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Creative Bible studies

In this section you will find Bible passages which have been given a creative interpretation seeking to give a three dimensional view of the characters involved. You can access these by clicking on the titles below.

Mary Magdalene by Ros Bunney

John 20. 1 – 18

1 Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. 5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.

 

Mary Magdalene Sees the Risen Lord

   11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”

She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

 

"The thing that surprised me most was how angry I was with Him.  You might think there could be nothing worse than having your whole body, spirit and psyche possessed and inhabited by seven demons, demons who robbed you of all sense of self and dignity, so that you would give yourself away for any sordid purpose to any stranger who would give you the price of a day’s crust.  But He had delivered me from all that.  He had loved me with a love so pure that it had restored my stolen innocence.  And now something worse had happened.  The One on whom all our hopes for life and eternity had been pinned, had given up, let all the fight go out of Him, allowed His enemies to do their worst to Him, and now He was gone, lost to us forever – all our dreams, our future, buried with Him in that cold tomb behind that enormous stone.  And I was angry with Him.  How dared He deliver me from something so dreadful, only to replace it with a false hope?  Take away the worse and replace it with the worst of all?  He had better have left me as I was.  I should probably just end up going back to it now anyway, but this time it would be so much more bitter for having tasted hope.  But it surprised me, that I felt so angry with Him.

I still loved Him, though, and even in death I wanted to honour Him.  So I got up very early, while it was still dark – about the hour that He used to get up to go and be with His Father – and crept out to the tomb.  I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got there.  I could never shift that stone by myself.  Nonetheless, something inside me just had to be close to where they had laid Him.  As the first thread of daylight began to snake its way along the horizon, lifting the corner of the veil of night that hung over the garden, I saw a startling sight.  The entrance to the tomb stood gaping, the stone pushed away to one side.

A blind panic gripped me, blurring my vision.  My only thought had been to come here and be near Him; and if they had taken Him away, I didn’t know what I would do, where I would go.  I ran back to find the others.  Simon Peter was already awake; so was the other one, the one Jesus loved.  I caught hold of them and, through my tears, managed to say, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have laid Him.”  A sob choked my words, and I couldn’t say any more, as I grappled with the rising panic and despair.  The men, without wasting a word, turned and ran to the tomb.  Peter was the slower of the two and so it was the other who arrived first and stood peering into the inky interior.  Peter, however, didn’t stop at the entrance but ran right in, past the two of us.  I hung back, outside the entrance.  “Here, John, come and see!”  he called.  “Here are the linen wrappings, lying where He was, and the head-cloth on its own, just where we laid His head.”  

John went in also.  They came out again and stood looking at each other.  I could see some sort of realisation beginning to dawn in their eyes, but I couldn’t understand what it was.  They went back home but I stayed right there, unable to hold back the tears that would keep coming.  At last I plucked up courage to take a peep at the sight they had seen.  Half-blinded by tears and grief, I stooped down and peered into the tomb.  To my astonishment, I saw two angels in white, one sitting by where His head had been, the other right where they had placed His feet on Friday evening.  They asked me why I was weeping.  I couldn’t tell them the whole story – the anger, the despair, the love; I could hardly express that to myself, let alone anyone else.  So I simply said, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid Him.”  

As I turned from the tomb, I think one of them spoke, but I didn’t really catch what he said.  Turning round, I almost bumped into a man who stood there, and a wave of irritation washed over me.  Wasn’t there any privacy or solitude to be had anywhere?  He asked me, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?”

And it suddenly occurred to me that this was probably the gardener, and if so, he could probably tell me what they had done with Jesus.  So I stifled my sobs and said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away.”  There was a silence so long that I slowly started to lift my head to see if the man had heard me.  But before my eyes got as far as his face, I heard the beloved voice, with more tenderness in it than I had ever heard before, speak my name: “Mary!”

And in that one word all the pain, all the despair and anger fled in an instant.  “Dear teacher!” I exclaimed, and took hold of His arm, hardly able to believe what I was seeing, but thrilled to the core.  He gently, but smilingly, shook Himself free of my grip.  “Do not cling to Me,” He said, “for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’”

I was filled with a delight, a childish glee, even, because His presence, His risenness, made perfect sense of His words.  For if He was really standing here, back from the dead, victorious over death, then surely His very risenness must give us access into that same relationship He had with His God and Father.  And so I positively skipped back into town to find the others and tell them what He had said.  I had faced the worst, and it had not had the final word."

Mary worships Jesus by Ros Bunney

Luke 7. 36 – 50

36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

So he said, “Teacher, say it.”

41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”

And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

 

"I knew what I wanted to do, and why; the problem was opportunity.  So when I heard He was attending a private dinner party, I just had to gatecrash.  The immensity of what He’s done for me was so overwhelming, that if I didn’t find an opportunity to make an appropriate response, it would drive me crazy.  For the first time in my adult life I was completely sane, perfectly in possession of all my senses, and I didn’t want to go back to being crazy again.  So I just had to respond, to let Him know the enormity of this thing He’s done for me.  

