I fell out of attending church services many years ago, but I haven’t shaken the habit of reflecting upon certain events with ritualistic precision. It’s Easter Weekend, so I send cute bunny ears to the kids in my life, and I eat some Reese’s eggs, and I think about Jesus.

Jesus was a man about my age, considered a threat to the local Roman authorities, even though he was a small-town preacher who didn’t encourage violence among his followers (save for one memorable incident where he upended some money-lenders from a Temple by force). He didn’t get married, but instead spent his time with a chosen “family” of friends and supporters: those who believed as he did, and wanted to share that message.

He was considered a political threat, though. So much so that he was betrayed by a friend, dragged through the streets, beaten and bloodied, and left to die by hanging suspended from nails driven through his feet and his hands.

And then, the story goes, he came back from the dead. Hallelujah. He is risen!

There’s a lot that you can take from this story. Some years, I think about pain. What it means to lean into pain, to embrace it and accept it, even as you can see how meaningless it is, how petty and small on the part of those inflicting pain upon you.

Some years, I think about the soldiers. The people who were just following orders. If they enjoyed the act of beating and torturing, driving iron nails through skin and bone. If they enjoyed the sadistic elements, or if they were bothered by their complicity.

Some years, I think about Pontius Pilate. How he gave the people a choice: free Barbaras, or crucify Jesus. How the people voted. How the people won.

Some years, I think about his friends. How they laid low, afraid to publicly grieve and mourn, for fear that they could be next. How understandable that impulse is. How frightened they must have been.

Some years, I think about Mary Magdalene. (In fact, I’m thinking about her a lot this year because I literally just learned that there’s no evidence supporting the idea that she was a prostitute. None! That fact blew my mind.) There’s a bunch of conflicting accounts of which Mary, and which other women, were actually in attendance to discover that a tombstone had been rolled away, but I think about what it must be like, to pack your bag of spices and embalming oils, to emotionally prepare to see the three-day-old body of your friend. What it must have felt like to realize it was missing.

Some years, I think about the rest of Judea. The folks not really portrayed in the story, the background extras. All the people shopping and cooking and bathing and eating and sleeping and raising their kids and working at their jobs, those for whom crucifixions were just, like, a thing that happens on Fridays. The vast majority of this community that wasn’t really paying attention to this story as it unfolded around them, unaware of what it would mean to people for thousands of years in the future.

I think about the other dudes being tortured on the crosses next to Jesus, and I wonder how we live in a country that still executes criminals. I wonder how many people who support this policy are in church today, singing Hallelujah, He is Risen.

I think about the soldiers driving nails into Jesus’ skin, and I wonder about our soldiers today. I wonder if any are kept awake at night now too.

I think about the protests yesterday, how people peacefully gathering in large groups is still considered a threat to those in power. I wonder if there will be more betrayals. More decisions rooted in fear.

I think about how many people are packed into church services today. I wonder how many will nod and listen, then go home and post on Facebook about how crucifixions are an effective way to deter criminal behavior, or about how Pontius Pilate was justified in his use of excessive force. How they will sigh over dinner: what a shame, these people in the streets, so angry. So many of them are so poor, so dirty. Something ought to be done.

I wonder what church services look like inside prisons or hospitals today. I wonder what they look like in churches made of immigrants, in churches made of poor people, in churches for the wealthy. I wonder what this story means to each of them.

I wonder who will listen to this story, and I wonder how it will be remembered. I wonder what this story says about us, when we gather and listen to it. I wonder what we remember. I wonder what we forget.

Hallelujah. Rise.



19 thoughts on “Rise.

