Everything Cries Holy©
(From The God of Destinations©)
“It was as if the world was bowing to him.”
“What’s that you’re asking? How could you have missed the turmoil in the city, my friend?”
Simon stroked his salt and pepper beard that touched the top of his tired-looking woolen outer garment. It was the well-worn cloak of a working man that matched his calloused, rough hands.
The morning sun was already warm, promising an unusually hot day for April in Jerusalem.
“In the north hills, were you? Just as well, I think.” Simon looked over his shoulder as if he was gauging his next words, concerned about being overheard.
“The city has been in an uproar this past week. It’s the Nazarene, the one they call Jesus. They killed him.” The word came out of his mouth like a piece of iron, hard and unbending. “The High Priest and Pilate, they’re afraid of more unrest, even violence.”
Simon ignored his friend’s reaction and vulgar response to the important officials he named, and nervously looked over his shoulder again before continuing. Soldiers from the High Priest’s guard and members of the Roman cohort were more obvious in the streets of Jerusalem in the past days.
“Yes, of course, you’re correct. It was the devious work of the High Priest Caiaphas and a group of the elders. The Nazarene humiliated them. Not with tricks or lies, mind you, but he just spoke the truth. The truth makes the deepest cut, no?”
Simon stopped for another outburst by his companion.
“Not so loud, friend, you never know who is listening. Many of us are distraught, like you. Let me tell you what I know.
“Last Sunday, the Nazarene came into the city with his followers. Have you heard of them, mostly Galilean fishermen? And a zealot.”
Seeing no reaction, Simon leaned in close to his friend and lowered his voice. “The Nazarene rode in on a colt, the foal of a donkey, just as the prophet Jeremiah foretold about the coming king long ago.” Simon looked for a reaction, but his friend was silent.
“A great crowd of people greeted him, and some laid cloaks down before him, and others waved palm branches and shouted ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ Some even went ahead, announcing that Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee, was coming. So, the crowds kept growing. He came right down this road.” Simon swept his arm dramatically down the road then towards the temple in the distance.
“The whole city was anxious, and I saw some of the elders, with their fine embroidered tunics and tassels watching, and they looked as evil as snakes – I already knew they were more dangerous than snakes!” His heavy frame shook up and down as he chuckled at his words.
The two men stood silently for a moment before Simon continued.
“I couldn’t follow the crowd – the master of the house had too much work waiting for me. But, others told me he went into the temple area and caused a great commotion straight away. He upturned the money changer’s tables and benches and drove out those in the temple courtyard who were buying and selling. He told them – listen to what he told them – he said that ‘my house will be called a house of prayer!’”
Simon’s eyebrows arched, and he cupped his hand over his lips as his head went side to side. “Can you imagine?”
“What? Yes, of course, the chief priests were furious!” Simon animatedly responded to his friend’s question.
“But the Nazarene said things to them that had never been said before. They had no answer to his words. A friend who was there told me the priests turned from him in shame.” Simon leaned in close to his friend. “Then the next day he came back and…and listen to what happened…a great many of the sick and lame and blind came to him in the temple, and…and he healed them, each person in turn. And many people witnessed these healings at the temple. Who could do such a thing?”
Simon stroked his beard again. “I wasn’t there, but I heard the Nazarene went into the temple courts and taught! Everyone was amazed at his words.” Simon leaned in again as though he feared his friend would miss the best part. “I heard that he corrected the teachers themselves, and told them they didn’t know the Scriptures correctly! And then the elders came and challenged him directly – they asked him, ‘By what authority do you heal and teach?’ Can you imagine asking such a thing of him?”
Simon waited while his friend gave a crude appraisal of the elders again.
“True words, my friend,” Simon responded. “Let me finish telling you about what happened. The only thing the master of the house told me was that someone special was coming, and he wanted the house prepared just a certain way. I had to move everything around, and he wanted the largest table moved upstairs, all with the best cushions. There was no servant, so I had to do it by myself. And, I had to find the necessities for the Feast.
“But guess why? Who do you think the guest was?” Simon didn’t wait for his friend to respond. “Him! The Nazarene himself, that’s why the master wanted the house just so.”
He excitedly grinned at his friend’s surprise. “Yes, I was preparing everything for the prophet himself!”
Simon listened to his friend’s impatience.
“Yes, I’m getting to the Nazarene, just let me finish. The master of the house instructed me to go to the square two days ago and wait there with a jar of water until two of the Nazarene’s disciples came to me and asked me to show them to the master’s upper room.”
He stopped while his friend teased him and chuckled.
