I’ve no shortage of reading this Easter week and what I have is dense with worthy thoughts on the cross. But something in the day is calling me out from behind all the words. It’s not enough to read it aright or speak it aright, I want to live it aright. It’s not enough to have given thanks because I read it was good. I want to give thanks like Jesus gave thanks, with the cross in view and the grave staring up wide and black. I want to eat the bread and drink the wine like he did, giving thanks because I’ve counted the cost. Giving thanks is not a gratitude list that someone else taught me to write. Giving thanks is a walking, talking, follow me life that demands I come up close and say the words myself.
The man who said “Tell no one,” made for himself a small pantomime scene, on the back of a donkey, coming into Jerusalem in the style of Zechariah, an unlikely warrior with no real sword. Gentle and riding on a donkey he invited their cries, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of The Lord!” He commanded an audience in Jerusalem on the busiest day of the year. The man who had sometimes tried to keep his presence a secret made sure that no one was missing this, then he disappeared into the crowd who wandered off to complete the business of the day.
I might have been there, watching from the back of that crowd. Living the whole thing from the corners of my mind, gathering and sorting the pieces; allusions to scriptures and the stories of all he said and did. Treading the road with the crowds, I would have watched as they laid the cloaks from their own backs to cover up the dirt. I might have shared my stories and thoughts with friends brushing a little dust from my own clothes as I spoke .
Some around Jesus imagined a band of mercenaries, insurrectionists, plotters and terror mungers, riding stolen war horses into the city and taking the Romans by surprise. Others imagined a different liberation, a closed religious community in the desert far from the confusion of politics, philosophies and competing ideas, a hiding place in which they could spend the rest of their days in peace. But Jesus was somewhere else.
On the night he was betrayed Jesus was busy rewriting history with a loaf of bread and a cup of wine, behind closed door, with an intimate bunch of friends. The crowds long gone in search of their own people and their own places to celebrate the Passover meal, we can pull up a chair and sit around that invite only table and watch from the front row as the story unfolds. We are the people once on the outside brought near. We know the location, the secret address and we come to share last things with a few remaining friends before everyone else has fled and left him for dead. As we watch him break the bread and drink from the cup we hear him give thanks and the distances shrink, times, place and realities: closer to Him, closer to each other and closer to our rest. Closer now to all the promises ever shared, He calls us to worship, to prayer and to find deep quiet intimacy from a safer place beyond the cross, resurrection day a few short hours away.