  1. Every year all year long, every time I see a Christian-oriented program on tv or the date approaches a High Holy Christian Day, or when a Christian passage is quoted, or see Christians walking around with a bible tucked under their arm, I think about Barbara Thiering and the truths about Jesus, his society, his politics, the politics of the Romans and their practice of crucifying enemies of the Roman State, and I think about the community of the Essenes and their labrynthine rules of worship. http://tinyurl.com/mrjklmc

  2. Hmmm. Lots of thoughts in that essay. I especially appreciated tying our world today to that of the world Jesus and all those in the story. Personally, I seem to be focused on the soldiers. Just as the Roman soldiers may have thought of the horror of crucifixion, I wonder what our soldiers were thinking about when we released “the mother of all bombs”, its impact and its after affect. Just as members of the Sanhedrin and the general populace walked away from the crucifixion of Jesus, I wonder how many watched war on tv and then changed the channel for a more “entertaining program..
    I think I need to find that empty tomb of the story and reignite in myself the glory of that discovery once again

  3. Pingback: Rise. | Bobbi's Blog

  4. That is very interesting, my parents are ministers and we go to church every Easter Sunday and Friday. But what you said about how everyone sees the story in a different way, or what you wonder what the story looks like to various people. That is a very interesting point because I think to some people this story will mean very different things, what it means to other people there isn’t a right or wrong answer. (If that makes sense)

  5. I am not Christian, but was raised in a Catholic convent school. I wondered pretty much all that you have wondered here, whenever Easter came around and we stood at the pew singing hymns.
    I think similar thoughts during Hindu festivals as well.
    You translated your thoughts into lovely words. I merely let mine fester and bother me 🙂

  6. Pingback: Judgement in Easter? | Gobblefunk Words

  7. That is a beautiful piece of art you’ve added to another of your wonderful posts. Who is the artist? I am not familiar with this work.

  8. Wonderful essay- you might find The MAgdalen Manuscripts by Tonm Kenyon a worthy read. I believe Magdalen was a healer just like Jesus- there I see evidence to that- making her into a prostitute led to the degradation of women the last 2000+ years.

  9. I won’t tell you how long it took me to track this poem down online, but your post brought it to mind and I wanted to share:

    “Bible Study 71 B.C.E” – Sharon Olds

    After Marcus Licinius Crassus
    defeated the army of Spartacus,
    he crucified 6,000 men.
    That is what the records say,
    as if he drove in the 18,000
    nails himself. I wonder how
    he felt, that day, if he went outside
    among them, if he walked that human
    woods. I think he stayed in his tent
    and drank, and maybe copulated,
    hearing the singing being done for him,
    the woodwind-tuning he was doing at one
    remove, to the six-thousandth power.
    And maybe he looked out, sometimes,
    to see the rows of instruments,
    his orchard, the earth bristling with it
    as if a patch in his brain had itched
    and this was his way of scratching it
    directly. Maybe it gave him pleasure,
    and a sense of balance, as if he had suffered,
    and now had found redress for it,
    and voice for it. I speak as a monster,
    someone who today has thought at length
    about Crassus, his ecstasy of feeling
    nothing while so much is being
    felt, his hot lightness of spirit
    in being free to walk around
    while other are nailed above the earth.
    It may have been the happiest day
    of his life. If he had suddenly cut
    his hand on a wineglass, I doubt he would
    have woken up to what he was doing.
    It is frightening to think of him suddenly
    seeing what he was, to think of him running
    outside, to try to take them down,
    one man to save 6,000.
    If he could have lowered one,
    and seen the eyes when the level of pain
    dropped like a sudden soaring into pleasure,
    wouldn’t that have opened in him
    the wild terror of understanding
    the other? But then he would have had
    to go. Probably it almost never
    happens, that a Marcus Crassus
    wakes. I think he dozed, and was roused
    to his living dream, lifted the flap
    and stood and looked out, at the rustling, creaking
    living field—his, like an external
    organ, a heart.

  10. Pingback: Waiting, Watching, Reaching, Rising

  11. Katherine-

    I really like your writing. That said, you should go talk to some soldiers. You have a lovely mind, a gift for language, and a compassionate heart, but I think it would be really great if you spent some time talking to people who serve in the armed forces rather than wondering on the internet what they might think about their lives. I mean that with ultimate kindness, and as someone who never thought she would serve in the military but is better for it every day. Good luck.

    Alyssa Miller

  12. Pingback: Rise. — I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog | Resilience

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