then the women and other followers started to share unusual stories. They had seen Jesus! This made no sense. I had seen his body on the cross. I knew where they had buried him. How could they have seen him alive?

I told them I wasn’t going to believe any of this unless I actually saw Jesus myself. I needed to see the scars and touch his wounds. There were just too many unanswered questions, and I needed help to make sense of it all.

Jesus knows our needs and he honored me in my confusion. He came to me later. He stood in front of me to show me his wounds. I was terrified, but as always he said, “Peace be with you,” and then kindly showed me what I needed to see so that I too could believe. I cried, “My Lord and my God!” My mind was at rest. This was nothing I had to ponder or work out. I just had to believe. It was faith.

And my friends, Jesus said that you who follow after him are also blessed. You believe even when you haven’t actually seen the risen body of Jesus. But I want you to understand that Jesus will give you what you need to have faith in him, as he did with me.

Trust him and believe.

Hallelujah! We serve a risen Savior!