Holy Week 2011


Downhill. It's all downhill from now on. Down from Golgotha, down from the tomb, down from the upper room, down from the city to the country. It was a struggle going the other way, up the hill from the country to the city, to the upper room, to Golgotha and the tomb; but this is much worse.

There was so much hope, so much promise, we hardly dared to believe in it. As we got higher, nearer to the city, he said that we must fear for the worst but, like the best of climbs, the end would be glorious, giving us a new outlook over the troubled world. We didn't know precisely what he meant; but he always kept his promises, always. You expect really holy people to be just a little obscure; they see things we can't see and it isn't always easy to find the words to make the connection between their way of seeing and ours. And because he always kept his promises, we must have misunderstood.

There's no need to go over the events of that terrible night and day again.

Shalom. Good afternoon. We're not very good company but please walk with us.

No it's not having to go back to work or trouble at home, although both those things are realities to be faced - and we've been away for quite a long time - it's more profound than that, connected with the dreadful events in Jerusalem.

Surely you know? You must be the only person who doesn't. Never mind; I didn't mean to be sharp. Forgive us if we're tense. It's just that we have spent the last year following a wonderful teacher and healer, Jeshua. We think he said he was the Messiah but, in any case, he preached a message of love, he healed the sick, he brought joy to everyone he met except the religious authorities; and that was the problem. Somehow his goodness came into conflict with their interests - we don't know why it couldn't be sorted out - and he was falsely accused of blasphemy and - not to put too fine a point on it - judicially murdered by the Romans on behalf of the High Priest and the religious authorities. Crucified like a common criminal. And our hopes were buried with him. But - and here's the last of it - there are now rumours that the tomb we put him in is empty and it can't have been a robbery because his grave clothes were still there and only the body had gone. We were determined to go home and make a new start - but then this - and we can't make the new start.

Perhaps he was the new start? Well, that's what he said he was. But it's all over now.

Yes, if it helps. You can tell us the sequence and if you leave something out we can put it in. As you say, you are a Rabbi and we need some help. I will repeat what you say, in a summary, so that we are clear.

At the creation, Adam and Eve couldn't cope with the perfection of the Garden of Eden, so they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and their eyes were  opened to the reality of human imperfection. And The Holy One chose Abraham to be the Father of Israel; his people were enslaved in Egypt but he liberated us; and gave us The Law as a covenant between him and us that we would never abandon us. But w went on abandoning him in spite of our promise.

Yes, except for what you say about imperfection, that is reasonably straightforward. 

All right, yes, we'll leave out the Judges and the Kings if you say they really don't matter.

The prophets were important but looked at from this distance it's difficult to work out all they have to say; so much of it is bound up with politics and the exile. But you're right. It didn't matter what we did, YHWH stuck with us; and when we turned back to him he never let us down.

We're sorry. We are doing our best but it's difficult to see a narrative thread except for faithfulness and unfaithfulness and you are right to say that there are hints of better times, what we call the Messiah and Jeshua, well, hinted that he was the Messiah but it's a strange sort of saviour that is condemned to death and crucified.

We are only too happy to try. ... Isaiah, yes, the greatest of the prophets. ... The "Suffering servant? ... the Psalms ... like a lamb to the slaughter ... casting lots for garments. ... Yes, we surely believe that YHWH speaks through the Scriptures. ... so YHWH was speaking to us through the Prophets and the Psalms about Jeshua! So what happens next? It can't end there, can it? I mean, if what you say is true there has to be a better ending. Something has to happen to reverse the terrible crucifixion. ... Well, he did say something about sending The Holy Spirit to make everything clear; and, I'm sorry to say, in the turmoil and despair after his terrible suffering and ignominious death, for which we blame ourselves in a way we can't quite reduce to good sense, we rather overlooked that.

Well, that makes us feel a little better but it's not on that account that we would like you to stay with us. The sun is going down and, really, you would be doing us a favour if you would stay the night with us; it will be nice to entertain someone in our home which has been desolate for so long. It's never nice returning to an empty house, is it? There's always something a bit damp about a long-deserted house, though of course we'll make everything comfortable for you. My companion will buy some grain, oil, milk, a few vegetables; they're very good round here, as you probably know. And, as you're a guest, we will have a little wine. There's no wine like that which grows round Emmaus.

It's a little damp, as I said, but I will build a nice fire to cheer us up and we can make some bread, you know, with the quick recipe as we don't want to keep you waiting.

As our guest we would like you to say The Grace. And here's the bread, still hot.

It's you! Master! Our Lord and Our Messiah!

Gone! Look, don't you see, it's what you don't see that matters. He was here and now he's not here. It's only a heavenly being, like an angel, that can come and go like that. But it wasn't an angel, it was Jeshua! He is gone, yes, but he's here with us in the bread that he broke. That's the point. He said at the big meal that he would always be with us; just as he explained today that YHWH had promised that he would always be with us. YHWH with us, Jeshua with us and he promised something else, remember, that The Spirit would always be with us. YHWH, Jeshua and The Spirit.

Yes, we must; we must! Of course we must. Put some oil on the rest of the bread and we'll eat it on the way up.

I know it's dark but we know this road like the backs of our hands. And it's safe. The Romans are at least good for something.

Up the hill, up the hill. Climbing from the country towards the city, towards the upper room. Climbing towards glory.

Open the door! Open the door! We have seen him! We knew him in the breaking of the bread! Christ is risen! Alleluia!