Editor’s note: Continuing a long-standing Holy Week tradition in this space.
I wish I had been there. In Jerusalem. With Jesus.
I wish I could have witnessed the events of a week that changed the world forever.
I wish I could have accompanied Jesus into the city as he rode astride a donkey and watched the crowds throw their cloaks before him, cheering the man they thought had come to lift the yoke of Roman oppression from their necks. The Messiah. The new David. I wonder if I would have gotten caught up in all the excitement and hoped that when he took over Israel, Jesus would give me a high-level job in his administration.
I wish I could have asked him firsthand why he was riding a donkey. It was a well-known fact that conquering kings ride stallions, not donkeys. I suspect Jesus would have smiled patiently and said he was not the Prince of War. He was the Prince of Peace.
I wish I could have been there when Jesus overturned the tables in the temple and ran off the usurious money changers along with the livestock and doves they were selling to the masses for a big profit. He called the place a “den of thieves” and actually took a whip after them. It wasn’t the first time a religious institution forgot whom they were there to serve and, sadly, it won’t be the last.
I wish I could have told Jesus that his rare display of temper had played right into the hands of the local power structure threatened by his popularity among the people. I would have reminded him that they wanted to get rid of him anyway and were just looking for an excuse and that he had given them a big one. I suspect he already knew that.
I wish I could have seen the look on the faces of the religious leaders when they tried to engage him in debate and realized quickly that they were badly out of their league. I would have laughed and clapped and hooted at them until I saw the look of disapproval on the face of Christ. This wasn’t a game to him.
I wish I had been there to keep an eye on Judas Iscariot. He probably thought that the way Jesus was acting, we were all going to get in trouble and he wanted no part of it. Had I been there, I would have told him to get with the program and quit whining. It likely would have done no good. He was pure evil.
I wish I could have been with Jesus during the Passover meal. The Last Supper. When he washed the feet of his followers. When he told his disciples after serving them bread and wine that if they wanted to be great, they must become servants as he had been. When he knew Judas would betray him and Peter would deny him and that dark hours were ahead, still he maintained his serenity because he had accomplished what he had set out to do. What an extraordinary time that must have been!
I wish I could have been some comfort to him in Gethsemane, although I am not sure what I could have said that would have made any difference. Knowing me, I would have gotten into a confrontation with the mob that came for him and called them a bunch of hypocrites and probably tried to get a piece of Judas. I think I would have greatly disappointed Jesus, who would have wondered if I had heard anything he had said over the past three years.
I wish I knew what I would have done during the mockery of a trial, the humiliations he suffered and the Crucifixion. Would I have thrown up my hands in despair and left him to die? Would I have worried that I might be next? Would I have denied knowing him? These are easy to answer in hindsight, but I suspect I would have been scared then. Very scared.
I wish I had been with his followers on that extraordinary morning three days later when they looked in the tomb and saw it empty. What had been total despair was now unspeakable joy. Christ was alive! He had risen! Halleluiah!
Yes, I wish I had been in Jerusalem that extraordinary week. I wish you could have been with me. After what we witnessed, maybe we could remember that Easter isn’t about dyed eggs, bunnies and jelly beans — as exciting as those things may be for little ones. Easter is about celebrating the One who died for our sins and gives us hope that something better awaits us when this life is done. A miraculous week. A joyous day. That is what Easter is about. I wish we would all remember that.
Contact Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; and online at dickyarbrough.com or facebook.com/dickyarb.