Something Wonderful

(St. Paul’s church in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. Mass times for 2020 Easter’s live video.)

I’ve written about our Lord’s execution and death a few times. But not, if memory serves, leading with an excerpt from the fourth paragraph of “A Christmas Carol.”

“…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

Power, Prestige and a Peaceful Arrival

An itinerant and charismatic preacher, Jesus of Nazareth, arrived in Jerusalem riding a donkey and/or colt.

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.”
(Luke 22:12)

Acting promptly and decisively, they arranged for the Roman governor to have Jesus executed. After being tortured.2

An Unfinished Job

Jesus was having a bad day.

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.”
(John 19:1920)

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.

An Improbable Story

The menfolk didn’t believe what the women told them about the tomb and what wasn’t in it.

Understandably, perhaps.

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.”
(John 20:47)

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.”
(Ephesians 1:1314)

And that, I think, is something wonderful:

1 Those were the days:

2 Incident in a Roman Province:

3 Empires, a kingdom, an emperor and a speculative fiction genre:

4 A borrowed tomb:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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5 Responses to Something Wonderful

  1. Manny says:

    The saddest and greatest moment in all of world history.

    And the blood gave life
    To the branches of the tree
    And the blood was the price
    That set the captives free
    And the numbers that came
    Through the fire and the flood Clung to the tree
    And were redeemed by the blood
    -from Johnny Cash’s “Redemption”

    Have a blessed Triduum.

  2. Happy Easter from the Philippines, Mr. Gill! Reading this, I’m reminded of two things I ended up thinking about because of an Easter Mass homily: 1) Peter and John’s faith as they faced Jesus’ empty tomb; and 2) Joseph of Arimathea’s seemingly obscure yet very powerful participation in the fulfillment of Jesus’ mission. Both have me thinking about how me seemingly crazy they were, as Peter and John were practically acting like good kids with their faith in the Resurrection despite all the chaos plaguing them, while Joseph of Arimathea had risked his reputation as one of the Sanhedrin to get a crucified guy into the unlikely state called being formally buried. I also find it fun to think about how Joseph of Arimathea had been so obscured in Scripture, as it goes against the usual political glorifications while still representing him as a good person and giving us audience the agency we need to have (and all that, I call an example of the humble being exalted and the exalted being humbled at the same time). Praise and thanks be to God Almighty very much again, then!

    • 🙂 Amen!

      Joseph of Arimathea – and, for other reasons, Gamaliel – are among my favorite folks in the New Testament. And very true: Joseph of Arimathea’s request seems risky.

Thanks for taking time to comment!