Easter 8 Introduction
A lot was going on that first Easter morning. Bewilderment was an emotion shared not only by Jesus’ friends, but also by his enemies. Pilate, who had seemed almost skeptical in granting the chief priests’ request for a guard to be set on Jesus’ tomb, Make it as secure as you can… now finds his ironic words ringing true after all. And what had appeared to be merely the regrettable, yet necessary execution of a rather enigmatic figure he had personally considered harmless, is now threatening to expand into a crisis, perhaps even a potential insurrection. Even as he ponders a plan of action, however, Pilate still finds himself drawn in a curious kind of sympathy toward that strangely dignified and self-possessed victim of whom, just two days before, he had thought he was washing his hands forever.
The questions on this bizarre
and potentially explosive incident
resolve themselves in two basic directions.
Who took the body?
As to the first;
it must have been his followers,
plotting to claim him risen from the dead
and leave us stripped of any evidence
to the contrary.
But as for shifting that enormous boulder,
already rolled and rock-stopped into place
across the open mouth;
terrifying our best Roman guards
into a panicked tale of angels, earthquakes, lightning;
carrying the corpse in question –
minus its grave bands and bindings, by the way –
to some secret prepared hiding place
which all our searching,
frantic through these morning hours,
does not find out …
Since when could vacant fisher folk
and country yokel paupers such as these
command such skills and stratagems?
They should have been devastated,
not to mention scared out of
whatever scattered wits
they might have left.
There is something more going on here;
something strange and sinister
stirring at the bottom of all this,
some crafty, hatching movement
bigger, far, than anyone has yet suspected;
a movement that, I fear, must lead,
as all such do,
before much longer
to chaos, wild rebellion, bloody swords.
Pity that a man of peace
and genuine integrity and innocence,
as he appeared to me,
should be taken and misused in death.
Pity that this god-forsaken Hebrew race
cannot finally accept our Roman justice
and learn to live in calm prosperity
and ease with all the rest!
A word from J. Barrie Shepherd: These seven meditations, which have found their place in The Presbyterian Outlook over the weeks of Lent 2007, form part of a work in progress, a work that will eventually be formed into a new book, Faces By the Wayside. When completed the book will comprise a series of thirty meditations presented through the voices of the various individuals who encountered the Master during his years of mission and ministry leading up to all that took place in Jerusalem during that first Holy Week. It is my hope that this book will take its place alongside two of my previous works, Faces at the Manger and Faces at the Cross and provide a spiritual resource for those of us who, although we could never count among those faces by the wayside, at the manger, or by the cross, yet seek to follow in his steps, and shape our lives around those living words from long ago.
Barrie Shepherd retired from historic First Church in New York City in 2000. He currently lives in Wallingford, Pa., and is a parish associate at Wallingford Church.