Holy Week 2012

Monday in Holy Week

He thought he knew what was going to happen. As he came to Jerusalem driven by the Scriptures or God or political inevitability, there was every chance that he would be arrested and even executed. He was not a proud man but he grimaced wryly at the situation in which he found himself. This was a hollow triumph; and not even his poor followers could see it although he had warned them so many times.

He was riding on a donkey through a crowd on the verge of hysteria. They were shouting "Hosannah!" - "save  u" - but he knew that he could not save them from the Romans and that they did not want to be saved from themselves. Everything was a blur. He hadn't slept properly for days and all he wanted was to be in Bethany, praying and getting ready for his ordeal; if there was to be an ordeal; but he wasn't certain; and he thought that he would prefer knowing to not knowing. The Temple hierarchy might fly off in any direction. You never knew. One day they were ganging up with the official Roman party, traitors to everything they stood for, and the next day they were trying to ally with him in the hope of increasing their popularity.

So much of life was a matter of self-control, of saying the right thing or at least not saying the wrong thing, of saying a little prayer before pronouncing. As he became more popular they listened ever more carefully to what he said: the people wanted comfort,  the priests wanted slip-ups, and the spies wanted evidence. And now he was exercising painfully taxing restraint: he wanted to slip down a side turning, dismount and melt away; but it wasn't to be. He wanted to remonstrate with the crowds who were almost out of control; but there was nothing he could have said, even if they could have heard him, even if they would have  listened if they could. As with many situations on the verge of chaos, it would be worse to stop than to go on. In a strange way he was riding this donkey to save the Temple hierarchy from a complete disaster.

He had never wanted a triumph but neither had he ever wanted to ride in a sham triumph. It was like being sober at a party where everybody was drunk; but in his own way he was drunk too. He was giddy, almost out of control even of this docile young animal. He was holding on out of desperation.

The donkey was now following the route that criminals took to crucifixion. He wondered whether they would have the nerve to do it; whether they would be driven by their own need to be seen to exercise control, to haul him in for questioning; and whether they would bring themselves to make a deal with the Romans to execute a Jew known for his knowledge of the law, his healing and his holiness. And he wondered whether, if he was condemned, the crowd would be so fickle as to support the Roman execution of a Jew.

The donkey was tiring as Herod's great Temple came into view. He would teach there until they took him. His earthly fate was out of his hands. He was being drawn to where all prophets were drawn, to the place which represented everything that was good and bad about religion, the place of the proud and  the humble, the priest and the publican. He did not know what would happen but God knew; and that was enough; or, rather, it would be if he could only find a little peace and quiet to pray, to get away from this religious circus and be alone with his Father.