A retelling: For Pete's sake! Peter at the clearing the temple, and the last supper with Jesus
What must it have been like for Peter to have seen Jesus go from celebrity status at the beginning of what Christians call 'passion week' and the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, through to the cleansing of the temple, and then onto an intimate passover meal which ends with the arrest of Jesus and being deserted by everyone from the adoring crowds right down to the closest of disciples? Peter, himself.
I am aware that any retelling potentially weakens the scripture in the Bible, but I think for a more casual reader there are some important theological points to bring out. The cleansing of the temple wasn't to make the worship in the temple better, but rather to overturn once and for all a practice of systematic sacrifice that kept getting corrupted at the hands of human beings, pointing to Jesus being the once and for all perfect sacrifice.
Secondly Jesus washes the disciples feet. Completely unheard of, for the master to wash the disciples feet - and as usual Peter pushes it too far! The point is self evident.
Thirdly Jesus breaths new meaning into the bread and the wine. The original being symbols of life from death, and freedom for a captive Israel in Egypt: the new being eternal life for all believers in Jesus, and freedom from the captivity of sin.
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What a buzz! No, more than a buzz..oh what was the word. Pete couldn’t think. He couldn’t come up with it. There were thousands of people! And it was still stuffed to the gills with people all in from the out of town places for the passover festival. It was an impromptu parade too, no one planned it. Well, Pete assumed no one. It had of course got Jesus behind it, and that only meant one thing: miracle time!
For the last three years Pete had seen Jesus perform miracles as simple as finding money inside a fish to pay what they owed to the government...those Romans who everyone hated - right up to calming a whole storm. Yes, Pete remembered that one - he himself walked on water to Jesus!
And now, having gotten hold of a baby ass (another miracle - how did the owner know that when Pete said the words, “the master has need of it” there would be no problems? Did he have a dream or something? He knew no one had spoken to the owner before they turned up...): that ass, never ridden before, Jesus was riding like a king in peace time into the heart of Roman controlled Jerusalem. It was enough to get yourself killed it was, but Jesus didn’t seem to care. He just smiled, and laughed, and let the crowds and crowds of people cheer and wave. Of course, some of the parade had the Pharisees with them. They believed in Jesus too, some of them at least, but they were always a bit scared in case someone upset the Romans.
Anyway, Pete was right behind Jesus, one of Jesus’ inner circle. The ones who were told everything. And he was with Jesus right up to the front door of the temple. There Jesus stopped. The crowd went completely quiet as Jesus climbed off the ass and pushed the huge wooden door gently to go inside. As he did, the sound of bartering and shouting filled the silent street outside. Everyone looked at each other, and they watch the smile fade from the lips of Jesus and his face became stern, even angry.
He disappeared inside, only to emerge a few moments later. Not a word. His eyes staring. Pete tried to speak with Jesus, but without looking, just staring at the room beyond the doors, Jesus just said, “Peter, find me some reeds to make a whip, the animals in there need...some breathing room.”
And that was all they could get out of him. Pete found the reeds needed on a local market stall, and Jesus took great care to make a decent whip out of it. Nothing that would hurt anyone, but the animals would get the idea when they saw it that they had to move. Perhaps it was the angry look in Jesus’ eye. Who knows? But the crowd that had cheered so loudly before down the street quickly departed. And just as the last person walked away, Jesus finished his making and went inside.
The sound inside suddenly stopped. Pete listened. All he could hear was Jesus shouting at the top of his voice. Jesus had never sounded so angry.
“You have turned my father's house into a den of thieves!” screamed Jesus, “And it’s supposed to be a house of prayer! You’ve ruined it! You’ve done what you did centuries ago, all the things God promised you if you stayed faithful, but you didn’t do it then, and you’re not doing it now! You’d think you’d have learnt your lessons when God destroyed this temple 400 years ago and sent you all to Babylon for a time! But no, you’re back to your old ways, and thinking that you can be worshipping God inside the temple, and being liars and scoundrels and hurting people on the outside! No more! You destroy the worship of God by ruining the sacrifice with your evil ways! But things are about to change: there’s going to be a sacrifice soon that will be for ever, once and for all. Everyone can come to God, and you won’t need these anymore!”
And with that Jesus drove all the animals out into the street. There was bedlam! People screaming at him, the birds for sacrifice flying everywhere. The cows, and sheep getting in each other’s way. But Jesus was determined, and didn’t stop until everything was out.
“Well that’s it,” thought Pete, “They’ll never let him back in there again.” But he was wrong.
The very next day Jesus, and all his disciples - no shouting and cheering crowds this time - were back in the temple courts and Jesus was teaching everyone about God. All the people listened to him, hanging on his every word. Well, everyone except the Pharisees. They just stood back, glaring at him most of the time. Peter sometimes saw them talking to the ones who were listening to Jesus. Occasionally one or two looked worried and got up and left, and when they did Jesus would just stop talking for a minute, and look sorrowfully after them as they went, before carrying on with what he was saying.
