A new telling of the Easter account. Music by Simeon Wood.
This Easter (The narrative)
They gather, talk, eat, squabble, the usual things. Have no idea what’s around the corner. He does though. He has every idea, and if the others knew they’d wonder how he ever managed to eat anything. They celebrate their way through the story. The history of God setting people free. Bread, lamb, wine, herbs. The noise level rises. Then he raises a hand. A hand gnarled and creviced from his carpentry years. He takes a craggy hunk of the bread. Looks at his friends as he rips it. Passes around the chunks as if he is handing them life itself. ‘Take it, each of you,’ he says, ‘this bread is my body, torn for you.’ There are frowns as they chew, the party atmosphere has abruptly ended. He’s holding up one of the cups, but he isn’t saying the usual words. ‘This wine is my blood,’ he says. ‘Poured out in service, in sacrifice for each of you. It seals the new agreement between God and people. Forgiveness. Life. Compassion. Transformation.’ They drink in silence, but inside their hearts are racing, and their heads spin.
They sing quietly now as they walk. There is expectation in the air. Perhaps this is a night of revolution. Of justice. A night they’ve been waiting for. One or two grip the swords concealed at their sides. But they notice that he is unarmed. The tension is palpable. ‘Stay here,’ he says to the bulk of the group, but then beckons to his closest friends to come further into the darkness with him. ‘Please pray,’ he says to them, ‘I need it.’ And he walks away alone. Kneels. Mutters anguished pleas to the brooding, silent sky. He is far from peaceful. Is clearly calling out for answers, for some kind of escape. Then… a strange calm settles on him. He sits quietly for a moment. Then walks back to his friends. They sleep now. But not for long.
His friends stare, blink, shake their befuddled heads, struggle to stand. There are raised voices, torches blazing. A familiar figure leans close to Jesus. One of his friends takes his chance and metal glints in the firelight as blood spurts, and a servant cries out. Soldiers reach for their spears. This is it. The revolution has begun. Let’s get this… But no… it’s suddenly over. A word from him and the violence is diffused, the servant feels for his wound and finds nothing. Everyone appears wrongfooted. Apart from him. He offers himself, steps between his friends and the enemy. They take him.
A flurry of events follow. Most of his friends melt into the night, fulfilling a prophecy of fear. He is taken to the High Priest. There’s a muddle of allegations, venomous accusations which, on a normal night, would hold no weight at all. But this is no normal night. This is history in the making. A world turning in another direction. He is misused. Belittled. Bruised and broken by folks who should know better. Then, thrown to the Roman predators. More accusations and toxic lies. Some dark haggling for his life. Then it’s settled as a judge shoves justice aside in favour of washing his hands. Let it be. He presents the man, the truth, to the world and the world is happy to dispense with him.
There is walking and shoving, spitting and snarling, heartfelt pleas from desperate onlookers. This scene, this act of all time plays out. Three crosses, one of them for him. The sound of hammering… ropes straining as the body is raised up. A healing figure in life’s wilderness. Then there’s the sound of dice and cries from the crowd. One voice rises above the others. Reminding him this is not the end. ‘You’re a king, with a kingdom, remember me please when you rule in your glorious power.’ Pain rushes through his body as he turns to the other dying man and nods. ‘Of course,’ he says, ‘today you’ll be free, walking with me in paradise.’ Then he looks at the restless, surging crowd, and prays. ‘Father, please forgive them. They have no idea what is happening, what they have done here.’
He lifts his head one last time, and finishes the vital work. He dies.
Friday bleeds into Saturday. The day of true emptiness. His friends isolate themselves. Hopeless now. Hardly daring to speak his name. Wondering how they’ll ever move forward. How did they get here? What’s happening to the world? Why have things turned out this way? Why?
By Sunday morning he’s in a borrowed tomb, donated by a friend. Before the sun comes up a group of women wake, and throw water on their drawn faces. They force their aching limbs to make the journey. A pilgrimage to a dead man. They talk in hushed tones. They know his tomb has a rock sealing it. And soldiers blocking the path. This will be difficult. What’s the point of bringing these spices for him if they can’t even get near? Their talk ends with the sound of pottery smashing. One of the women has stopped dead, mouth open, eyes wide. They all stare. There are sleeping soldiers everywhere. But that’s not the point. The rock they were debating has rolled in the night. The mouth of the tomb lies wide open, like a corpse waking and yawning in the light of dawn. What’s going on? They run. Hover near the open grave, look inside… then jump! Startled as they see a figure in white. The figure smiles. They don’t smile back but instead… they jump!… a second time as another figure appears. ‘What are you doing here?’ the figure asks. ‘Why are you looking for a living person in the place of the dead?’ It’s like a strange puzzle. A riddle. The women look at one another, can’t figure out the answer. ‘Have you forgotten so soon?’ the figure asks. And again they have no suitable answer. ‘Remember what he said?’ the other figure goes on. ‘About being arrested and murdered? And then returning from the dead? D’you remember that?’ They nod slowly. Ye-e-e-s… they’re starting to… and are still working it out as they find themselves running. To tell the others, to break the news. There’ll be dancing. Street parties. Laughter, celebration. Food and wine. The world will never be the same again, things will… oh! They screech to a halt. One or two of the women running slap bang into the backs of the others, knocking the breath from their bodies. What the…??? Why are they stopping, why aren’t they running to tell the others? Why… oh. Oh! They stare. Astonished. Spellbound. And then one of them laughs. Clamps a hand to her mouth. And so does another. He’s there. Here! He’s right here. Right now. In front of them. Living breathing smiling talking. Not in a grave at all. Not lost. Not destroyed. Not thrown aside. Not broken or discarded or damaged and lifeless after all. But alive, alive! And talking to them, smiling, urging them to keep going. To not give up. To tell the others. To meet him again. This story’s not over at all. Not for a moment. It’s neverending in fact. It’s eternal. It’s eternal. It’s… eternal.