So it’s not a deep theological treatise, but I thought I’d try and put myself there, in Jerusalem. Bear with this one, there’s good posts coming later from the other SBCVoices team.
I can see myself following behind the disciples and wandering with the crowd as Jesus makes His way to Jerusalem that week. I can see being a little excited about seeing Him do all the stuff He’s been doing in Galilee up in Jerusalem (remember, Jerusalem is always “up”). I can imagine soaking up the teaching, the miracles, the cleansing of the Temple. I can see myself being a little sad I was left out of the Upper Room.
What doesn’t fit, though, with my academic and intellectual fascination of the Savior what happens after that last meal. So far, I’ve found a great teacher. I’ve found a perfect moral example. I’ve even found a healer, though I may carry a touch of skepticism about that part.
First come the trials. Sure, He’s pushed the envelope in His teaching. Certainly He’s bent a few rules here and there, but a criminal? I haven’t read any blogs that warned me He’d get arrested while we’re here in Jerusalem! Then, though, I’m disturbed to find Him handed over to the Romans. Except for a few rich folks, none of us like the Romans. We wouldn’t hand a Samaritan over to the Romans, why would the leadership hand Him over?
Then came the road. He wasn’t visible for a while, and when He came out, the crowds could see the reason why. The Romans had flogged, and flogged, and beaten, and flogged Him. You could barely recognize that once had been a man. Finally, with His body obviously in pain from every step, the suffering of the road was over.
Only to be eclipsed by greater suffering. The execution of traitors to Rome has kept most of us from thinking of being rid of the oppressive regime: suspended on a cross, dying slowly of suffocation. Nailed through the hands, the feet, stripped and ridiculed.
Yes, this has been a disruption in my life. Here’s the one I thought was finally going to help me understand what it was to follow God. Who could also solve the occasional food supply problem and address our need for health care reform. He had even made the idea of paying taxes to Caesar a little more bearable.
Now He’s dead. What good is a dead teacher? Three years wasted.
Meanwhile, I’ve been so involved with all that’s happened here, I’ve made no real efforts to observe the Passover this year. The single most important religious event of my year, and I’ve missed it. I can’t travel anywhere, because it’s the Sabbath. I can’t hit the local sheep-kabob vendor, because it’s the Sabbath.
I’m hungry. Frustrated.
It was a lonely Sabbath. Those guys that were always close to Jesus, they’re missing somewhere. Romans probably got them in a “round up the usual suspects” sweep. Happens all the time around here, though Gramps says it was worse under Herod the Great.
There were a few weird things. Well, talking to Gramps was weird. He had died under Herod the Great. Gramps was a good, pious man, and we had buried him around Jerusalem. I ran into him just before the Sabbath started. Well, maybe I was just remembering…
So the sun’s up, and I’m thinking of heading home this morning. I know that I’m supposed to stick around for the rest of the feasting and such in Jerusalem, but I just want to go home. Might even join the Roman Army. Obviously I’m not cut out for life around here, maybe that foreign travel will do me some good.
Wandering back down the streets, though, I got knocked to the ground by one guy running. He didn’t even stop. As I got up, a bigger, slightly older guy came puffing around the corner. He was slow enough that I dodged him, but then I realized I recognized those two. The fast one? That’s that John Zebedee, been following Jesus around longer than I have. And the slower one? That moved with the grace of a bulldozer (wait, what’s a bulldozer?)? That’s Peter.
I look behind them, expecting a batch of Romans to be following them. That’s got to be why they’re running, to escape. While they’ve hardly spoken to me, I at least owe them a little help, so I start littering the streets with some baskets and pots that are here. By the time I’ve made a thorough mess, I realize something….
No Romans. I better split—but why are they running?
At a distance, I follow behind them. Peter’s actually pretty easy to follow without breaking a sweat, but John’s gone. They’ve gone into a garden. Wait, garden? That’s where they buried Him Friday afternoon. That’s where there’s soldiers! Aren’t we avoiding those guys right now?
There’s no stone in front of the tomb, though. John’s standing there, looking into the tomb, and he looks young again. That Friday, at the Cross, he had look burdened, stressed, irritated, but now? His shoulders are up, his head alert. Where’s Peter?
Oh, there he is….coming out of the tomb. He looks puzzled. Of course, if I could see me, I look downright baffled. What’s going on here?
After they leave, and it looks like Peter’s got John convinced to walk back, I slip over to the tomb. I can see where the soldiers had camped, but they’re gone. I look in the tomb—and there’s a burial cloth, some head wrappings, and…..looks like someone spilled a whole bunch of burial spices. The smell is strong, and it’s almost enough to knock me out.
Back to Jerusalem I go, a little dazed and a lot confused.
Where is He? What happened?
I found my way to the place I knew John and Peter had gone and heard this….
Now things are running differently in my brain….He wasn’t a teacher or a moral example. That wasn’t a tragic death or a political exercise. I hadn’t missed the Passover either.
He is the Passover lamb. His death substituted for my lamb this week….and that lamb? It was a substitute for me.
So He died, not to save me a lamb a year, but to save me. His death was so that the death that was coming to me would be passed-over. And now He’s not dead.
I’m not really sure what all this means, really. That’s going to take some figuring out. How does His death replace mine? What do I do now? Do I follow the Law still or do I eat bacon cheeseburgers?
What about that whole “render to Caesar” thing? Do I still pay those taxes? How will I remember all that He taught? I hadn’t paid as much attention, thinking I’d always have Him around to reteach it.
Yet, for now, all that matters is this: He’s alive. Whatever else may have gone on, whatever else may come—
That may be all I have to tell folks for all my days, but that will be enough: