The Eighth Woman: Mary’s story

My name is Mary. No not the one you’re thinking of, not the mother of Jesus. No, not that one either, not Mary Magdalene. There’s so many of us Marys and Miriams around its easy to get confused.

I am the Mary the one who’s married to Cleopas. I was there at the crucifixion, holding up Jesus’ mother Mary as a sword pierced her soul brutal inch by brutal inch. 

Today we were walking home to Emmaus. When I say walking, it was more like dragging ourselves. More than once I felt like lying down on the edge of the road and never moving again. I don’t think I have ever felt so weary and hopeless in all my life. I don’t really know what I’d been expecting. It just wasn’t this. Jesus was the kind of person who gave you such hope – in him, in the world, in yourself – and I knew that if I could just be near him that hope would grow and grow and never stop. 

We had hoped that he would redeem Israel. Now I think about it I’m not really sure what I thought that meant. He didn’t have the look to be a military leader. I don’t mean he was all meek and mild, he could rage with the best of them and did often. It was more that brandishing a sword wasn’t his style. I suppose I imagined the whole host of heaven would come down and drive out the Romans like in the stories of old. I realise how daft it sounds now I say it out loud but I did believe he could, I did believe he would. 

So this morning, after everything that had happened we packed our bags and went home. I thought it was a bit soon. But after that long awful day on Friday when I watched my hope ebb away with every dying breath he took. And then after the women came this morning to tell us the tomb was empty, gibbering something hair-brained about him being risen from the dead. And after we’d rushed outside and saw the world exactly as it had always been, Roman soldiers and all.

The fight went out of me and we packed up and left. 

It was Cleopas who started the row. He started in grumbling that I’d been the one to follow that Jesus in the first place. If it hadn’t been for me, he’d have been comfortably at home right now. That did it. I let him have it. All my pent up anger and hurt and bitterness, spewed out over him in a massive tidal wave. I was taking a breath for the second wave when I became aware of a stranger just standing there, smiling at us asking what we were talking about.  Cleopas glared at him in disbelief. ‘Are you the only one who has no idea what has been going on?’  The stranger smiled again, ‘Maybe I am. Why don’t you tell me about it while we walk?’ 

So we did. Turn and turn about we told him about our hopes and our fears, about Jesus and what he’d meant to us. Stranger though he was, I found myself telling him things I’d never imagined saying out loud. We even told him about the story the women had told this morning about him being alive. He listened and nodded and listened and nodded. 

Then he said ‘How stupid you are and slow to catch on’.  I thought it was a bit rude frankly but then he began telling us about the scriptures. And I forgot to
be annoyed. Starting at the very beginning laid it all out, he told my story – all my hopes and my dreams – in the words of the scriptures. My heart leapt and burned within me.  I was so totally and utterly absorbed that I was amazed to hear him saying. ‘I must go on. Look your village is just down there’. 

We had travelled seven miles, it felt, in an instant. All of a sudden I couldn’t bear the thought that this stranger might leave us. It felt as though I’d known him all my life. It seemed Cleopas felt the same and so we begged and cajoled, pleaded and persuaded him to eat with us. Eventually he gave in and came with us. I’d brought food back with us from Jerusalem so it was only a matter of minutes before we were ready to eat. It was, I remember thinking, a bit forward of him to take the bread and bless it. That was Cleopas’ job as host but the thought had gone as soon as it half formed in my mind. The arms of his tunic slipped downwards as he raised his hands, revealing gaping holes in each wrist. And the words. The words of blessing and gratitude to his father in heaven were words I’d heard every single day for the past few years, word he’s said every time he took bread and blessed it. I looked at the bread in my hand and in that moment I knew, I knew it was him. 

‘He’s alive. He is alive. He is alive. He is alive’ 

Cleopas’ mouth formed the words faster than mine did, ‘You’re al…’ 

But he was gone. The remaining loaf falling to the plate with a crash.  We sprang to our feet and ran quicker than I could ever have imagined was possible. Our feet beating out the rhythm as we went, ‘He’s alive, he’s alive, he’s alive’. 

We arrived in Jerusalem, hot and breathless. 

‘I thought you went home?’ said Peter
‘So did we… ‘ ‘you might have said goodbye’ ‘you can’t just go off like that’ voices around the room chimed in.  I was still panting, trying to catch my breath, unable to speak ‘We’ve got news’ said Peter. 

Mary, yes that one, the one you are thinking about – Jesus’ mother – spoke quietly but her voice cut through all the hubbub. ‘If you give them a moment, I think you’ll find they have too’.