Saturday, April 11, 2009

Reflections on Passion Week: Holy Saturday

What must it have been like?

You've been following him for the better part of three years. You've seen amazing things that no one else would believe in. You've watched him confound his opponents and open your mind to new ways of seeing that you couldn't have imagined on your own. At first it came as a thought, too far beyond the pale to do more than chuckle over. But then it was persistent, and at last you came to formulate it, at least as a question: could this be the Messiah? He was different, certainly, than what you had expected. But his teachings were so different, and yet so self-evidently true, and the works of power that you had seen with your own eyes! Whoever he was, he was no ordinary man. And so you began to dare to hope.

And you saw the danger coming. These people he was tangling with, you don't mess with them. They're nothing compared with the Romans, of course; big fish in small ponds. But don't let that fool you: they rule the small ponds. You would be frightened every time he suggested going back into Judea. They didn't mean to defeat him; they meant to eliminate him. But he would go anyway. It was like he had no fear. But only a fool would have no fear.

And this last week.... It would have been enough to slip into town unnoticed, although of course he could never go anywhere unnoticed. But the crazy parade they had, openly calling him a King! They're cheering and he's weeping over the city. And then he goes into the Temple and totally rips everything apart. He was daring them. And for a while he seemed to get away with it. Every question they throw at him, he has an answer no one could have expected. He was turning everything you thought you knew on its head.

And then that final night. He didn't act fearless anymore. He didn't act afraid either, but troubled. Said he was going somewhere you couldn't go. You panicked. You've been following him for so long; what happens if he up and abandons you? A lot of what he said you couldn't process; it didn't make any sense. Some of it makes sense now, but he couldn't have meant that--he couldn't have actually known! A sane man would run. You don't just let the lion pounce if you have time to get away.

Yesterday was awful. You didn't have the nerve to stand up for him; what could you have done? Gone down with him? He didn't want to fight, and once the Romans are involved, you don't fight, whatever you do. You wanted to get away but you couldn't bear to leave, so you stay on the outskirts, just within eyeshot. To see your teacher mocked and ridiculed and stripped and flogged and hoisted up! You'd seen crazy miracles, but there were no miracles yesterday. Unless you count how fast he died. Thank God, he went fast--probably the beating.

So now it's tomorrow. How could the sun just rise again like nothing ever happened? He's gone; the Romans and the Rabbis are watching out for you. Nothing to do but hide and grieve. You'll slip out of the city when the Feast is over, with all the other pilgrims. You'll drift away from the rest of them; what's left to hold you together? And then what?

He wasn't who you'd hoped for after all. That much, at least, is clear. You'd put your faith, your trust, years of your life. All for nothing. Where do you go from here? What do you do? You won't follow another crazy miracle worker, that's for sure. You won't trust. Never again will you trust like you did with this man.

Because you never, ever again, want to feel the total blackness and emptiness that you feel right now.

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