When Jesus came to Jerusalem he knew he was in hostile territory during the proverbially dangerous season of the Easter/Passover holidays. By that time, he and his companions were well trained in avoiding capture. They had been running from religious and military authorities for quite a while, crisscrossing the Lake of Galilee, intentionally crossing administrative and national borders.
Their arrival in Jerusalem was also well planned with prearranged signs, designated messengers, secret passwords, and highly symbolical means of transport (Mark 11:1-3).
I still remember these methods from the time when I grew up under totalitarian regime. Some of our church and political activities were illegal. So we did not stay at any one address (where we could be picked up by police), we backpacked in the mountains. Private conversations and meetings were always done in the parks or in the gardens and on the move. (A minister friend once found a listening device in his living room chandelier.)
Why did I call Maundy service on our Easter flyer “Clandestine Supper”? Here is why: Jesus sent two disciples with instruction, Go to the town and when you see a man with a jar of water (easy to get right, there were hardly any other men carrying water since this was traditional work for women) follow him and see which house he enters. Then give this message to the owner: “Teacher says: ‘Where is the room for me and my students to eat the Easter meal?’” A very clever arrangement! They simply followed a stranger. For an outside observer it would have been almost impossible to know why and where they went. And the meeting room might not have been in the house they entered; that is just a simplistic conjecture based on clumsy language. This whole passage reads as though it was taken from an espionage textbook.*
I simply do not buy that Jesus intentionally went to Jerusalem to be crucified. He was not a naive Galilean pumpkin, nor even worse, an omniscient divine narcissist with masochistic twitch. All of that got generated later by pious churchly philosophizing. Jesus took some serious risks. He knew it and he did his best to limit unnecessary dangerous situations. Yet he was certainly prepared for probable and tragic outcome, he knew the risks.
Join us this Maundy Thursday at this Clandestine Supper. Jesus’ thoughtfulness, his courage, his vision, and his hope are breathtaking and they still inspire.
*Truth be said, it is difficult to know whether this vivid account dates from the time of Jesus or whether it reflects later experience of the Markan Church under persecution, in any case the latest date would be about 70 C.E.
And for the Good Friday Service six clergy from our church have researched, discussed and prepared since January.
Why was Jesus declared a sinner and crucified? How is the label of sin almost universally used to suppress dissent and enforce political, cultural and religious conformity? Why was Jesus called sinner and what truly constitutes sin? On the Good Friday service we will be looking into the dark corners of the human religious psyche, but also hopefully noticing some bright glimmers.