By Eugene C. Scott
I could hardly breathe the narrow streets were so crowded. This was the fastest way to the temple but it was not a good part of the city. I hated these grabbing people. Not Grandmother. Grandmother hated no one. Nor feared them. She hobbled along using her cane to pry her way through the middle of the crowd as if she owned the city. She moved fast for an old cripple.
“Grandmother, wait,” I called as she turned a corner.
“Grand . . . ,” I began again but a rough dirty hand crushed my voice back down my throat. I tried to scream but the hand clamped harder. I tasted blood, like metal. The man drug me me backward into a doorway. I kicked and twisted, crying. He forced me to the ground and bent over me, cruel eyes raking me. He grabbed at my body and tore my robe. I screamed. Then I saw Grandmother behind him. She raised her cane and brought it down on his hairy ear. Blood burst from his head and he howled. I jumped up and ran and got stuck again in the crowd. I couldn’t breathe, even to cry. Then there was Grandmother suddenly beside me, smoothing my hair, taking my hand.
“He was an animal,” she spit. “But Yahweh is our strong tower, our protector,” she said shaking her cane. She did not release my hand all the way to the temple. I looked at her thinking she was my protector.
My tears dried by the time we reached the temple. But my heart still quailed. A shabbily dressed, skinny Rabbi was teaching there. We stopped to listen. He looked up and there was peace in his eyes.
“Wait here my child,” Grandmother told me and limped across the court to the temple treasury. A man in purple robes, with a gold phylactery tied on his forehead, pushed in front of her and threw a large purse in, shrugging at the temple guards. He relished their silent praise. I shivered.
Men. Even in purple robes they were animals.
Undeterred Grandmother bowed her head and dropped her coin in on top of the man’s wealth. This is why we had come. To thank Yahweh for all he had done for her.
The Rabbi’s voice came soft but strong from right beside me, “I tell you the truth this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
How did he know Grandmother was a widow? I wondered. That we were poor was obvious.
Then the Rabbi turned and faced me and all my questions faded. This man saw inside me, knew me. But he did not need anything from me. I could see in his face–strong, plain, firm, satisfied–he was not a man like all the others, like that animal.His smile landed on me like a gift not a demand. It covered me like a cloak. He gave it expecting nothing in return.
Grandmother and I returned home by the longer road.
“Did you know that Rabbi?” I asked her.
“No, child.” she said.
Four days later we heard he was killed as punishment with two other thieves. At first I thought it was a mistake. But Grandmother said it was true. He had died on a cross. Still I knew it was a mistake. That man I had seen at the temple was no thief. That man knew about giving, not taking.
This day–the fifth most important in history: Jesus has four days left in what we call life. The Temple courts are full of people from all over the world. Rich people, powerful people. Yet he notices an old woman with no money and no influence. And he admires her. Like him she is a giver not a taker. Does Jesus receive hope from her actions that his gift too will be bigger than it looks?
Read Matthew 21:20-23:39, Mark 11:20-12:44, and Luke 20:1-21:4.
Also, go to tnc3.org for info on how The Neighborhood Church is remembering this week in history.
Two thousand years ago this week one man turned history upside down. I would give anything to have been there, seen him, heard his voice. Instead we can only use our imaginations to re-enter ancient history. Each day this week, called Holy Week, we are going look at this day in ancient history through the eyes of a fictional character who witnessed part of that day as Jesus lived it. Join us as we believe a better story: the greatest, truest story ever told.
By Eugene C. Scott