Reading the Easter story is really like reading a murder mystery where you know the ending. You know whodunnit, you know the police triad of information (Means, Motive and Opportunity) and you can see all the clues as you are reading it . In fact, if you’re like me, it’s easy to find yourself almost screaming for people to open their eyes and telling them that it’s just so obvious.
I’ve heard people say, on many an occasion, that it would have been so easy to be a believer when Jesus walked the earth – and yet that also falls into that same trap. We can say that because we know the ending, we see all the pointers and we can directly interpret the prophecies in the old testament as pointing to Jesus.
If we take a step back, if we forget all that we know that followed and try to put ourselves in the position of Peter – we can get a much more sympathetic and a massively different perspective on events.
So cue the scooby-doo wiggly lines and, with a huge dash of artistic licence, let’s try to imagine that we’re there nearly 2000 years ago:
Plucked from the shores of Galilee, and taken around the region, I witness amazing miracles and hear words spoken that shift how I view life, how I relate to God, and how I treat others around us. As Jesus speaks, I start to believe that He is The Son of God – this man in front of us is somehow, miraculously and wonderfully, Jahweh’s Son and the long-prophesied messiah.
Living under the oppression of both the dictatorial Roman empire and the corrupt and authoritarian temple leadership, there’s hope that we are at last going to be delivered from the lives that we have.
And then Jesus starts to make these cryptic remarks about not being with us for much longer, is He leaving us to go elsewhere and get more recruits? But the talk starts to get even more serious and it sounds like He’s not expecting to live for much longer.
How can this be? He’s the Messiah, He’s our deliverer. He’s going to free us from the shadow that we’re living under.
And then we all sit down for the passover and He washes my feet and again makes references to not being with us, telling us that He won’t take part in another passover until the Kingdom has come. He takes bread and wine and tells us that these are His body and blood and that we need to do this in remembrance of Him. Why do I need to remember Him, He’s there in front of us – how could I ever forget.
Then comes the punch to the gut – He tells me that I’m going to deny Him. Not once or twice, but three times before the dawn breaks. As if I would do that, why would I? How could I? He’s there, it’s self-evident. I’d never do it after all I’ve seen. Why would I deny the man who is going to bring us the great freedom?
It’s all starting to get too much – I’m a simple fisherman, not a deep thinker and not a complex man. I can’t work this out. It’s just too many pieces that don’t fit together.
After dinner we go out again, as we normally do, and He goes off to pray – but this is different. He’s different. There’s a conflict, a turmoil, and a pain that seems to run so deep. I can’t keep my eyes open, I try to pray like He asked but I’m so tired. When He wakes us up there’s a pain on His face. There are streaks on His head, it looks like He’s been sweating blood.
I can’t take it all in – what is going on?
And just when I though things couldn’t get even more peculiar, Judas turns up with the temple guard and the priests. With a look of shame and regret on his face he kisses Jesus and Jesus looks at him with those eyes that just cut through to your very soul, and there’s a sadness there with an air of resignation.
The guards arrest Jesus! It’s all crazy. Events are a blur and swords are drawn, was it me that cut off the slaves ear? I can’t remember. It’s just a whirlwind of activity, and a flood of uncertainty and questions. How can Jesus be arrested. This can’t be happening. It was only a few days ago that He rode into Jerusalem to cries of “Hosanna” and now He’s being arrested like a common criminal. Worse in fact, they’re treating Him as it He is the worst criminal ever.
I follow them as they take Him away, everything that I’d come to believe being brought into question by the events unfurling before my eyes. It’s not possible. It can’t be happening.
But it is.
They beat Jesus. They whip him with a whip lined with chips of bone. The flesh hangs from His back and the blood pools at His feet. They mock Him and insult Him, and yet He says nothing. He does nothing.
The man who’d brought the dead to life, healed the sick, driven out demons and faced down the theologians and philosophers was suddenly silent. He was speechless, defenceless, weak.
He was just a man.
I couldn’t bear to watch, but I couldn’t stop. I wanted Him to suddenly stand up, to shout in a cry that would silence everyone. To break the chains and to heal Himself and stand up. Surely He would. Surely this isn’t how it ends?
Then a girl spots me and recognises me. I can’t risk it, I can’t be associated with Jesus now. So I pretend that I don’t know Him.
The someone else agrees with her – and I tell them that they are mad, that I’ve never met the man.
A third person speaks up and in rage, shame, embarrassment , and fear I shout at them. I swear and curse. The man I was 3 years ago springs to the fore and I certainly don’t act in the way that Jesus had taught me.
And the cockerel crows with the first rays of dawn breaking over the wall.
Even before I’ve fully turned I can feel His eyes on me. I can barely bring my face to bear, but somehow I lift my eyes to meet His.
The sorrow in those eyes is too much. It tears through me and rends my heart in two.
I hear Him predicting my denial, and my words of defence echo in my mind.
And still He looks at me. With sorrow, with pain, and yet there’s still that ever-present love in there.
I can’t bear it any longer, and I run.
Ashamed I hide as they crucify Him and then bury Him. I can’t make sense of all that’s happening. How can He be dead, how can it all be over?
After some days, Mary comes running to John and I. She starts babbling that Jesus’ body has been taken away. The stone that covered His tomb has been rolled away and all that’s left are His grave clothes.
John and I run to the tomb – not sure what’s going on or what to believe. Sure enough, it’s as empty as Mary told us. We don’t know what to make of it as we walk back to the upper room. We’re confused – who would take the body, how did they move the stone when it was guarded, why would they do it.
I sit back down, the thoughts rushing in and the confusion just running rampant through my mind. I put my head in my hands as I try to make sense of it all.
Suddenly there’s a shift in the air. There’s a light in the room that penetrates the fingers in front of my cupped head. I lift my head and look into those eyes.
The same eyes that had looked at me with sorrow only a few days before were looking at me now with love and peace. I can’t believe it, but I can’t deny it.
Jesus is standing there in front of me.
I fall down to my knees and I sob. I cry the tears that come from the depths of your soul. As I struggle to catch my breath, waves of peace wash over me and soothe the anguish I’m feeling.