A Holy Week Letter to Jesus
Luke 19: 28-48
Peace be with you.
You don't know me, but 'I've heard about you. In fact, I've followed you, more or
less, for the past two years. I heard once that you had healed a little girl - could it
have been a Roman soldier's daughter, the way he said? I can't imagine why anyone would
want to do that. I've heard some of your stories about God's kingdom; I confess I don't
much understand them, but they make for good stories when I pass them along to my friends.
I was there that day you conjured up enough food for thousands of us; I was so relieved; I
didn't want to go home and eat at an empty table anyway. You've always seemed interesting
to me, and since so much of my life consists of just pounding out one loaf of bread after
another, day after day, year after year, anyone interesting is a breath of fresh air.
That's what you've been to me.
Actually, Jesus, you've been more than that. I've had more than my share of lousy
breaks in this life, and, well, I'm almost embarrassed to admit it now, but I half
expected you to somehow settle the score for me. My mom died when I was only three; my
brothers and I were the only ones left in the house after my dad died a couple years
later. All I've ever known is work. I hear my friends talk about their families. Sure they
complain sometimes, but still, I wish I could have such a thing to complain about. It just
seems I'm always on the outside looking in at somebody else who is doing just what they
want to do. I'm the one they get to feel sorry for; I never have anything but an empty
room to go home to. When my brothers were still alive at least I could talk to them
I can't tell you how helpless I felt when I watched them die. First Benjamin died
from something we never even had a name for. Then Isaachar, who got beat up by Roman
soldiers one night he had gotten too drunk and started making fun of them. He was so badly
bruised, I couldn't even look at his face. But I had to, somehow had to try to tell him
through his pain that I loved him and that he was all I had left in life. But all I could
do was watch; I didn't want to watch, but what could I do, abandon him? I was stuck
between what I hated to have to do and what I knew I had to do, and there wasn't a damned
thing I could do to change any of it.
It was while my second brother was dying that I first heard about you. Maybe I was
just so down that I'd hang my hopes on anyone, but from the moment I first saw you I
sensed something about you, something different. I felt as though when I was with you,
anything could happen. Like maybe you could have healed him. Or if you'd been there that
night he got beat up, you could have stopped it. I know that's crazy, but crazy is how I
feel half the time.
I suppose that that day in Jerusalem, the first day of the week before Passover, I
suppose that that day comes as close as anything to describing how I felt when I saw you.
It was such a wonderful day, the children singing, the shouting, the palm branches waving.
It just seemed like now, finally, things were really going to change. Things were going to
get better. My life was going to start to make some sense now, and my dreams - even just
one stupid little dream of mine - would actually come true. Everybody I talked to thought
this was the start of something big, something really, really good.
So what happened, Jesus? Why didn't you take our cheers and our support and do
something with it? You could have rally set Jerusalem on its ear, we were all just ready.
Just say the word and we would have followed you anywhere. But you didn't. You came riding
on a flea-bitten mule of a thing, and no sooner did we practically crown you king than you
ticked off the temple big-shots with that number about rocks crying out. I'll tell you
what cries out, Jesus, my brother's blood cries out, that's what. What are you going to do
about that, and about a thousand other brothers? Then you
got all in a huff and tore up the temple market. I'll admit that felt kind of
good; I can't tell you how long I've resented the crooks in the courtyard. But it didn't
really help anything, did it? Then you start rambling on about John's baptism; well, he's
dead, where did his baptism get him? And you just kept going on and on and everybody who
listens to you is either mad enough to kill you or confused enough to write you off. Don't
you know any better? People tell me you might be the Messiah; well maybe you are, but you
don't seem to have many people skills.
Frankly, Jesus, I'm disappointed. I thought you'd do better. I expected you to do
better. I thought you might help fill this aching hole in my heart. I guess I'll just go
back to the brick oven and bake my life away. After all, I can deal with disappointment;
I've been there before.
Come to think of it, what burns me is that I'm angry and I don't like being angry
but I don't know how else I'm supposed to feel. I've been thinking about this a lot: I'm
angry, Jesus, because you leave me nowhere to stand. If I try to be as religious as
possible, that's not good enough for you. If I just sell out and kiss up to the Roman
soldiers -- well, I can't do that without betraying my brother. You don't want me to join
those nuts out in Qumran -- I can't do that and still pay taxes to Caesar, like you say.
Besides, it's not my nature. And if I join the resistance and I get killed, then what will
happen to my father's name? I'm his last son. So what am I supposed to do? Sell my bakery
and give everything away and join up with your disciples? I don't think so.
Why should I? Why should I take a chance on you? So far as I can tell, you're just
another flash in the pan who got in over his head and now Caiaphas is calling you on the
carpet. Well, good for him. He may not be very charismatic, but at least he worked things
out so the kids would stop stealing my merchandise and bothering my good customers. At
least Caiaphas sent somebody to my brother's burial; I didn't see any of your disciples
This letter is getting long; I'm sorry about that. Maybe I can boil it down to
just a few words. On Sunday when you came riding into town on a donkey; everybody made a
big deal of what you were riding on. Well, didn't you realize that my heart was riding on
you, that my hopes were riding on your shoulders? And you let me down, and my brother, and
you don't leave me anywhere to stand. And I'd like to know what you have to say about
that. What are we supposed to do with you, Jesus? What are we going to do with you?
From a disappointed former follower,
Rev. Paul G. Janssen Pascack Reformed Church April 16, 2000 (Palm Sunday)
(A song I wrote to the tune of Veni Emmanuel -- copyrighted, but you can use it if
you email me at email@example.com)
Was Peter there that festal day, his hands held high as children cheered? Where
will he be just four days hence when Jesus' cause is mocked and jeered? His boldness
failed him then, we know; his spirit broke at rooster's crow.
Was Judas there among the throng, and adding up the price of betray'l? Where will
he be come Friday morn, when Jesus feels the cruel nail? He tried to cancel th'awful plan
and wipe the silver from his hands.
Did Pilate hear a distant roar that might spell his impending doom? Where will he
be on Saturday, when Christ lay lifeless in the tomb? He'd washed his hands, so slept
quite well while Jesus broke the bars of hell.
And are we numbered with the mob? Will we sleep well, betray, deny? Will we give
up on Jesus, too? Will we be shouting "Crucify!"? Or will we fin'lly understand
our names are graven on his wounded hands?