If only he had not killed that Egyptian ..
He looks around at the flock and sighs. Yes, it is a good life he has – a beloved wife, his sons, a wise father-in-law he respects immensely, food for their bellies and shelter from the ferocity of the wilderness. And he is free to come and go, free as the wind across the desert sands which blows wherever it will. But his people are not free, and their slavery still burns inside him, like a hunger that nothing can satisfy. It is so many, many years since he fled the place, a fugitive from the harsh justice of Pharaoh, but he cannot forget. What happened to the promises God made to their forefathers? Where is the blessing? Why are they so far from the land they were supposed to inherit?
He gazes around, the trained, sweeping gaze of the experienced shepherd, always watching for trouble, and something catches his eye that was not there before. A bush has caught fire, yes, that is not so very unusual, but somehow it doesn’t look quite right. Moving closer, he can see what is so strange, for although the bush burns brightly, the fire does not consume it ...
If only Israel had kept the covenant ...
He looks around him and sighs. Babylon is a beautiful city, a wonder and a marvel, but it is not Jerusalem. He has done well here, along with his closest friends. From the beginning they resolved to keep the law for themselves, and avoid all the contaminations of pagan idolatry. They would not eat the meat from the king’s table that had not been slaughtered according God’s requirements, and sacrificed, most likely, to their hideous idols, nor they would drink the wine of Babylon’s debauchery. They had lived on vegetables and water, and, by the grace of God, they had thrived. They had good jobs and plenty of responsibility, but his heart was still heavy. If only Israel had stayed true to the God who redeemed her from Egypt, and not turned away to the false promises of idolatry; if only they had heeded the precepts of the law and dealt fairly with one another, they would never have been carried off in exile. He works hard, he prays three times a day, but his heart is heavy with longing. “How shall I sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” he mourns.
There is a respectful knock at the door. The king has had a dream which troubled him and he is desperately looking for a wise man to interpret it ...
If only they could have kept Him away from Jerusalem..
If only He had been willing to be a healer in the backblocks of Galilee. If only He had not goaded and challenged the Pharisees ..
If only they had taken Him seriously when He talked about dying, maybe they could have stopped Him .. somehow ... maybe?
It was almost unbearable, the grief and the loss, the fear and the guilt – wasn’t there something, anything they could have done? It was still cold, with the grey silence of early morning, but he wasn’t sure that he would ever sleep properly again.
But now there was a clattering of feet along the street, and a banging at the door, and for a moment he felt a sharp lurch of fear – were they all to be arrested now? But no, it was a woman’s voice, Mary’s, making the most amazing proclamation ever spoken by human tongue, “I have seen the Lord! He is risen!”