They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
Don’t you find it remarkable Jesus didn’t leave behind one written word! John 8:6 is the only indication of Jesus writing anything and we can assume whatever he wrote in the sand soon disappeared.
If you were God’s son, wouldn’t you leave behind a signed document outlining your wishes for your followers?
Not a single word. No signature. What do you make of that, especially in light of the church’s fixation with written words, with its many versions of Bibles from its manuscripts, with its grand talk about the Word of God, with its frequent dishonesty about its scripture?
Some scholars, like John Dominic Crossan, indicate Jesus most likely was illiterate, despite stores which depict Jesus as reading scripture. More recent scholarship questions the level of ancient illiteracy others assume. Regardless, surely God could have equipped his son with the ability to write. If not, what does that indicate for the church and its words and its approach to its book, the Bible?
He left no written words behind. Mainly he left behind oral stories about healing, friendships with the marginalized, disputes with religious leaders, a cross, and Easter resurrection joy.
(Adaptation of Thomas King’s “Magpies” in One Good Story, That One)
Everybody knows this story.
Mary Jane knows this story. Joe Ray knows this story. Little Johnny knows this story. Ladale knows this story. Uncle Jack knows the story. My friend, Kathy, knows it too. Victoria hears this story in Bakersville. Rufus knows the story, front to back. Heard it twelve, maybe fourteen, maybe eighteen times before he had his eleventh birthday party. Here comes that story again, he said.
There’s some dying in this story, to which Granny connects. Granny talks a lot about dying. She looks at her leg and thinks about dying. So she talks about falling over dead. She says, I’m gonna die one day. When that Granny starts talking about being dead, people in the room say, no, no, no. That is just a bruise. Yellow bruise. Those ones are okay.
Granny talks to everyone she see about dying. I’m going to die, she says to me and I say yes, that’s right. Old people know these things. It happens.
Granny knows Jesus died. Jesus die like everybody else. Granny knows this story. She says Jesus talked about dying a lot before his death. Nobody believed him either. Granny likes to make points.
I’m counting on you, says Granny.
You can count on me.
Granny says Peter said that too.
I say, you can count on me Granny.
That leg get better. Granny’s leg. But Granny dies anyway. Later. Not right now. Two, maybe four years. She falls over dead then. Like that. It is finished.
Everybody knows the story. Jesus says, It is finished. Jesus and Granny, finished.
Danny is not there when Jesus dies. Someone says he is in meeting in Los Angeles. Someone says, no, he is in New York. Someone says he should have been there. Wilma, who was there, sniff her nose this way and another sniff her nose another way. A lot of sniffing.
That’s the end of the story.
No, I was just fooling.
“Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.” (Matthew 26:50)
“Friend” is such a friendly term, but an odd term to use for someone about to use their hands to arrest you.
Friends are very important to us. We want friends. We want good friends.
A good friend of mine once told me, “About five good friends is all a person can have. If you have more than five, then somebody is getting left out because we don’t have the time or emotional energy to be a good friend to but so many people.”
So we have friends. And we have good friends.
I recently learned in an email of the death of a good friend of a Wedgewoodian.
It’s been a long day and that is a load off my mind. I am writing you on a personal matter that has affected me deeply today. I suppose the heavy rainfall outside at the moment reinforces my mood. Today I lost a dear friend who has been my constant companion for the last 19 months. A friend who I saw every day without fail and who went with me to church, out to eat, to the movies, even on trips to see my kids.
He was from Germany. We would listen to my scary German music together when running around town and really understood each other, even talking to each other interchangeably in English and German. We met after I separated from my wife and just before our divorce was final. Fritz was great, being dependable, smart looking, and nimble.
Late last October I noticed something was physically wrong with Fritz. He was sluggish and would stutter when over tired or having to exert himself. The situation began to deteriorate so much so that when I went to Vermont to see the kids at Christmas, I was worried that Fritz would not make it through the trip. Yet, we went ahead and traveled to Vermont for a quick trip in late December. The kids were great and seemed to enjoy the brief time they spent with Fritz and me.
In hindsight now, I think that was really the last hurrah. Once we got home, I took Fritz to be examined. The news was not good. Major efforts were going to be called for to try and set a number of things right. Really, things were beginning to shut down. The experts advised that even with their efforts, no guaranty could be made that something else wouldn’t happen, that another vital internal system might quickly fail, and there was no way to know how extensive the damage might be.
We sat for the last two weeks examining our options and looking at finances and insurance to see what we might try to give ourselves more time together. The stress took a heavy toll. This morning, in the rain, Fritz, I, and another friend went to Hickory to see a specialist who had contacted me a few days ago.
Shortly after lunch, Fritz slipped from my hands. He was gone almost as quickly as he came into my life. I will never forget him. Just before the end, I met his brother Dieter. Although he is nine years younger than Fritz, he is already thoroughly grey. They have the same build, and you can see a definite family resemblance. Dieter came home with me and that really helped to lessen the loss I was feeling for Fritz. I know it sounds strange to say this, having just met Dieter, but I believe we will be together for a long time. I look forward to experiencing many great things with my new friend from Wolfsburg Germany. One Jetta goes, another comes home. Thanks VolksWagen!
Have a great night.
Of course, it was 10 o’clock Saturday night when I read the email and I was exercising on my Precor recumbent Bike and I didn’t catch the “Thanks Volkswagen!” at the end. I responded to the congregant as if he had lost a human being friend, not a car!
Your Palm Sunday sermon is an excellent opportunity to explore the friends Jesus had, many of whom didn’t have many friends, probably not five good friends, and definitely not a Dieter or Fritz friend. Don’t forget to mention the church provides space and activities for friendships for the formation of friendships that change people and change the world. And, do not omit Jesus the friend of the one who arrests him, for ultimately we let all our friends down, including our good ones.
[See Jesus among Friends and Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospels, Chris Keith (Editor), Larry W. Hurt0ado (Editor).]