“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” — Luke 11:28
As an avid history enthusiast, I have often found myself mentally transported back in time as a means to better understand what it may have been like in previous eras. This exercise is not so much about facts, logistics or inventions as it is about feelings. I want appreciate what it must have felt like to live in another time.
I do not believe I was the only teen to have screamed at my mother, “You don’t understand! Things were different when you were my age!” As a typical, self-centered youth, I did not think previous generations of the past felt about things as we did in the present. But, of course, they did. Since Adam and Eve, humans have felt pain, joy, fear, excitement, grief and every other emotion we know.
What must it have felt like to wear a corset? How time-consuming and annoying that must have been. As it is, I struggle with pantyhose. How scary it must have been to face childbirth before the time of modern medicines. What pain there was, too, before aspirin, ether, and Novocain. What must it have felt like to watch bloody battles taking place just beyond a kitchen window or from a back porch as many did during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars?
For as much as there was pain and suffering, I believe simple joys were relished so much more. Sharing a meal, reading a book, holding hands, smelling flowers and visiting a friend were all likely held in very high regard when life was difficult and fleeting. New inventions such as the telephone and the washing machine must have seemed like golden treasures when those things entered history’s stage.
My mom and aunts have shared how they enjoyed the Saturday afternoon “picture show” when they were young. Today we have thousands of movies at our fingertips, ready to be viewed at our convenience. We could plan to watch a movie at 8:00 this evening with friends or sit down alone, on the spur of the moment, at 10:12 in the morning and choose one off the internet, if we so desire. Can you transport yourself to 1944 and feel what it was like to be in school, trying to concentrate on your studies, when your mind keeps drifting in excitement toward seeing the latest “flick” with your friends on the weekend?
Reading Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg, has greatly aided in my time travel fantasies. The authors have helped me understand what it must have felt like to live in the time of Jesus. Thanks to this book I can imagine sitting at Jesus’ feet taking in and savoring all he had to say.
“Most of the people living in the land of Judea and Galilee are descendants of pious Jews who returned to Israel after their exile in Babylon. Since then, life for the chosen people has been anything but idyllic. Their Roman occupiers are universally hated for their brutality and pagan ways, to say nothing of the oppressively high taxes they levy. Little wonder that everyone is longing for a Messiah to come and deliver them by throwing out their harsh oppressors.” (Page 20)
“Though anticipation is high, opinions vary about just how or when the Messiah will finally arrive. Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, and Pharisees — each has a different take on what has happened and why, and on how the future will unfold. Political tension and spiritual fervor are both on the rise. It is into this time of intense spiritual searching that another rabbi comes striding onto the scene. He hails from Nazareth. Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Page 20)
“Because of their continuing oppression by the Romans the Jewish people cried out to God daily, begging for a Messiah to deliver them. It was into this hotbed of social ferment and religious longing that the greatest of all rabbis appeared on the scene. No wonder he attracted a crowd wherever he went.” (Page 24)
Personally, I know how excited I get when there’s a break in my mundane, daily routine. It’s wonderful when we are planning a vacation, expecting company or just going out to dinner. I am also very excited when I hear someone with a large audience speaking a message I deeply believe myself. When I see injustices, global or local, it gives me hope to see and hear someone speaking loudly about making changes. It makes me want to hear more.
I can imagine the frustration of the poor in Israel, working hard to feed their children, only to have a good deal of their earnings collected for the royalty, who swanked their lavish attire and exploited their extravagant ways. Jesus’ kind and caring demeanor along with his vast knowledge of scriptures must have offered incredible hope for change.
Can you envision that time? Perhaps children are playing in the field near the road heading into Bethany. They see Jesus and His disciples heading their way. The children become excited and run ahead to their homes. “Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming!” they shout. Martha and Mary run to the door to see for themselves and then begin to prepare a meal. Their neighbors, too, prepare food to offer at Lazarus’ home. All are welcome.
If I were there, what would I do? What would I say? Is He cold and tired? Would He like a quilt? I hope I would sit at His feet and listen, as I am trying to do this week.