He was always a bit odd, Jesus, even as a kid. His mum made up some story about his father being God which was well strange, since their Dad was a normal sort of bloke called Joseph. She said she was told by an angel. People gossiped about that, but when she said she had moved because some king was trying to kill her baby everyone put her down as a bit of a psycho.
Anyway, Jesus and his brothers and sisters were pretty normal, at first anyway. The boys worked for their dad, as chippies, but Jesus started spending more and more time hanging out at the temple. There were all these clever holy people there who knew all the laws and set all the temple rules. Jesus took to picking fights with them. You could tell he really pissed them off and one day he would pay for it, big time. They would challenge him but somehow he always came up with some smart answer to shut them up. They were always surprised by him.
I think some of them wondered if he was special and the rest were just irritated and really wanted to catch him out.
A long time later, when the rest of us were married with kids, Jesus seemed to give up his job and started travelling around, talking to people about God. He was a harmless nutter, I thought, and then I realised he did seem to be doing some magic and I got a bit scared. Everyone thought it was trickery at first, his curing people. First it was paralysed people and lepers, and nobody goes near them anyway, but later it was kids of famous people and the like and it seemed that he was really doing something. It was scary. Who was he? He wouldn’t have hurt a fly, but he went about talking to all these disgusting unclean people and making them well. I didn’t know what to think. He was sort of my friend – I mean I had known him all my life – but I had no idea what was going on or how he did this stuff.
He formed a sort of gang around him which he called his disciples. I wasn’t in it. Of course if he’d asked me I’d have said no, but he chose all these sad fishermen who could scarcely catch a fish, that’s when he wasn’t talking to tax collectors and the like. So this went on for three years or so, and more and more people flocked to hear him or brought their loved ones to be cured. Jesus said more and more weird stuff about his father in heaven and looked set to hack off everyone in the temple, but he kept curing people and one day even fed 5000 of them without going to the market.
One crazy day Jesus said he had to ride into Jerusalem to fulfill a prophecy. He rode on a half-grown donkey: it was ridiculous, his feet were almost scraping the dust. But the people loved it. They spread palms in front of him and shouted Hosanna.
Maybe he was still on a bit of a high, but next day Jesus went to the temple and threw a wobbly.
Who was he to throw a wobbly?
He totally lost it with the money-changers who were ripping people off selling Tyrian shekels (money to use in the temple) or special animals for sacrifice. The traders paid a kick-back to the high priest, so the whole temple was a back-scratching racket. Jesus tipped up the tables like a madman, made a terrible mess and chased out the traders, screaming that this was his Father’s house. If he’d wanted to provoke the temple mafia, he couldn’t have done better and of course all that stuff about his Father’s house laid him wide open to accusations of bad-mouthing God. Blasphemy was a crime.
After this fandango, Jesus took his 12 mates up the Mount of Olives. I hung around to listen but I didn’t get it. If Jesus knew he had been betrayed why didn’t he make himself scarce; why wait around to get it in the neck? He was a bit weird, like I said. But nothing happened for a day or two; maybe he was lying low.
On the Thursday I saw them all sneaking off, Jesus and his 12, to share a Passover supper. Rumour was that Judas was already selling information, but Jesus carried on, talking in riddles about giving his body and blood. Drama queen or what? All he needed to do was get out of Jerusalem. Anyway, after the supper, they all went to Gethsemane and Judas came alone with the temple guards. He kissed Jesus, and they nabbed him. They didn’t say why. No official charge. I thought they were just going to beat him up to get him back for doing over the temple money-changers, but they dragged him off.
Peter couldn’t handle their bully-boy tactics and he put up a fight, taking a chunk out someone’s ear. I cheered silently, but Jesus told him off.
The other 10 disciples ran away, in case they got in trouble too.
Jesus must have been gutted that Judas betrayed him. I mean, he chose his twelve mates so carefully, spent so much time with them. But I guess Jesus wasn’t offering 30 pieces of silver and the temple was. The disciples all disappeared, even Peter, his favourite. Fairweather friends. The temple guards did try to get Peter, but he said he wasn’t one of Jesus’ mates, didn’t know him, never met him. I don’t really blame Peter. He must have been terrified. The temple guards weren’t even following the law. Jesus had made some powerful people very very angry.
Jesus didn’t seem scared. The court was scared, I reckon. Jesus was weird, and he hung out with the misfits and he said God was his Father and that freaked them out. Maybe the bigwigs in the Jewish court were scared that Jesus was for real, and that would threaten their position and their cosy privileged lives. Jesus was taken to the High Priest’s house for trial. It was well dodgy, a trial in the night, at Caiaphas’ house, but I guess the bullies were desperate. They had to strip Jesus of his credibility, his dignity, his friends and his voice before he unsettled their world. Caiaphas found Jesus guilty of blasphemy. But blasphemy wasn’t enough of a crime and the Sanhedrin wanted to destroy Jesus and his influence, so they sent him to Pilate, the Roman governor so he could be charged as a revolutionary. Pilate, typical politician, tried to wriggle out of deciding, but Herod sent Jesus back; it was Pilate’s decision.
The crowds gathered, jeering, the same crowd who had shouted Hosanna Hosanna few days before. They hadn’t supported of a loser.
No Way. That wasn’t them. Who knew what might happen to Jesus’ friends? Pilate allowed Jesus to be stripped, to be dressed up like a circus king and whipped. Jesus took it all without complaint, which made the bullies more furious and his friends more silently invisible. I watched from the back. Jesus’ mum was there, standing with another woman, a prostitute by the look of her. Nobody spoke for Jesus and he didn’t speak for himself. His mum stood and cried as they mocked her eldest son. She winced as they whipped him. I wanted to say he was not bad, he was just a bit strange, but I did not have the courage to speak.
I did not want what might happen to him to happen to me, and I hated my own powerlessness.
Jesus was condemned to death. Pilate didn’t want to be the man who killed Jesus but the crowd was screaming for his blood. I might have screamed myself. It was the thing to do, to be accepted in the crowd and to avoid being picked on. Nobody spoke up for Jesus. I told myself it wouldn’t do any good to try, it would just get me in trouble and upset my family, but I was ashamed. Pilate tried one last way to get out of killing Jesus; he offered to free one prisoner for the Passover holiday; Jesus or Barabbas. Barabbas was a thief and a murderer and the crowd shouted their supported for this celebrity thug over weird, gentle Jesus. More mockery. This was the same crowd that Jesus had fed, healed, loved. Not one person would take a risk for Jesus. Crucifixion was immediate, while the mood lasted.
Only one man spoke for Jesus: the criminal on the next cross. Maybe he had nothing left to lose; or maybe he saw God. Only one disciple, his Mum and Mary, his girlfriend, stayed until the end. They stood beside him through the jeering, the vinegar to drink, the pain. They said nothing but they spoke with their presence and their tears. When Jesus died it was almost Sabbath, so Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who brought a fortune worth of anointing spices put his body in an empty grave. These loyal friends were members of the Jewish court which first condemned Jesus; but they had not spoken for him when he was alive.
But the bullies didn’t win, despite what they did. Because when the women came back, three days later, to prepare the body for burial, Jesus was gone.