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A Holy Week Letter to Jesus
Pascack Pastor
Luke 19: 28-48

Dear Jesus,

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 sometimes.

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 there.

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

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?