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23rd March, 2009

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How I miss him

Ah, the memories. How I miss him now. For over three years we walked, talked, and ate with Jesus. With my fellow disciples I shared almost every waking moment with him. Like them, I heard his words of succor offered to those who were suffering and saw the accompanying acts of kindness. I heard him warn the godless and rebuke hypocrites. I was there when he thrilled the crowds with riveting accounts of the joys that lie ahead in the kingdom of God when the saved will shine like the sun, dine with him at his table, eat the Passover meal with him in Jerusalem, and dwell in the house of the Lord with him for evermore.

What an unforgettable day that was when Jesus rebuked the storm-tossed waves of the Sea of Galilee, saving us from certain death. We were sure we were dead men. He was asleep at the time. You remember, too, don't you? How we shook him roughly in our fear. Remember how he stood up, raised his arms towards the raging wind and waves, and ordered them to cease? I can see it so clearly now. Remember what happened next? No sooner had we disembarked from the boat when two demon-possessed "madmen" came rushing towards us, stumbling on the stony beach as they ran. Remember how the fiercer of the two screamed at Jesus to leave them alone, and accused him of coming to torment them? Jesus ordered the demons to leave the demented men and give them peace. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry at what happened next. The demons hijacked a herd of pigs and drove them down a steep slope into the sea. Drowned, every one of them. What a hullabaloo that caused. People were dashing around every which way not knowing what to make of it.

Remember that smile he used to get on his face when we said dumb things. Like the time he warned us against the leaven of the Pharisees and you - yes, I'm sure it was you - blurted out that we had forgotten to bring any bread. From memory, he roared with laughter. And what a raconteur he was, too. What stories he told and jokes he cracked by the fire on those frosty autumn nights.

I still find it hard to believe these things actually happened, but I can't deny what I saw. I can't begin to count all the staggering healings he performed. Once he touched an unclean leper in order to heal him. That threw the cat among the pigeons, I can assure you. How many times did we tough men blubber like babies when we saw the elation of those he healed. Remember the woman who had been bent over double for over eighteen years. She was standing in the

crowd when Jesus looked straight at her, called her to him, spoke with her for a few moments and then said, "Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity." Immediately she straightened up, right before our eyes. It brings tears to my eyes remembering it. I'm too moved to try to describe the look on the face of the widow of Naan when Jesus gave her dead son back to her, alive and well. Or on Mary's and Martha's faces when he resurrected their dead brother. Wish I could, but I can't.

Only a few weeks later we had an utterly thrilling experience. Remember? We were on our way to Jerusalem to observe the Passover when word got out that Jesus was coming. Everybody who was anybody lined the road and threw down palm branches as he rode into town on a donkey! The crowd boisterously hailed him as the promised king of Israel. Sure, the sour faces were there too, sniggering and muttering to each other behind their hands. Up to no good, that bunch.

And then, just like that, six days later - snatched away from us. Tortured and executed by the Romans at the behest of those sour faces, those jealous Jewish leaders. Dead. We were utterly devastated, inconsolable. Some of us went back to our fishing. Oh that I had the time to talk at length about what happened next, but you remember it so clearly, too. We saw him again - alive. Never, never again in this life will I experience such ecstasy as that moment. But it didn't last. Just as we were beginning to get used to the idea that our brother - the best brother and friend anybody could ever have - had risen from the dead and escaped the tomb, he was gone again. This time, forever. You know, I'm sure he had a sad expression on his face as he was taken from us on the cloud. And that was it. I haven't felt the radiant warmth of his smile, heard his reassuring voice, or touched him again. Oh, the sadness.

What do I have now? Memories. And lacerating grief. I miss him, I miss him terribly. I want to see him again. Sure, I cope, but every day without him is a day endured. What keeps me going? Jesus' own words:

I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3).

Sure, I know it's good for us that he went back to the Father. Still, I can hardly wait to see him again. Come, Lord Jesus, come.


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