It was well past midnight when Jesus shook Peter, James and John awake...for the third time. "Couldn't you just pray with me for an hour?" The question haunted them in their sluggish waking in the same way their dreams had done when they slept.
John noticed what looked like drying blood on the Teacher's face and was about to ask him, but Jesus was already moving toward the eight others in the distance. "Quickly! My time is at hand!"
They started moving out of the Garden toward the road up the Mount when they were met by a large group of soldiers carrying torches. Judas Iscariot stepped from their midst and gave Jesus the customary kiss of greeting. As if nothing was wrong!
Suddenly, chaos! Soldiers grabbed Jesus. Peter pulled out the sword hidden in his robes and started slashing. He swung at the head of the man closest to him; the blow glanced off the mans skull and blood was spurting everywhere.
"Stop!" said Jesus. "This is to be." He turned to the man Peter had just struck and touched the wound, speaking quietly. The man suddenly grabbed at the place of the wound and shouted, "I'm healed! I'm healed!"
The soldiers moved quickly now, brutally shoving Jesus toward the city gate. John followed at a discreet distance and Peter followed him. In their confusion and shock, the rest ran in every direction. A few of them hid in the darkness for hours, afraid that soldiers were ready to take them captive.
The events that followed happened like a blur, but were so dramatic it was if time stood still.
Though terrified, most of the disciples had hidden in the shadows among the crowds as Jesus moved through the narrow city streets carrying his cross. They saw up close the open wounds on his back. Blood flowed freely from the thorns on his head. Andrew saw the pain in the Teacher's eyes and turned away to hide his tears.
On Friday afternoon, their friend who had taught them, guided them, listened to them, healed them, fed them, laughed with them and cried with them was hanging naked on a cross. Nails pierced each hand and his feet. He kept pulling and pushing himself up by those nails so he could exhale and draw another breath before he slumped down again.
The unusual midday darkness made it possible for even the most timid of his followers to watch quietly from the edges of the crowd. They had heard the nails being driven in. It was as if the whole earth moved when the cross was dropped in the hole prepared for it.
It was his words that pierced their broken souls. "Father, forgive them." "Today, you shall join me in paradise." "I'm thirsty." Then, when he cried out, "My God, why have You forsaken me?", Thomas hung his head and walked away. His hope was dying on that tree.
Inside the city gates. Inside the Temple walls. Inside the Sanctuary. In the room called the Holy Place. The priest chosen by lot was preparing for the evening offering. He suddenly felt light of head. Was he fainting? No, he looked over at the altar, which was scooting across the floor. It was as if the entire Temple was shaking apart.
He fell, clawing the tiles for something to hold on to. Then, he heard the sound from 50 feet above him. The veil. The curtain between this room and the Holy of Holies. It was four inches thick, made of the strongest fabric available. A tear appeared at the top and ran to the floor.
Opening the way between man and God.
To my readers: the eight days we have come to know as "Holy Week" is detailed graphically in Scripture. The parts we don't know much about are the human elements, especially from the viewpoint of Jesus' closest followers. My attempt this week is to stay true to the Biblical text, while shading in what it may have been like "between the lines." Please distinguish my ruminations from God's Word by reading the last few chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. My hope is that the reading of my words impacts you even a tiny percentage as much as writing them has impacted me.