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Part 18 of ‘Jumbled up in Jerusalem’


Part 17, ‘Back to the Temple’

Two days before Passover, or the Feast of Flatbread, the religious authorities were still desperately looking for a way to persuade the Romans to execute Jesus … ‘But not during the festival or there’ll be a riot and the Romans will crack down on us.’

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Simon’s house (Jesus had healed him) in a nearby village. He was sitting down to eat when a woman came in with a bottle of luxury aromatherapy oil. She poured it on his head. The guests grumbled, so the story goes, ‘What a waste! It’s worth a year’s wages’, and they gave her a hard time. Jesus said, ‘What’s it to you? Why are you picking on her? Help the needy with your own money! She’s perfumed me for the grave, she’s much kinder than you lot. No one will ever forget what she has done!’

This was the final straw for Judas and he went out to help the religious authorities, and of course the Romans, abduct Jesus. They were so pleased, they offered him a month’s pay, even though he didn’t ask for money, then he waited for his opportunity.

It was the Day of Flatbread, when Passover lambs are sacrificed. Jesus’ followers came and asked him, ‘What are your plans for Passover?’ He told two of them, ‘Go to Jerusalem, meet a man carrying a water jug (this was a code, men don’t carry water jugs) and follow him to a house, then ask for the guest room for our Passover and get it ready.’ They did what he told them.

In the evening, with his twelve followers, while they were eating he said, ‘One of you will betray me, we’ve shared food together, I’ve even passed the bread to the one who will do it. This must happen, but it won’t go well for the one who betrays me. He’ll wish he had never been born.’

While they were eating, he took bread and blessed it, then gave it to them and said, ‘My body, take it’. Then he took a cup of wine, thanked God for it, shared it with them and said, ‘My blood, poured out before God, for many. I won’t drink wine again until the great feast with God.’

They sang a hymn and went out to Olive Hill. Jesus said, ‘You’re all going to leave me, when the shepherd is attacked the sheep run away. But after I’ve died you’ll see me in Galilee.’ Peter said, ‘Not me! Even if the others run away.’ Jesus said, ‘Tonight you’ll deny me three times.’ And Peter argued with him, ‘I’ll die for you, but I won’t deny you’. The others said the same thing.

They went to ‘Olive Oil Gardens’ and Jesus said, ‘Sit while I pray.’ He took Peter, James and John with him and he was very distressed. He said, ‘This is a difficult time, my death is imminent, stay here and stay awake.’ He went a little further and threw himself on the ground, praying for another way, or a last minute escape. He prayed, ‘Father, there must be a better way, not like this, but you know what you’re doing.’ He went back to the others and said to Peter, ‘Asleep? Can’t you pray with me? But pray for yourself that you won’t fail. I know you want to be strong but people are frail.’ He went off and prayed again, then came back, their eyes were heavy and they’d gone back to sleep. The third time he came back and said, ‘Still sleeping?! Having a rest? Time’s up, they’re coming to arrest me, on your feet. Here’s my betrayer.’

He was still speaking when Judas, his follower, arrived with an armed gang working for the authorities. He had already told them what the signal would be — ‘I’ll kiss him, you arrest him and take him away.’ He went up to Jesus, said ‘Master’, and kissed him. Then they grabbed him and arrested him. But one of his followers attacked one of the gang with a sword and sliced his ear off. Jesus said, ‘Swords and clubs? Am I a threat to society, a terrorist. I spoke in the Temple every day and you did nothing. But you’re following the script.’ And everyone ran off.

A teenager was hanging around wearing just a shirt, they tried to grab him but he ran off too, naked.

They took Jesus to the High Priest and all the religious leaders. Peter followed, but not too close, into the High Priest’s courtyard, he sat with the guards by the fire. The religious court wanted to charge Jesus and have him executed by the Romans, but they had nothing on him. All kinds of false charges were made but they couldn’t get their stories straight. They brought trumped-up, or imaginative, allegations:

He said, “I’ll destroy the Temple and build another one in three days.”’ But they couldn’t agree on what he had said.

Another accuser said, ‘He was an unlicensed exorcist, in league with Satan.’ But the priests didn’t issue anyone with exorcist licences, and he’d made a fool of them over this accusation before.

The ‘Sabbath police’ told the court, ‘He healed people on the Sabbath.’ A whole bunch of people jumped up and shouted, ‘He healed me!’ This charge wasn’t going anywhere.

The ultra-religious had their turn, ‘He didn’t wash his hands.’ Jesus shrugged and held up his hands. It wasn’t exactly a capital offence.

There were some Northerners, from Galilee, there, ‘He went drinking with us and caused chaos in the villages.’ The city dwellers weren’t interested in that one.

One of the politicians spoke up next, ‘He’s a very dangerous character, an extremist. He went to Syria and one of his followers is a militant.’ The authorities didn’t share the political fears that exist today and weren’t interested in anything outside their own country so they ignored that too.

A local government official had his turn, ‘He interfered with tax collecting, he wouldn’t give a straight answer to whether people should pay their taxes or not.’ This one didn’t go down well, it was the Romans who collected the taxes. Lots of people booed him for being pro-Roman and he had to hide at the back.

Finally a very irate fig farmer shouted out, ‘He cursed my fig tree and it died.’ No one believed that one and the crowd muttered, ‘Oh, yeah!’ Jesus, and of course, the ‘Devil’ exchanged a glance again.

