NICHOLS: Easter comes once a year

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Your faith has healed you.

Easter takes place this year on April 17 and thousands – forgive me, make it hundreds of millions – of Christians around this troubled planet will commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. Can hundreds of millions of perfectly rational and lucid people be wrong about such an important and upsetting event? Well, yes, in some details of their celebration they could be wrong. But the evidence for the veracity of the great event they celebrate is overwhelming.

These hundreds of millions of people are right, the resurrection has happened and because it has happened, every person on this fractured earth can, if they choose, take comfort in the hope of a personal resurrection.

Come with me as I shift my focus from the Easter event to an event in the life and work of Jesus as he approached the day of his crucifixion. He is on his way to Jerusalem with his hopeful followers and a host of equally hopeful followers on a date with plotters who are already plotting to end his irritating life when he meets a man….

Sloppy in a ragged robe that spoke of better times and other places, sunburnt and windblown, he sat beside the pavement, drawing pictures in the sand with long, bony, dusty fingers that , in milder and milder days, might have traced the words of prophet, priest, or king on rolls of parchment.

Just stick numbers in the dust the day after a hot, long and tiring day. People’s faces in the roadside dust. Some with a smile. Some with scowls. Some with eyes that couldn’t see. Like his. As memory told of old days and kind faces and smiling eyes as the children played and called him Abba.

He could hear their smiles or feel their frowns and he pulled them to his feet. But the eyes that didn’t want to see – the ones he drew like big, round, haunting holes in the hot roadside dust, and he laughed as they were trampled by the footsteps of passing strangers.

Pity! Pity! Let me draw your honest smiling face here in the dust beside my feet. Place your honest coin right there between the teeth. Here is my man. Blessings on you.

Here, blind beggar. Take your coin and save your silly portrait for another passing face. I have miles to cover and work to do before I sleep. No time to stand and joke around with blind sinners. No, keep the change. I must be gone. It’s almost time for the sacrifice. Be well. Keep warm.

Ah, there is a friendly passerby. Pity. Mercy for a blind and defenseless pilgrim. Pity…

Eyes that do not see! Holes in the dust! The! Look at this? It’s you, cheap publican. Now you will feel the soles of alien feet passing through the dust of the pavement – if you can feel it.

What, my parents have sinned, and I have to pay? So what sin robbed the sight of your cold Samaritan eyes? Leave! I don’t need your miserable Roman pittance.

Pity! Pity! A crowd is coming! Pity!

Why the frown, companion of the pilgrim, when a smile is easier to wear? Here, look at that Roman soldier in the dust. Or is he a proud prosecutor? Place your strong Jewish foot there, right there on his neck. Here is my man. Now place your Roman coin in my outstretched dusty hand and watch me smile. It’s the two of us.

Say, what is this heckling? You said your name was…?

Judas? Judas, do you think your friends are going to help me with Roman coins or a Jew?

No?

Are you the money man?

OK OK. Ministry of Finance. Sorry. What will Pontius P. do if he hears this?

It’s a joke! It’s a joke! It’s a bad joke! Give me back my coin. I will not tell anything.

Say, what is this Jesus doing? Is it big or small? A friendly and smiling man, I feel.

I think I might like it too. Yes, that I could.

Now you’re kidding! Sight for the blind? Raise the dead?

Speak to the wind? This is going too far! You expect me to believe that? I may be blind, my good man, Judas, but I can see right through you. Yes, I can! He would have to be a prophet.

He’s a prophet?

More than a prophet?

And me? Would he also turn on my windows again so that I could see smiling eyes and children frolicking again?

Why not me, Minister of Finance? I want to see too! I won’t let him go until I see the light, the color and the smiling faces passing by. I’m not going to.

Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me! Jesus! Son of David!

Walk away, Minister of Finance!

Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!

Silver and gold, I don’t want. I want to see!

So look, and see, my dusty friend. Your faith has healed you. Now look at me again and rejoice in the light that never fades and the life that has no end.

Sight restored and insight new, the ancient beggar went on his way rejoicing, making footprints in the dust of the pavement beside the footprints of him whose touch, voice, presence was light and life, and a peace that never ends.

And Judas, pious finance minister, missing his lost coin, worried along the dusty road in the growing darkness until his dim light was only thirty pieces of silver – and a rope.

Happy Easter! He is risen!

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