By Teresa Davis
It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves his home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper that he should be alert. Therefore, you be alert, for you do not know when the Lord of the house comes, either late in the day, or midnight, or at the crowing, or early, lest he come suddenly and find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to everyone, be on the alert.
I love the thoughts ofJohn M. E. Ross in his book, The Self-Portraiture of Jesus, Short Studies in Our Lord’s Pictorial Teaching Concerning Himself. He says this about the Lord Jesus’ self-consciousness as revealed in his parable of the journeying man in Mark’s gospel.
May one detect a note of anxiety in our Lord’s voice, when He compares Himself to a man going on a far journey and leaving his house in charge of his servants?. . . No one can inaugurate a forward movement without taking risks; and our Lord took risks. To leave men without the support of the visible presence, the voice they knew, the human face they loved—it was like taking a crutch from an invalid. Would they be intelligent enough, loyal enough, prayerful enough to support the new responsibilities?
(Ross, The Self-Portraiture of Jesus (1903), p. 143, 144)
Here I think of Mary of Magdala, and how beautifully she lived up to what must have been the Lord’s hope for His teaching to her and to His disciples. How grateful I am that the Apostle John recorded her story in his gospel, and even that I am able to read it. This is Mary’s katuv ‘alay, the Hebrew phrasemeaning “written on or about me” as it is used in the beautiful verses of Psalm 40:
8 Then I said, “See, I will bring a scroll recounting what befell me.”
9 To do what pleases You, my God, is my desire;
Your teaching is in my inmost parts.
10 I proclaimed Your righteousness in a great congregation;
see, I did not withhold my words;
O Lord, You must know it.
11 I did not keep your beneficence to myself;
I declared Your faithful deliverance;
I did not fail to speak of Your steadfast love in a great congregation;
12 O Lord, You will not withhold from me Your compassion;
Your steadfast love will protect me always.
I understand now that I am one of those servants that the Lord has left in charge, and my prayer ought to be, every moment of my life, that I would know the unique work He has given to me, and that I would please Him in how I manage and fulfill the tasks of that work. I want to offer my own katuv ‘alay to Him as my own personal sacrifice, my own spiritual service to Him (Romans 12:1). This is what His disciples did. This is what Mary did.
The author John M. E. Ross describes a profound desire here. Mine is like his:
I think this helps me to understand why some of our best teachers in spiritual things lay so much stress on what they call “the practice of the presence” of the unseen Master, as if they would make up for the veil that is drawn before their eyes by the intensity of their faith and the alertness of their imagination. Lord Christ, before Thou goest upon Thy far journey, pause a moment ere Thy chariot bears Thee beyond our sight, and teach us this one secret, if we are able to learn it!
How to live, when we see Thee not, as though we saw Thee;
how to hear Thy voice and love it in the depths of our souls, though we cannot hear it with the outward ear;
how to keep a chair for Thee at our table and a shrine for Thee in every room;
how to feel Thy five wound-prints drawing us from our selfishness, Thine eyes searching our impurity like a flame of fire, Thy footprints marking for us the way into all duty, Thy healing touch resting upon us when we are fretful and weary until the fever leaves us and Thine own peace falls upon our spirits;
how to handle reverently the tokens of love Thou hast left with us, especially the broken bread and the cup of poured-out wine, till Thy love, too often despised, becomes to us better than life;
how to keep the candle of holy expectation burning, so that whensoever Thou comest there may ever be a welcome for Thee—
Teach us this, Lord Christ, ere Thou goest upon Thy way. We will not let Thee go until Thou hast taught us this! (p. 145, 146)
I have been taught great things by the Lord. Like the psalmist, I do not want to keep these things to myself. I want to present my katuv ‘alay to Him, and to be on the alert so that I can be sure to be awake and working whenever He comes, however suddenly. I want to count on the Lord’s steadfast love to protect me always, and I want to proclaim His righteousness in a great congregation.
Newville is a “great congregation” to me!
Happy Easter, Newvillians. He is risen!
Excerpts from Chapter 11, “The Man Who Took a Far Journey”
The Self-Portraiture of Jesus, Short Studies in Our Lord’s Pictorial Teaching Concerning Himself by John M. E. Ross (1903)