We often read accounts of events in the Bible as things that happened to other people, long ago. And yet one of the enduring qualities of scripture is the connection peoples in many times and places have to the stories and words.
It can be a very insightful spiritual exercise to read through a Biblical event as if you were part of it, as if it were happening now. As we are moving through Holy Week, reading through carefully, with fresh eyes, as if you were there, can bring these events alive.
One very helpful exercise is to think about who you are, where you are in the story. It might be who you have been at some point in your life, or who you are now. This is an opportunity for perfect honesty with yourself and with God. This honesty can be the catalyst to spiritual insight and growth.
Let’s use Mark’s gospel as an example. Begin at chapter 14 with the plot to kill Jesus, right through to the end of chapter 15 and Jesus’ burial. Try to enter right into the narrative and imagine yourself there.
Are you Judas–always demonized as the ‘betrayer’, but who was also a disciple, one who knew Jesus well, but perhaps disillusioned or frustrated that this kingdom Jesus talked about was slow in coming and wanted to move things along. Or are you Peter, one who loves Jesus deeply and walks with him, but sometimes being fully faithful is more difficult than you thought. Maybe you are Mary, ready to pour out everything for Jesus. Or perhaps you feel a little on the sidelines, but willing to help out in Jesus’ work, like the man who showed them the upper room for the Passover meal. Are you one of the Marys or Salome, the women who faithfully stood by Jesus even at the cross when others had left? Or perhaps you are Joseph of Arimathea, just coming to know Jesus and offering what you have. Or maybe you are an onlooker, wondering what all these things mean and who this Jesus is.
Your honesty in seeing who you are becomes a point from which to nurture and grow your spiritual life, to see the next steps and direction that would be best for you in your discipleship, to open those places in your life where God’s Spirit most needs to reside. Remember, Jesus still loved Judas, called Peter the Rock, forgave those who had hurt him and cherished those who loved him, however imperfectly.
Then, try this exercise with other Biblical stories–the prodigal son, the story of Joseph and his family, the good Samaritan, the woman by the well–the list is endless.
And next year, you might be someone else altogether.