The first woman: Miriam’s Story
My name is Miriam. I come from Sepphoris, in Galilee where I live with my family. We’re fish traders. It’s a good life. Selling fish to the Romans turns a steady profit. The money is good. The weather is glorious, rarely too hot or too cold. Our life is peaceful – we in Sepphoris know what’s good for us – we’re loyal to Rome and Rome leaves us alone. Not like those mad fanatics in the hills, they’ll get themselves killed one day – mark my words. Don’t get me wrong I’d love to see the back of those Romans as much as anyone. When the Messiah comes, and I know he will, I’ll be the first to cheer his army on as they kick those Romans out but until he does, I’ll keep my head down and mind my own business. I’ll leave the Romans alone and hope they leave me alone – that way no harm
could possibly come to anyone could it?
This year, like every year, we’ve come to Jerusalem for the Passover. Us and most of the rest of the Galilee. I love it and hate it all at the same time. I love the excitement and the expectation, I hate the smell and the jostling; I love the togetherness of us all in the same place for the same reason, I hate the fights that kick off at a moment’s notice; I love going to the temple to meet my God, I hate being pushed out of the way by those people who think they’ve a better right to be there than I have.
But I especially love that moment when all the crowds that have been travelling from north and south and east and west, join together as we stream into Jerusalem. And as we go we sing. We sing as though our hearts would burst within in us. We sing the ancient tunes of the Psalms - voices of strangers mingling together, joining us together as one as we sing our way into the holy city, the city of God. One of my favorites has always been ‘The Song of Victory’ – ‘O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good: his steadfast love endures forever’. When we, pilgrims, sing it, the sound of it ripples backwards and forwards down the long line of people ‘His steadfast love endures forever, endures forever, forever, and ever, and ever’.
This year we started singing that Psalm my favorite Psalm just as we got to Bethany. The timingcouldn’t have been more perfect. It’s a Psalm all about a King – a King who really existed. When we sing this Psalm, I love to imagine him, weary and bruised from battle coming to Jerusalem exhausted but quietly triumphant. Riding down the very road I’m on now, remembering the struggle and the battle and how he was nearly lost but how the steadfast love of the Lord really does endure forever.
And he was saved. And how the priests would stream out of the temple to greet him singing ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’ and there’d be joy and thanksgiving everywhere. One day, one day we’ll sing this for real when the Messiah, our new king, come, when he’s driven the Romans out and there’s peace and justice everywhere – then we’ll sing this with all our might ‘blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’.
Just then two people brought a donkey and a man got on it, like he’d expected it somehow. And he rode it – just like I always imagined the King would have done, except for it was a donkey and not that impressive. The crowd parted for a moment and I recognized some of them around him – there was Peter and I think his name was Andrew, and Zebedee’s boys who’d upped and offed a few years ago leaving their poor father to do all the work. They followed one of those Messiah types I heard.
Then I saw the man on the donkey. He should have looked ridiculous but somehow he didn’t. he just looked well … right, kingly and gentle, powerful and caring all rolled into one. Just like I imagined steadfast love would look. Someone pushed a branch into my hand as we got close to the end of the psalm. I found myself singing and waving my branch ‘Save us, Hosanna, Save us’. All around me people were doing the same, singing directly to the man on the donkey as though our very lives depended on it. ‘Save us, hosanna, Save us. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’. In that moment it felt as though he really could – save us that is. He couldn’t be The One could he? No of course not. The Romans are all around us, look at them twitching for the merest chance to draw their sword. In any case he doesn’t look the part, not even approaching magnificent enough to be a proper Messiah. And the priests haven’t come out of the temple to greet him. If it was him, they’d know wouldn’t they? Priests are trained to recognize the things of God. If he really was the messiah they’d know and they’d tell us. Then we’d all know. No messiah would leave it to chance would they?
I kept hold of my branch just in case, just in case the priests suddenly came to meet him like they ought to. But nothing happened. No one came. The moment went just as quickly as it had arrived. I let my branch fall to the ground, strangely disappointed. He wasn’t anything like I’d hoped the Messiah would be and yet…and yet I couldn’t help thinking that if the Messiah comes, when the Messiah comes it wouldn’t the world be so much better if, instead of being magnificent and grand, powerful and splendid he was like this man - steadfast love in human form.
We came to the end of the psalm, the final verse echoing off the walls of the city ‘O give thanks to the Lord for he good….for his steadfast love endures forever, endures forever, forever, and ever.