The spring morning air had quickly warmed. Travelers were hurrying down the small mountain road into the city of Jerusalem. Just over the hill to the south and east, the souks of Bethany and Bethphage were bustling with merchants. Families had sent their older children to purchase a few fresh items for the day's meals. Many of the women were already making advanced preparations for tomorrow's Shabbat.
The joy on the faces of Jesus' followers was contagious. Each of the few previous afternoons he had suddenly just walked into their gathering. They tried not to act surprised, but that was difficult when none of them were completely sure where he came from. He was just there! Radiant! Happy! What a contrast to this same setting only a few weeks ago.
Then he had carefully instructed them about judgment to come. Then he was preparing them for the trial of the cross. Then he was exhorting them to keep the faith. Now, he was helping them understand how this had been the Eternal's plan since the beginning of time. Scripture after Scripture was explained in light of his resurrection.
There was a different quality about Jesus they couldn't quite put into words. It's like he was more full of love and more intimidating all at the same time!
Something else had changed. Those who had been with him from the beginning had seen many lose heart and defect, but they were stunned by the betrayal of Judas. Now, when Jesus was here...alive...why couldn't they just gather the whole nation to come and see? But the locals would have nothing to do with it. Some of the most ardent followers went to the residents of nearby villages and asked them to at least investigate. The disciples were treated like lunatics. "He died," villagers would say. "The religious leaders said his body was stolen! You are troublemakers!"
What didn't make sense is that some who had resisted him the most were now among them as believers. Everyone was shocked when Jesus' half-brother James had approached the Eleven one day and asked for baptism. His arrogance had been replaced by the deepest humility they could imagine.
So they gathered here. New faces and old. Former deniers, returning deserters, faithful followers. How could six weeks have changed everything so radically?
John and Peter looked up and there he was. Jesus' mother Mary was near John. Jesus went directly to her, gave her the customary kiss of greeting and whispered something. She looked at him with shining eyes and a little sob escaped. She had expected this day.
"Gather around, friends!" Jesus spoke clearly, but he wasn't particularly loud. Still everyone could hear him. Before Jesus could tell them what he would talk about, one of the long-time followers waved his hands and got Jesus' attention.
"Yes, Shaul, what is it?"
"Lord, we all have one question that we don't know about."
"It's okay, my friend, what is your question?"
"Uh...is this the time that you are restoring the kingdom of Israel? Are you ready now to become the king of kings?" Other voices rumbled their assent to this question and looked to Jesus for an answer.
"Remember what I told you before the crucifixion," Jesus replied. "The Eternal Himself sets the dates for all things. The world has times and seasons that have been set into motion long ago and all will happen in its proper time. Those details are not for you to concern yourself with. We have something more important for you to do."
In the back of the gathering, people were whispering quietly. "More important? What could be more important?" Suddenly, Jesus was speaking again...
"I want you to wait in Jerusalem for a very important day that will be here very soon." Jesus was smiling. "You remember how John was baptizing with water down by Jericho. He promised then that I would baptize you with the Spirit of God. That is about to happen. Then, when you have received the power of the Spirit, you are to tell everyone about me starting right here in Jerusalem. Quickly share the same message throughout Judea and, yes, even in Samaria (the Samaritan woman's eyes were glistening as he said this). Before you are done, I want the entire earth to hear what I have done for them on the cross."
It was one of the youngest followers who shouted, "Look! He is rising into the air!"
To my readers: I was surprised at the joy I received from writing some of my own thoughts about events surrounding Holy Week this year. Some of you encouraged me to come back at the time of Christ's Ascension and continue the project. It is my prayer that these words will serve to enhance your appetite for more of the history from Scripture itself.