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The Rag Man - A New Perspective on the Easter Story

The Rag Man: A Moving Easter Story

On Easter Sunday last year, our priest gave a very moving sermon. He noted that the story of Christ's trial, crucifixion and rising from the dead on the third day may actually be so familiar that it does not have the impact that it might for many Christians on Easter Sunday through the period until Pentecost.

So, he stepped away from the podium and related the following story. This is the tale of the Rag Man, by Walter Wangerin.

This moving tale recounts the Passion of the Christ in ways that perhaps may resonate more directly with us in modern day. Read on and see if you agree.

The Rag Man Illustration by Syd Jordan Brown

The Rag Man Illustration by Syd Jordan Brown

The Rag Man Illustration by Syd Jordan Brown

The Rag Man Illustration by Syd Jordan Brown

The Rag Man

Early one Friday morning, I was walking through the streets of the town and I came across a giant man, 6 feet, 4 inches tall, pulling a cart filled with rags. Although they were but scraps of clothes, they were clean and bright, as was the peddler, calling out the wares... "Rags!" "Come get your Rags!" Clean, new Rags!" "I'll take your old ones and trade them for new!"

I was very curious to see such a sight - not that I had never witnessed people trying to make a buck on the hard streets, but this fellow seemed so hardy and strong. Certainly, he could find work doing something other than pushing rags? I decided to follow him at a distance to see what he was up to.

At his first stop, he came across a sad woman, crying on the stoop of her apartment building. She held a stained scrap of cloth to her face as the man approached. He stepped over garbage and broken toys and offered the woman a clean handkerchief. As he did so, her tears dried up and her entire face brightened. But as he walked away, the Ragman, began to sob uncontrollably. He wiped his face with the old dirty cloth that he had taken from the sad woman on the porch. I shook my head in wonder.

Scripture reference: John 11:33-44

The Rag Man Illustration by Syd Jordan Brown

The Rag Man Illustration by Syd Jordan Brown

The Little Girl and the Rag Man

The next person that the Ragman came upon was a little girl. Her head was wrapped in a bandage that was dark with blood. As the Ragman approached, she lifted her eyes and asked for a lovely hat to adorn her head.

How could he resist?

He reached into his bag and pulled out a yellow bonnet that would fit her just perfectly. Before he laid it on her head, he unwound the bandage from the girl's head and placed it around his own.

As he did so, a thin stream of blood emerged from his own head and trickled down his cheek. He didn't mind at all as he placed the cheery hat upon the girl's head and went on his way. Happiness crossed her face for the first time in many days, and the Ragman staggered into the street.

Scripture reference: Mark 5:25-34

The Rag Man Illustration by Syd Jordan Brown

The Rag Man Illustration by Syd Jordan Brown

The Worker and the Rag Man

By this time, the sun had moved to a high point in the sky and the Ragman looked up and grew worried. He started to move more quickly and with a greater purpose.

Eventually, he came to a man leaning against a telephone pole. "Can I offer you clean clothes for work?" the Ragman offered. The other man sneered and laughed. How can I work, when I have only one arm, and he lifted his jacket away, showing the empty right sleeve. The Ragman simply said, lets exchange coats.

What happened next, I still cannot believe. The Ragman removed his jacket and with it came his right arm. He handed it to the man at the telephone pole, who gladly put it on and walked away whole and happy. The Ragman kept going, this time, a bit more slowly.

Scripture reference: Luke 6:6-11

The Rag Man Illustration by Syd Jordan Brown

The Rag Man Illustration by Syd Jordan Brown

The Drunk and the Rag Man

The Ragman hurried down the street. Before long, he came up a drunk, huddled upon the edges of an overpass, covered in a blanket, the stench of which I simply will not relate here. It did not phase the Ragman, however. He lifted off that awful rag from the drunk and gave him brand new coverings.

Immediately, the man stood up and walked away with a strength and purpose not seen in years. The Ragman stumbled and fell with the burden of the old cloths. Still, he moved along, even more urgently that afternoon.