Then even the Pharisees left.
For the next few days Jesus taught in the temple. At first there were a good few people, but towards the end just a handful remained. Who knew why? Probably, thought Pete, those no good Pharisees. At the end of the day on the Thursday Jesus stood up, looking tired, and spoke to Pete.
“So, my friend, tell me. Is the room ready that I asked you to sort out?”
“Yes my Lord.”
“Oh Pete, I told you to call me Jesus. How many times? I know I am your master and Lord, but we are also friends. Come on, lets go. All of us.”
They arrived at the inn, and there they found the passover meal, the one which reminded them as Jews of the wonderful things that God had done when he set them free from slavery in Egypt over 1000 years before. It was a huge celebration for them, like our Christmas, only bigger! They’d finished the first course, and were about to stop the next, when Jesus stopped them. “I, I just need to wash your feet fellas.”
“What?!” They all said, rather too loudly. They all knew who Jesus was: the son of God! The Messiah! How could they possibly let Jesus do such a thing? Pete, of course, spoke first.
“No, you can’t do that Jesus!”
“Yes I can,” said Jesus, “You don’t understand now what I am doing for you, but later you will.”
“But I am supposed to be the one who serves you!” Pete complained, “How can you, Lord of all, serve me like this? It should be the job of the least person, not the most important! Here, let me do it.”
“No, Pete,” Jesus didn’t sound unkind with it. “Unless I do this for you, you can have no part in me.” This stopped Pete in his tracks. What did Jesus mean? Pete had been with him from the beginning, afterall. Was Jesus trying to get rid of him? He decided that he had better say something that made him look a bit better for Jesus. If Jesus wanted to ‘serve’ him like this, then let’s give him the opportunity, he thought. So Pete said:
“Well in that case, not just my feet, but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus just smiled, and shook his head. “You’ve had a bath. You’re clean. You only need to wash off the dust from the road from your feet. Like those who believe in me, the world carries on making them dirty, but not like they were before. Those who believe in me just need to keep coming to me and I will always forgive them, like washing your feet, it’s all that’s needed.”
Then Jesus face turned a little more troubled as he added, “Though not every one of you is clean...”
When he had finished, Jesus stood and looked at them all. “Do you see what I have done for you here?” he asked, “I, the most important, have served all of you. You must do the same for one another. Serve each other.” And then they sat down to finish their meal.
The meal itself was like any other passover. Eggs, bitter herbs, salt water, bread without yeast in it. And wine. Plenty of it too! But there was one special cup, the cup that spoke of the lamb that was killed in each family at the time of the passover, and it’s blood smeared over the doorposts to show God’s angel of death that in that house lived people faithful to God, and that death should pass over - where the name “passover” came from.
Jesus stood to give thanks. But just as he did, a look came across him. He lifted his hands in the air, something Pete had seen him do a thousand times or more as he gave thanks to his father in heaven, and then he stopped, and looked at them all.
“I am going to give you a new meaning to this passover bread,” said Jesus. “Up until now it has reminded you of the time when our people had to rush to leave Egypt when God freed them from slavery under Pharoah. But now I give this a meaning, it’s like my body. It will be broken as much as I break this bread.” and he broke the bread into pieces. “It’s broken for you so that you might have life with me for ever.”
And then Jesus took the cup of wine, the special cup full of red wine.
“This cup,” Jesus continued, “Reminds us of the blood of the lamb that was sacrificed to bring us life instead of death. Well now it has a new meaning for all of you and those who believe in me. Because my blood with be spilt on the ground too. But that must happen, because my blood will bring you life instead of death.”
The disciples, and especially Pete, were shocked. They drank the wine in silence. What did Jesus mean? Was it another parable?
“And one of you,” said Jesus as they were all drinking, now in silence rather than the laughter of earlier, “will betray me.”
“Not me, surely you don’t mean me?” blurted out Pete. He was always the first to speak.
Jesus just replied with a simple, “No,” and then turned to Judas, who looked after the money, “Go and do what you need to do,” he said. And Judas got up and left, the disciples assuming he had some errand to run or other.
“Now,” said Jesus, “To business. And it’s sad business too.” And with that he carefully explained to the remaining eleven disciples how they should care for one another when he left them, when he died for them which he knew was about to happen. Some of them looked near to crying, especially when he told them that they would all desert him. Pete tried to say that he would be strong, he would be with Jesus to the end. And as gently as he could he told Pete that even he would run away at the end. No one could follow where he was going, because what Jesus was going to do, he had to do alone.
And with his speech finished, Jesus rose from the table and went out. And his disciples joined him as they went out and went to one of Jesus’ favorite places outside of Jerusalem. There Jesus prayed.
And his disciples fled.
And there Soldiers came to arrest him.
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