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Return to Jerusalem

Bethany is two miles from the Temple and so, You and Your twelve walked two miles each morning and two miles each evening of that week, for the Temple was where You needed to be and Simon had offered You some space at night.

There were thirteen men then, lying under stars held within a courtyard and the sounds of the night hummed beneath the waking and the dreaming. You had known the end before the start and tomorrow You would ask for the colt and wait for the Hosannas. A man of the people, the people said, so for tomorrow there would be the Hosannas and the palm and olive branches. Remembering the Transfiguration, You could almost smile, knowing how the noise and adulation would please Peter. Another kind of smile for poor Judas who would see on that dusty street some of his own dreams of triumphal entry.

Your path to the Temple was well known by now, for the sick had learned to find You there. Some women, preparing the first meal of their long days, would smile into their morning to see You there; others would turn their heads as though You were not there at all. And so, You reached the Temple where men sold pigeons and skinny calves for twice their worth to men who had traveled miles to worship Yahweh. Men had come miles to stand near the Ark and found, as they must have known, that they needed coins - more than they had known - to buy small pulsing bodies for their sacrifice.

Other men changed money in this place of Yahweh.

On the streets, all along the crowded ways, You could see and hear the haggling and the cheating; all along the way You could witness the poor, the devout, and the dull-witted being charged for what might have been freely given, and in those street's paths, You could love the tax collector and the money-changer, but today - in this place - it was suddenly too much and You burst out in some deep rage that so few had heard the words since Moses; that so many were both deaf and blind, and, as You shouted and swept the coins and kids out of Your path, perhaps some of the rage was coming from Your own fear of the days that lay ahead.

To understand at the Jordan's edge that full measure of Your self; to know at Jordan's shore what that would mean someday; now, in His temple desecrated with bird droppings and the excrement of animals, where the poor, and the rich, had to buy a place to stand, it was too much.

All You had left then, that week of Your passion, were Your words and Your knowledge that there was little time to speak. Your knowledge that that little group of twelve would soon be desolate and scattered and Your knowing that the deaf ears and the blind eyes waited this week for what You could tell them, for what You could show them.

That is why the fig tree - like all the other fig trees of that season, stood just leafed - but without fruit. Since, out of Your love and wisdom You could not curse the ones You called and loved; since You would not curse them for their denials and for their runnings, You cursed a small fig tree one morning because it could not bear fruit.

That small tree lives - cursed - within hearts because You rejected it; it shriveled, and on Friday's morning Peter's heart would be shriveled in its own despair. The fig tree shriveled and died; by Saturday, Judas would hang from his own tree.

One evening, of those precious evenings, the woman brought the ointment and broke an alabaster jar filled with its own grace over Your bowed head. You, who loved the poor and You were poor, You who fed the poor for You knew hungers too, You who told the simple stories simple people would remember later, You knew that in that anointing another parable was being written.

For she loved You with her whole heart. In the face of relatives who suggested sensible behavior, in the face of friends who gently counseled prudent spending, she had run to buy an alabaster jar of some sweet smelling stuff. Yes, she might have bought some soup for some poor as Judas' raised eyebrow suggested, but this was a gift for You and she understood with a grayness that clouded her eyes, she knew inside her heart "the poor you have with you always" and began her wait until that Friday.

One night over wine, You mentioned two sons and the philosophers within Your group smiled a little, knowing that they who had sinned were now identified as "good sons," not knowing yet, the sinning of a Thursday night when they would sleep through Your own deep and anguished prayers.

In Your words, You placed the prophets in their places, rejected by the people. You evoked grass-eating bullocks when You raised the vineyard tower and then moated it. Some loved You because You told good stories, but they did not yet know a mustard seed would grow, while a green leafed fig tree would stay withered. And always You were calling them to come to life - to live. And always You were calling them to come to Love - to love.

You tried - with words - to anticipate the ending of the Son of Man. You offered up the stone rejected by the builders; You offered up the Son the Father had sent. But if they heard - and some did, for these were the words Your father wanted all to hear, but if they were heard, they rushed on to a new place, a healing they could see and then shared in the rejoicing of a cripple now walking and did not see their own deep wounds.

Each night after these word filled days, You came back to Bethany and slept.


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