No one was brave enough to mention the only thing which Jesus did do — disrupting Temple worship, throwing sacred money on the floor, thrashing businessmen, vandalism, interfering with selling of goods. They were far too embarrassed as no one challenged him at the time, they couldn’t argue with his authentic rage.

Then the High Priest asked him in front of the court, ‘Nothing to say? These are serious charges.’ Many of the other people there were struggling to keep a straight face, they were worried the ‘religious police’ would accuse them of some ludicrous ‘misdeed’.

Jesus kept quiet, so the High Priest said, ‘Are you the ‘Messiah’, the ‘Son of God’?’ Jesus said, ‘That’s me, you’ll see, on God’s right hand, coming with thunder!’

The High Priest was shocked, ‘You’ve incriminated yourself, you’ve gone too far! What’s the verdict?’ It was a kangaroo court. Everyone said, ‘Death!’ They had no authority of course and probably didn’t take it seriously, it was the Romans who put people to death. They spat on him, put a hood on his head and beat him. ‘Let’s hear you preach now!’ Then the guards beat him up again.

Peter was still in the courtyard with one of the servants. She saw him and stared, ‘You were with Jesus, you’re a Northerner like him.’ ‘Not me’, he said, ‘You’ve got the wrong man.’ Then he stood in the entrance, and the cock crowed. Then the servant grassed him up, ‘He’s one of them’. He still denied it, then the crowd said, ‘Yes, you’re one of them, a Northerner.’ He swore, like a coarse Northern fisherman, and said, ‘I don’t know who the fuck he is!’ The cock crowed again, he came back to his senses and remembered, and wept.

First thing in the morning, the religious leaders decided. They tied up Jesus and gave him to Pilate. ‘You’re ‘The King of the Jews’ aren’t you?’ he said, with a sarcastic laugh. ‘Yeah, right’, Jesus replied. Pilate said to Jesus’ accusers, ‘Nice accusation, but seriously? I don’t have any problem adding him to the list of dangerous religious extremists, but I rather liked his stunt in the Temple! I notice that’s not on his charge sheet.’ The religious leaders continued to accuse him of all kinds of things, they didn’t come up with anything better than the last time. ‘No answer?’ Pilate said, ‘They’re accusing you of everything, including bread shortages in Passover and cold weather.’ But Jesus didn’t bother to reply, Pilate was surprised.

They say that prisoners were released for Passover (history says no). Barabbas (‘Son of Dad’), a murderer and extremist, was in prison, with other revolutionaries and troublemakers. The crowd might have asked Pilate to release a prisoner {though this seems unlikely}.

‘I bet you want me to release ‘The King of the Jews’, said Pilate wickedly, he enjoyed winding them up over religious and nationalist sensitivities, but there was no way he was releasing this prisoner. So the religious leaders egged on the crowd to ask for ‘Daddy’s Boy’ instead. ‘Don’t you want ‘The King of the Jews’ then?’ said Pilate mockingly. ‘Do your job and execute him!’ they shouted. ‘With great pleasure’, said Pilate, ‘though we all know he’s not the biggest troublemaker in my jail’. ‘What are you waiting for?’ they shouted.

The story says that Pilate flogged ‘Daddy’s Boy’ and let him go (it made absolutely no sense to release a real terrorist), then flogged Jesus and gave him to the executioners. The soldiers took Jesus to the palace and called all the others. They put a royal robe on Jesus and a thorny crown and said, ‘Your Majesty’. They beat him with a stick and spat on him, then bowed to him. When they got bored they gave his clothes back and led him to the execution site.

Simon Cyrene, a pilgrim, was passing, he stood out because he was African, and they made him carry the cross-beam. They took Jesus to Skull Rock. They offered him cheap wine and drugs but he refused, they put him on a cross at 9 a.m. The charge sheet said ‘The King of the Jews’ (you can be sure that if it was happening today Pilate would have added ‘LOL’). Two rioters were crucified with Jesus, one on either side.

People walked past and took the piss — ‘Well done! You were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days, get off the cross if you can!’ The religious leaders and scholars did the same thing, ‘He saved others, but look at him now! If you’re the ‘Messiah’, ‘King of the Jews’, get off the cross now, then we’ll believe you.’ The robbers joined in.

At midday the sky went dark, until 3 p.m., when Jesus shouted (in Aramaic), ‘My God, my God, have you abandoned me …?’ People nearby thought he was calling Elijah, they weren’t as multicultural or multilingual as Jesus. One of them offered a sponge full of vinegar on a stick to Jesus and said, ‘Leave him now, maybe Elijah will come and rescue him’. But, with another loud shout, Jesus was dead.

Apparently the Temple curtain was ripped in two at that very moment, but how anyone knew or reported it is not clear, it’s just part of the story. A centurion standing near Jesus, who heard his shout and saw him die said, ‘He was a man sent by the gods.’ Mary of Magdala, another Mary (mother of James and Joseph) and Salome (they were women so the story mostly ignored them …), his followers and supporters since the beginning in Galilee, were with him, and lots more who followed him to Jerusalem.

By now it was evening, just before the Sabbath. Joseph of Arimathea, a respected elder, who was waiting for God’s new society, plucked up the courage to go to Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body. Pilate was amazed that he was already dead and summoned the centurion to confirm it. When the centurion reported back he gave Joseph access to the body. Joseph took him down from the cross and wrapped him in a new sheet, placed him in a rock tomb, then closed it. Mary of Magdala and the other Mary watched him. It wasn’t sealed and there was no Roman guard.

Only one chapter left … ‘The End’


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