It was quite easy to slip in unnoticed, with servants scurrying to and fro, to press myself against the wall and slink round the edges of the room towards where He sat.  The closer I got to Him, though, the more of Simon’s dinner guests noticed me.  I saw the contemptuous curl of their lips, the disdain as their eyes rested on me.  I saw more than that, too.  There were some among them who had made up my clientele, before Jesus got hold of me and rescued me from all that.  They thought they were more righteous than I because unlike me they had managed to keep their sins secret.  I could see in their eyes that they were mentally undressing me; and the effect on their faces was one of extreme cruelty – a contempt for what I was combined with a lust for how they could use me.  

And then I came close to where Jesus was, and He turned, and His eyes, too, rested on me.  And I felt that, unlike the others, He didn’t have to undress me in His mind because His Spirit already saw all my nakedness; and then His love covered me and clothed me, with clothes of fine linen made with gold, blue, purple and scarlet thread – the kind of clothes a priest would wear to enter the Holy of Holies.  Standing there, in my simple homespun tunic, I felt more splendid than the High Priest, more fit to stand in the presence of the Most High God.

Before I met Jesus, I never understood that true love is pure.  All human love is mixed; even the best-motivated human love has some self-interest.  But what set me totally free from my past life was the purity of this Man’s love.  It washed away all my shame and gave me worth and value; for a love of such purity could never throw itself away on anything base or sordid.  There was something about His love which said, “Never define yourself by what people have done to you.  Never define yourself by what you have done to yourself.  And don’t believe the lie that since you have been soiled and sullied there is nothing more to you than that.  I see in you an unsullied innocence.  My love draws it out, and I give you back your unsullied innocence – it is my love’s gift to you.”

That’s the best I can put it into words; but reading it back, the feebleness of my words doesn’t begin to convey the depth of what Jesus has done for me.  So perhaps now you can see why I had to risk so many cruel, contemptuous eyes, just to put myself under His gaze and be able to show Him what He means to me.

Of course, I hadn’t really got anything of any worth that I could give Him – except for one thing.  I had inherited one priceless treasure, a sealed alabaster flask of valuable perfume, handed down from mother to daughter through several generations of my family.  It was worth about a year’s wages, and was the one valuable thing my family could have sold to survive if poverty ever struck.  For days, weeks now, I hadn’t been able to get that perfume out of my mind.  I was supposed to look after it, pass it on to the next generation – but all I could think about was pouring it over Him.  He had given me back myself, and this was the only adequate way I could think of to symbolise giving my whole self, all my love, back to Him.

So now here I was, standing beside Him, flask in hand.  Those eyes of pure love engulfed me again with a bright ray of unfeigned delight.  Everyone else knew I was out of place here and above my station, but He was thrilled to see me.  The tears of gratitude and love welled up and spilled over.  I fell at His feet in worship.

And as I knelt before Him there on the floor, conscious now only of His presence, not caring who else was watching or what they thought, I noticed something strange.  As the tears coursed down my cheeks and trickled over His feet, the little rivulets made light streaks through the dirt, and I suddenly realised that Simon had invited Him here for dinner and hadn’t even had the courtesy to get a servant to bring Him a bowl of water for His feet.  So I let the tears fall freely over His feet, washing away the dirt into little muddy puddles on the floor.  I unplaited my hair and shook it free, and just momentarily my attention was diverted away from Him by a chorus of gasps and tuts.  But I ignored that and turned my whole self back to Him.  All that I am, in the deepest core of my being, I wanted Him to know that it’s all His.  So I wiped away the remaining dirt and dried His feet with my hair.

I knew what they were all thinking –“Doesn’t He know what kind of person this woman is?  If He’s such a great prophet, how come He can’t see that?”  But I knew that He could see, more truly and accurately than any of them, exactly what kind of woman I am.  Not one of them had an inkling of how bad I’d really been – only He knew the full extent of it.  And not one of them could see that all of that had been utterly eradicated by His forgiveness, by God’s forgiveness through Him.  Not a trace of it remained, only purity and innocence.  Every part of me –, my mind, my loves, my passion for the beauty of flowers and birds and yes, even my body and my sexuality had been totally restored, redeemed, purified, so that no trace remained of it ever having been otherwise.  And because He was a prophet, He could see all this and they couldn’t.

If what I had done so far to express my love for Him had shocked them, they’d seen nothing yet!  So once again, I put them out of my mind and turned back to Him until my total attention was consumed with Him.  And kneeling there, focused wholly on my darling Lord and Redeemer, I broke open that alabaster flask and smothered Him in its contents.  The joy was indescribable.  In pouring it over Him, I had put it beyond any other use.  Now it could never be my security against poverty.  It was as if I had just given Him my whole life, and so I had.  Nothing now remained undone, nothing was needed.  My purpose was fulfilled.  I had worshipped Him – was worshipping Him – with absolutely everything.  I felt that this moment, this present split second of time, was my whole raison d’être, the instant for which I had been created.  God had created me just so that one day I would kneel here and do this.  And His delight in the action and my delight in the action became one delight until it seemed that Jesus and I were just one person; there was a total union of our spirits; I was subsumed into Him, and He into me.   I was vaguely aware of Him talking, but not to me, so I didn’t really listen.  I just knelt there, being one with Him.  But then something He said caught my attention:  “Her many sins have been forgiven because she loved much.”  He said more, but I was no longer listening.  I just stayed down there on the floor, loving Him, and relishing that word “forgiven”."