“…There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate….”
(“A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens (1843) via Project Gutenberg)
And now, recapping events around the time of Passover in Roman-occupied Judea, not long after Augustus cleaned up the Roman Senate’s mess1 —
Whichever critter he was on, my culture tends to see it as a humble ride. Maybe so.
But I very strongly suspect that Jerusalemites saw it as a symbolically peaceful entry. If our Lord had arrived mounted on a horse — I’m getting ahead of the story.
Jerusalem’s priests and scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, liked being in charge. Albeit under a Roman governor. They saw Jesus as a threat to their position and prestige.
“Now the feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was drawing near,
“and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to put him to death, for they were afraid of the people.”
Acting promptly and decisively, they arranged for the Roman governor to have Jesus executed. After being tortured.2
Make that a bad day, worse night, topped off by being nailed to a cross and left to die.
“Left” isn’t quite the right word.
Golgotha was a very public place.
I figure that helps explain why Pilate had his sign written in three languages.
“Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.’
“Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.”
Then, after a few very unpleasant hours on the cross, Jesus died.
That should have been an end of the ‘Jesus movement.’ Or whatever a few historians specializing in Tiberian procuratorial provinces would be calling it in an alternate history.3
Jesus was dead and buried. One of his inner circle had committed suicide. The rest were doing their level best to fade into the woodwork.
Meanwhile, several women who had been part of the entourage returned to the tomb where Jesus’ body should have been. His pre-Sabbath internment had been adequate but hasty. They’d planned to finish the job started by Joseph of Arimathea.4
That’s not what happened.
But at least two of the guys checked out their improbable story.
“So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
“They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first;
“he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
“When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
“and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.”
Let’s remember that Jesus was dead. Deceased. No longer living. Perished.
And that someone who’s dead isn’t going to stop being dead.
Small wonder it took 40 days of meetings and at least one working lunch to convince the surviving Apostles that they weren’t seeing a ghost. Or maybe hallucinating.
Jesus had stopped being dead. Hope is an option.
“In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit,
“which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.”
And that, I think, is something wonderful:
- “Jesus Didn’t Stay Dead”
(April 21, 2019)
- “Good Friday”
(April 19, 2019)
- “Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem”
(April 14, 2019)
- Still Rejoicing”
(July 2, 2017)
- “The Eighth Day: Two Millennia and Counting”
(April 16, 2017)