In the pre-dawn darkness Jesus shook John awake, then took a few steps and did the same to Peter and James ben-Zebedee. "Get the others. We will leave very soon. I have much work today."
A few of the men were still rubbing sleep from their eyes as they stepped out of the little house. The air was cool this morning. But it wouldn't take many steps on the trail for the travelers to warm up. Their group was smaller than the past few days. Others would surely join them when they found out Jesus had left early.
The Teacher and his closest followers came through the gate before the first rays of sunlight struck the city walls. Once inside, they went directly through the Huldas into the Temple compound. The Court of the Gentiles was awake and stirring. Passover was drawing hundreds to the city already and some had come early to the Temple to present their offerings.
Jesus stopped suddenly and gazed across the courtyard to the offering box. A few wealthy merchants were talking loudly, causing everyone near them to look their way. Satisfied that they were noticed, they went in single file and opened their fat purses. As they dumped sacks of coins into the box, each of them smiled with satisfaction at the comments people were making about their generosity. They then strode away, smugly nodding at a few young people who actually cheered them.
As the hubbub of the courtyard returned, Jesus continued to gaze quietly at the collection box. None of his followers had noticed the woman with downcast eyes, standing in the shadows. Now that she thought no one would see her, she approached the box. The black fabric of her widow's garment was clearly ragged at the edges. Keeping her eyes down, she dropped the two tiny, copper coins in the offering and quickly walked away.
Jesus turned to his disciples, tears glistening in his eyes. "She gave the most of all," he said. Seeing their confusion, he choked back a sob and added, "It was everything she had."
As they pondered the weight of what Jesus told them, the disciples followed him back outside the Temple compound. He began to speak loudly now, knowing that many would stop to listen as they passed by. Everyone wondered what he would say or do next. Over the past few days, people had all but declared him their king. Then he forced the currency exchange merchants from the Gentile's Court. Then he faced down every effort the religious leaders made to trip him up. It was whispered everywhere that the Sanhedrin would surely take some kind of action to stop him.
Those looking for the thrill of a fight weren't disappointed as he spoke today. He accused the Scribes and Pharisees of holding the people hostage to meaningless laws. He said that the religious leaders performed all the rituals of the Law, but ignored things like justice...mercy...faithfulness. He even called them a bunch of snakes! He said they were condemned to hell and that God's judgment would come upon them.
Then, with a promise that this very generation would face the wrath of The Eternal, Jesus abruptly walked down the steps and out of the city. The disciples all followed him...except one. Judas Iscariot caught the elbow of Matthew and said, "I will be staying in town for a while to take care of some urgent business. I will join you on the mount later."
Judas the treasurer made sure all the followers were with the Teacher and slipped by into the Temple compound. He quickly made his way through the Court of the Gentiles and through inner courts to the Court of the Priests. "I need to see the High Priest," he said. "I am one of the twelve specially selected by Jesus of Nazareth."
"Why should the High Priest see you?" barked a temple guard.
"He needs access to get to Jesus away from the crowds. I'm ready to deal."
At that moment, the Teacher was stopped by one of the followers who had come in from the countryside. "Look, Jesus! Have you noticed the beauty of our glorious Temple today?"
Jesus looked at the man, then the Temple. Tilting his head slightly, he again raised his voice: "I tell you that soon not one of those massive stones will rest upon another. It shall all be destroyed!"
They walked back up the Mount, discussing among themselves what this might mean. When they arrived at Bethany, they took bread and rested. Then, in the late afternoon they approached Jesus. "Teacher, you spoke of the Temple being torn down. When? What are the signs of this devastation? Is it when you will return to lead us?"
Jesus motioned them to sit down. He began telling them in detail about the times to come...
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.