Leaves of Healing

Before the sun slipped down on the Sabbath, Mary might have pressed aloe leaves and squeezed their gum into a dish, mixing it with myrrh and water. Carrying it to a buried Jesus at dawn must have felt like a last, little fragrant offering.

But when she saw the sunrise streaming into an open tomb, I wonder if the prophecies rang in her head:

“The sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings” (Mal. 4:2).

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s story about The Return of the King, when the battle for Gondor struck down both its kings in one day, when Faramir and Eowyn and Merry the hobbit lay fevered and dying in the Houses of Healing, there was a woman named Ioreth who remembered a prophecy:

“The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.”

She said it like a lament, because she didn’t know the king was at the door.

“Shall we not now send for the Lord Aragorn?”

And the cloaked man spoke and said: “He is come.” And they saw as he stepped into the light of the lantern by the door that it was Aragorn.

King Aragorn took gentle charge and sent Ioreth in search of a plant called athelas, or kingsfoil, that in the king’s hand, could bring the dying to life. Then he knelt and kissed the Lady Eowyn, calling:

“Eowyn Eomund’s daughter, awake! For your enemy has passed away!”

She did not stir, but now she began again to breathe deeply, so that her breast rose and fell beneath the white linen of the sheet. Once more Aragorn bruised two leaves of athelas and cast them into steaming water; and he laved her brow with it…

Then, whether Aragorn had indeed some forgotten power of Westernesse, or whether it was but his words of the Lady Eowyn that wrought on them, as the sweet influence of the herb stole about the chamber it seemed to those who stood by that a keen wind blew through the window, and it bore no scent, but was an air wholly fresh and clean and young, as if it had not before been breathed by any living thing and came new-made from snowy mountains high beneath a dome of stars, or from shores of silver far away washed by seas of foam.{i}

Eowyn opened her eyes to look into her king’s.

Mary turned to see Jesus standing among the trees in the garden— the Tree of Life himself.

Revelation says that the leaves of that tree are for the healing of the nations, and so while Jesus was the Healer King, he was also the crushed plant— the myrrh, aloe, and athelas leaves that were bruised to bring us to life.  

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” ~ 1 Peter 2:24

 “But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.”

~ Isaiah 53:5

Mary carried healing spices to a dead king, but King Jesus wasn’t dead, and he didn’t need herbs to embalm him. Instead, he had taken up the fallen leaves of death and crushed them in his own wounded hands. The smell of life stole through the tomb and wafted out into the garden on Easter morning, as Jesus called to her:

“Mary,” just as he’d called to Jairus’s dead daughter, “Talitha cumi.”

“Little girl, I say to you, arise.”

And Mary opened her eyes and knew that her King had returned.

{i} J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King. (Ballantine Books: New York, 1955), 147, 147

3 thoughts on “Leaves of Healing

  1. Ioreth’s “the hands of the king are the hands of a healer” is just about my favorite line in all of fictional literature. I love the way you wove these stories together.

    Liked by 1 person

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