Finally, Simon had to laugh with his friend for a moment. “Yes, I wondered too. Why would the master of the house give me a woman’s task? But, he explained that since his disciples didn’t know me, nor did I know them, this would be a way to meet without raising the suspicion of the authorities.
“And, so, I went to the square with a jar of water, and two men – their names were Peter and John – came to me and said, ‘The Teacher asks, where is the upper guest room where he might eat the Passover with his disciples?’”
Simon held up his hand to his friend’s questions.
“Let me finish, so they came with me, and we prepared the meal that would be eaten. Then, as evening was settling in, a silence came over the house. The silence was so loud that it startled me, and I had to look outside.”
He let his friend’s statement rest for a moment.
”Does that surprise you? Well, it did me as well. Everything was quiet. No? It was as though the day had stopped.” He corrected himself and softly finished. “There were no birds. There was not the buzz of a bee. There was no one on the streets. There was not a whisper. And then…”
Simon found himself with a catch in his throat. His friend waited quietly. “It was him. He came down the road with his disciples. It was as if the world was bowing to him. Does that even make sense? Perhaps not.
“They came into the house, and I directed them to the upper room, and announced that everything was ready for them. But, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.”
Simon was slow to answer his friend’s question.
“What did he look like? Well, I’m not sure. He was neither tall nor short. He was neither handsome nor ordinary. There was really nothing that would make you think this is the prophet who has taught the teachers and healed the sick and performed many miracles. Yet, I can tell you one thing. When you saw him, you couldn’t see anything else. It was like he overcame the whole world.’”
Simon saw a moment’s consideration on his friend’s face and paused before continuing.
“All the disciples went upstairs, and he hesitated a moment behind them. When the last disciple was on the stairs, he turned to me. ‘Simon, bring the food that has been prepared as you can. Then, will you bring me a towel and a basin of water also.’”
“I couldn’t speak, and just stood there looking…foolish. And he reached, and he grasped my arm and told me, ‘Simon, I’ve always loved your heart.’ Then he turned and went up the stairs without another word. All I could think about was how he could love my heart? If he knew me, how could he say that?”
Simon studied his friend in silence for a moment.
“I took the platters up, and the disciples were trying to figure out where to sit, and two were already on one side and the other side to the place of honor. There seemed to be some difference about who would be where. I set a platter down with the wine and the cups, and left to get more.”
“As I came and went with the platters, everyone was reclining at the table eating, but there seemed to be some great tension. As I was leaving, the Nazarene told them, ’The one who has dipped into the bowl with me will betray me.’ I couldn’t believe the words, and it seemed so dreadful to me. Who could betray such a man?
“When I came back to the room with more wine, the prophet was breaking a piece of bread. He prayed and…and…listen to these words he spoke, my friend. ‘Take and eat, this is my body.’ And he passed the bread around. Then, he took the third cup of wine. He held it up, and he said, ‘Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’’’
“Hmm.” Simon nodded at his friend’s question.
“I can’t tell you what the words mean exactly. Perhaps they’re a mystery. I only know that those words will never die; they’ll be spoken forever.”
Simon somberly looked at his silent friend.
“Not long afterward, I was downstairs, and the man who had been reclining with Jesus at his left side came downstairs by himself and rushed out the door. Later, when the disciples left, Jesus was behind them.”
“I couldn’t look up at him. I was afraid he would realize what a hard, unfaithful man I had been. I can’t tell you why, but tears rolled down my cheeks.”
Simon noticed that his friend wiped an eye with his sleeve.
“Jesus grasped my wrist again, and he looked at me as though there was nothing else in the world but me. He said, ‘Simon, I’m going away now. I’m going to pray tonight. Tomorrow will be here soon enough. Will you pray for me tonight, Simon?’”
“I couldn’t say a word. I could only gesture with my head. His words were sweet like a scent from a garden, overpowering. ‘Simon, don’t worry about the days that will come. All you need to know is that I’ve tested your heart, and you will know how much I love you soon enough.’”
Simon and his friend stood on the road in silence. The day was drifting off, and soon, the night would come.
Simon’s words were soft. “They killed him. They crucified him.”
His friend looked pale at the description.
“I heard that some women who travel with the disciples took his body and placed it in a grave.
“I wonder now, this Jesus, the man I met, how can that be? All I know is that he told me that I would know soon enough.”
He paused for his friend’s interjection.
“Perhaps your right. I don’t know enough. But he told me I’d know how much he loved me soon. I think that is enough, my friend. Enough indeed.”