You are going to be extremely surprised to receive a letter from me, Mary, the mother of Jesus. I am writing several thousand years after your time.
I have had the most terrible and terrifying week of my life. It began with an excited and celebratory parade through the streets of Jerusalem. The main road was heaving so much with revellers that, short of letting Jesus get crushed to death, we had to find alternative transport. Fortunately Jesus knew someone in the city where we could borrow a donkey for him to sit on.
Whether this was a good idea I do not know, because now we could move but they treated us like royalty: they hailed Jesus as David’s Son, carpeted the path before the donkey with palm leaves and we all felt rather awkward. 1,983 years later they will remember this day again as Palm Sunday. Usually they will not have a donkey in the play except the one on two legs who is carrying a cross that weighs probably half a ton.
Anyway back to my own time where it was the first day of the Passover feast. The room we had was big and many people were invited. For practicality Jesus sat with the Twelve. When it was time for the blessings he handed the bread over with the words ‘This is my body’ and with the cup he said ‘This is my blood’. I was quite put off by these words. But, Ruth, it is getting even worse: after the meal he got up and started washing his disciples’ feet. This is a servant’s job! He even had the cheek to tell them that they had to do the same for each other and for others! And twenty one centuries later they actually do it. How amazing.
After the meal Jesus and the Twelve went to Gethsemane, and with three of them he went further into the wild garden. He told them to watch while he sat apart and prayed. Apparently Jesus was terrified – and that is not at all like him. Sadly, his bodyguard kept falling asleep. So he could not escape this time when a mob came up to grab him. The mob had to have a special show so Judas kissed Jesus. Not that kisses among men is unusual in our culture, Ruth, but apparently this was the sign of recognition for the henchmen of the Pharisees. What a nasty form of betrayal! Then the mob dragged Jesus into town again, straight to the High Priest’s house. Since it was by now quite late someone had to get the High Priest out of bed. We could hear his wife’s clamouring a long way off!
The Law of Moses had determined that no man should call himself equal to God. As you know, Ruth, some men assume the title “Son of Man” if they need their message to have particular impact on the hearers. Jesus has done that too, but in that sham trial they have twisted around everything he has said and taught to the poor, and turned it against him. You know that we are not allowed under Roman rule to execute people. So the Sanhedrin kept Jesus until morning and then took him to Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate tried honestly to find out why the mob of the Sanhedrin wanted Jesus dead. The replies Jesus gave did not strike him as deserving death, so he had Jesus flogged to keep the officials sweet. You do not know Roman whips, Ruth. They are studded with bits of bone and sharp stones. They literally strip the victim’s skin off in places. I can still hear Jesus moan with pain. It was sickening to watch my own child suffer like that. Apparently this was not enough; now the soldiers made Jesus into a parody of a king with a cloak of rough fibres and a crown of thorns to add injury and insult. When the soldiers brought Jesus back to Pilate and he presented him to the people these beasts were still not satisfied and kept shouting ‘Crucify him!’
I was still reeling from the pain of watching Jesus being flogged. Pilate really did not want to do this. But he also feared the crowds. So he gave in and handed Jesus over to the soldiers. Then Pilate did something unusual in trials like this: he called for a basin of water and washed his hands in a public ritual, saying that the blood of Jesus death was not to be held against him, but against the people. Then the soldiers took Jesus away. They made him carry his cross from the garrison to Golgotha. Dear Ruth, I have never cried so much in my whole life. The soldiers pushed and pulled Jesus, but he was already so weak from the flogging that he kept falling down. So the soldiers grabbed a man from the crowd and ordered him to take over from Jesus. Once there the soldiers had to exert a lot of violent force to pin Jesus limbs down to get the nails in. He really did not want to die! I did not get very close, but it was not necessary because now Jesus screamed with the pain of it. When they had put up the cross he was silent. I could see he was now totally inside himself and gaining control again. Jesus blessed those who were crucified with him and with his dying breath he charged John to look after me. One last word of frustration and surrender said to God. Then he decided he had done enough – and he died.
This was the point, dear Ruth, when I lost consciousness. I simply broke down. I did not stay in this blissful state for long, though. Probably only seconds after Jesus passed from life to death all hell broke loose. Stones and buildings started to crumble. The graves opened and it seemed as if dead people came to life again. The sun disappeared, and the noise was quite dreadful. Quite apart from all those horrors there was one thing nobody had ever experienced before: with one enormous loudly screeching sound the curtain in the temple before the innermost chamber was torn right through the middle. So now everyone could look into the Holy of Holiest. Outrageous!
Here the tale of the worst week of my life must end. Dear Ruth thank you for your patience and reading all this. May you and all your descendants enjoy the outrageous love of God in all here and now times they have.
Mary, the mother of Jesus the Messiah