He moved through the streets, crying, bleeding, pulling his cart with one arm, and stumbling along through a haze of drunkenness. He was in such a hurry, I could hardly keep up with him! Eventually, he reached a garbage pit. The Ragman climbed to the top of the landfill and laid out a large blanket. He fluffed up his jacket and laid his exhausted head on the top. The Ragman laid down, closed his eyes, covered himself with the drunk man's army blanket, and died.

Oh, how shocking and terrible! I was not expecting this at all. I slunk away to my bedroom and cried myself to sleep. I had come to love the Ragman, and yet, he had seemingly died alone.

Scripture Reference: Luke 23:33-35

The Rag Man Rises

I was so distraught, I slept all the way through Friday night and Saturday too. All of a sudden, I was awakened on Sunday morning by a bright light! This amazingly hard, pure, shocking light came streaming into my room that day, I could hardly open my eyes. When I did, I had to blink several times. Yet, still I did not believe what I saw.

There, standing before me was the Ragman! The only sign of his suffering the days before was a small scar on his forehead. Other than that, he was entirely intact!

I could not believe it, and was filled with shame. I lowered my eyes and my head and hesitantly approached the Ragman. Stripping myself of all my clothes, I stood before him, naked. "Please," I implored him, "Dress me." The Ragman turned and chose one of the many shining cloths next to him. The entire room was filled with His glory! He dressed me, then, my Lord, that day.

With new rags, I am a wonder beside Him - the Ragman - the Christ!

Scripture Reference: Colossians 3:7-14


Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 22, 2018:

That is a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Pat Wheeler on March 18, 2016:

We've used this story for years at church camp to show the kids (thru HS) how much Christ gave up for us.....loved by all......

rolland on April 24, 2014:

it is possible for my purification... helping others... i love the story...

Mary Strain from The Shire on June 07, 2012:

This is lovely! It's the first time I've ever heard this story, and I'm glad I did. It does put the Easter story into a new light.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 16, 2012:

Thank you Stessily! I loved this story and our priest told it so well in his sermon. Best to you, Steph

stessily on April 16, 2012:

Steph, I understand now that your commitment to showing compassion to those who are invisible to so many reflects not only your personal resolve (admirable in itself!) but also the blessing of belonging to a church where the priest's faith clearly is evinced in words, thoughts, and actions. Thank you for sharing this sermon here.

Kind regards, Stessily

Elle on February 25, 2012:

I think there are more than 5 illustrations.

Where could one obtain the rest?

Don on October 29, 2011:

I have loved this telling for years and always wanted to do an Easter Drama about it.

Mildred Lucille Fraser from Bloomfield, CT on October 17, 2011:

I love the illustration and the story. We are but dirty rags but with Jesus He washes us as white as snow. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

luverne78 on April 18, 2011:

Where did you find the illustrations to go with this wonderful story? I'd like to be able to see if there are more that go with details of the Ragman

stars439 from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State. on May 01, 2010:

Very nice story. Really enjoyed it. God Bless

Uncle Sid on September 28, 2009:

a new film version of the story...

Drew on April 22, 2009:

Thanks for posting this GREAT Easter story...i was looking for it after I watched this other Easter story illustration that I just posted:


Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 14, 2009:

Isn't it a lovely Easter story? Thanks LaNesha. Best to you!

**LaNesha** from moreno valley,ca on April 13, 2009:

I love this story....read it to my kids they enjoyed it as well....good job!!!!!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 10, 2009:

Happy Easter to you, coffeesnob and Melody!!

coffeesnob on April 10, 2009:

He dresses me too -love the thought of being dressed in the Lord!

Melody Lagrimas from Philippines on April 05, 2009:

Very interesting and touching.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on March 25, 2008:

Hi Peter- So glad that you liked it! I agree, these illustrations are priceless! I was so lucky to find them!

Peter M. Lopez from Sweetwater, TX on March 25, 2008:

Great story, steph. I loved it. The illustrations are absolutely wonderful, excellent touch.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on March 25, 2008:

Glad you enjoyed it! I sure did (it brought me to tears - we have a powerful priest)

PenmanZee on March 24, 2008:

A beautiful illustration of loving one's neighbors as Jesus did. Definitely sermon material for me. Thanks for sharing.

dsasser from US on March 24, 2008:

interesting story

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