Jesus entered Jerusalem as a King.
His conveyance was not a sedan chair,
an ornate carriage, or a black limousine.
It was a donkey.
Disciples carpeted his path
with tree branches and clothes.
They went before and followed behind
crying "Hosana!" and "Blessed be the King
that cometh in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
Crowds gathered to take in the spectacle.
It was Passover, and Jerusalem was packed
with people come to celebrate
Israel's deliverance--most of them
apparently unaware the Savior had come
and deliverance was at hand.
Pharisees complained, but Jesus was not ashamed
of his disciples' cheers,
their recognition of his birthright.
He said: "if these should hold their peace,
the stones would ... cry out."
Jesus worked tirelessly that week:
He cleansed the temple for the second time.
He cursed a tree.
He taught the people in parables one last time:
the widow's mite, the ten virgins, the talents,
and many more.
He confounded the Pharisees
asking them: "What think ye of Christ?"
He lamented over Jerusalem.
Then Jesus celebrated the Passover feast
with his apostles.
He washed their feet.
Washing another man's feet is a lowly job.
The world is a filthy place,
and they wore sandals.
"Thou shalt never wash my feet," Peter said.
"If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me," Jesus said.
"Lord, not my feet only,
but also my hands and my head," Peter said.
having washed even Judas's feet, Jesus said:
"If I ... your Lord and Master, have washed your feet;
ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
For I have given you an example,
that ye should do as I have done to you."
Jesus instituted the sacrament:
the Eucharist, the last supper.
He said the bread was his body.
That they should eat it to remember him.
He said that the wine was his blood
he would shed for the remission of sins.
Was this an impenetrable parable to them?
Something they only understood in retrospect?
Maybe they pretended to follow him over dinner,
hoping he would explain later on?
And did they become somber?
Or did they resist the thought, deny it,
that he must leave them?
The feast wore on.
Jesus changed the subject to his betrayal.
Jesus and the eleven sang a hymn.
And they went together to the Mount of Olives.
Jesus pulled away from the group.
He asked Peter, James, and John
to watch with him.
But they were weak, and he was alone.
He prayed: "Father, if thou be willing,
remove this cup from me:
nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."
He prayed again and again.
He sorrowed even unto death.
"And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly:
and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood
falling down to the ground."
And "there appeared an angel unto him
from heaven, strengthening him."
Somehow Jesus suffered for our sins.
"We [do] not know, we cannot tell,
what pains he had to bear."
Grasping to explain this miracle,
we deploy every clumsy metaphor:
that he paid a debt for us,
that he served a sentence for us,
that he ransomed us from slavery.
We see the Atonement through a glass darkly.
Even so: let us lift up our heads and rejoice!
That he comprehends all things,
and is a master over all things,
because he descended below all things.
That he is our Savior.
The ordeal in Gethsemane complete,
with a mob of thugs bearing swords.
He betrayed his master with a kiss.
But not just a kiss. Days earlier
he had cut a deal with the chief priests:
for 30 pieces of silver,
he would deliver Jesus to them quietly,
away from the crowds
who saw him perform miracles and
confound their best minds.
So they came to Jesus in force
at a remote location,
in the middle of the night,
They seized him and bore him away
as if Jesus were dangerous.
As if he had not come to them
time after time by daylight, in the city,
unarmed and unguarded.
They took Jesus to Caiaphus, the high priest,
and to Caiaphus's father in law, Annas.
False witnesses accused him.
The priests and rulers spat on him
and mocked him.
They blindfolded him, beat him,
and asked him to prophesy:
"who is it that strikes you?"
They asked him:
Do you say this? And do you say that?
Jesus reminded them he preached in public;
that they had heard what he taught.
At sunrise, they convened a trial
and quickly convicted him of blasphemy.
But they had no authority to punish him.
So they shuttled Jesus
from Pilate to Herrod and back to Pilate
demanding they sentence Jesus to death.
Neither Roman found fault in Jesus.
But the chief priests, the rulers, and the people insisted:
Pilate relented, washed his hands, and
gave them what they wanted.
Pilate's band of soldiers took Jesus.
They stripped him and
dressed him in a scarlet robe.
They put a crown of thorns on his head
and a reed in his right hand.
They bowed before him mockingly
saying "Hail, King of the Jews!"
They spat on him, they beat him with the reed.
Then they dressed him again
and took him away to crucify him.
The Romans didn't invent crucifixion,
but they may have mastered it.
The condemned was scourged,
forced to carry his cross to the place of execution,
nailed to the cross, and raised up.
The stripes and nails were exquisitely painful,
but usually not lethal.
The crucified died by suffocation
after hours or days of torture.
Twice soldiers offered Jesus vinegar and gall,
cheap, bitter wine; a painkiller.
Jesus refused to have his faculties dulled,
to blunt the agony of his crucifixion.
He chose to drink fully of the bitter cup
God could not take away.
Jesus carried his cross only part of the way
to Golgotha, the place of the skull.
At some point, a man named Simon
was compelled to carry the cross.
Jesus was exhausted from Gethsemane,
from the beatings,
from the flogging.
A crowd followed them.
Women cried and lamented him
along the way.
The soldiers nailed
Jesus's hands and feet to the cross,
and raised him between two thieves.
They drew lots and divided up his clothes.
And the sign they placed on the cross
in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin read:
"Jesus of Nazareth The King of the Jews."
"Father, forgive them;
for they know not what they do,"
he said from the cross.
Even now, the chief priests,
the rulers, and the people
mocked the crucified Christ.
They said: "If thou be the Son of God,
come down from the cross."
And: "He saved others; himself he cannot save."
Jesus looked on his mother
and his Apostle John.
"Woman, behold thy son!" he said to Mary.
"Behold thy mother!" he said to John.
He hung on the cross for hours.
We don't know how many.
Finally, Jesus cried out:
"Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?"
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Then Jesus cried with a loud voice,
bowed his head, and
willingly laid down his life.
A soldier pierced Jesus's side with a spear.
That day, darkness fell on the land.
The veil of the temple was rent.
The earth shook. And graves
were opened and bodies of the saints arose.
Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus
obtained Jesus's body from Pilate.
They embalmed it and
placed it in a new garden tomb
hewn out of rock.
Pilate sent guards to watch the tomb.
At the end of the Sabbath, at sunrise,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
came to the tomb.
An angel of the Lord
rolled back the stone and said to them:
"Why seek ye the living among the dead?"
Jesus appeared to Mary at the tomb.
She did not recognize him.
"Woman, why weepest thou?
whom seekest thou?" he said.
She thought he was the gardener.
"Sir, if thou have borne him hence,
tell me where thou hast laid him,
and I will take him away," she said.
He said to her: "Mary."
She turned in recognition.
"Rabboni," she said. Master.
The Resurrected Christ appeared to others:
two disciples on the road to Emmaeus,
Peter, the remaining apostles,
first without and then with Thomas.
He said to them as he will say to us:
"Behold my hands and my feet,
that it is I myself: handle me, and see;
for a spirit hath not flesh and bones,
as ye see me have."