By Eugene C. Scott
What if the place Jesus spent his last days could tell its story? The story of how God broke a heart of stone.
Granite to the core–a heart of stone, they said. And they were right. That the death and destruction, tragedy and violence I’ve witnessed in my 6,000 plus years on this earth would have crushed anything less than stone is true. But even a heart of stone, they claimed, should have turned to dust, and like grains of sand been scattered in the desert wind.
In my long life I was smashed and left desolate by Canaan, Egypt, Philistia, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome. Only to rise up again. Why? How?
I can’t say. Knowing such things does not always come with age. I can say this. At one time I was the proudest of my kind. I weathered siege after siege because I was proud and strong. They all desired me. My temple was unrivaled. They say gods walked my streets. Though–again–I can’t say. I did not pay much attention to such things, until . . . .
. . . . until the week of the Jewish Passover in the days when Rome thought she owned me. A desert flea of a Jew, lauded as a king by a few hundred peasants, rode a scrawny colt through my east gate. I paid little mind. My walls were full of Jewish pilgrims, crawling through my alleys like ants. I blinked and forgot him. Then onYom Reeve, the fourth day of the week, counted in the Jewish fashion–sundown to sundown–and the day before the Passover, this Jew tickled my ribs and woke me from my slumber.
“Do you see all these things?” this man with only one ratty robe asked, pointing to the temple shining like a moon on my highest hill. Those with him nodded recognizing my magnificence.
“I tell you the truth,” he said, “not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be torn down.”
I laughed. The Babylonians had torn down my temple, but it rose from the dust; Alexander the Great had considered turning the temple to ruble but wisely reconsidered; Antiochus Epiphanies had desecrated her; he later paid dearly. And today she towered still. Each time my temple was sacked she rose again more magnificent than before. Not one stone left on another! Who did this man think he was? God?
I was not sure why what this man said mattered at all. Why I cared. I was one of the greatest cities of stone ever raised up on a desert hill. He was dust.
It may be because seventy years later his prediction came true. Rome tore me stone from stone and my temple still lies in its grave.
It may also be because of what he said to me, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
This man saw me for what I was, a stone facade. My name “The City of Peace” has never been true. And it never will be, until he returns to walk my streets again. A city cannot bring peace, not the kind her people need. But can a city have a heart, stone or otherwise, you may ask? I can only speak for myself. Two days after he predicted my ruin–on a hill that looked like a skull–the last Jewish prophet to enter my gates wet my dirt with his innocent blood. I watched him breathe his last. I shuddered and that night my heart of stone broke.
Today, 2,000 years later I long to feel his sandals on my stone. I will say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
If Jesus saw the art in me, a hard, proud city of stone, think of what he can see in you.
Read Matthew 23:37-24:1-51, Matthew 26:3-5, Mark 13:1-37, Mark 14:1-2, Luke 22:1-2.
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