Jesus, in his last week before dying, is talking to the religious people, the people who were the leaders of the spiritual structures. He told them a story and then said, “the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of heaven ahead of you.” (Matthew 21)
Jesus had gotten in trouble for his interaction with tax collectors and ‘sinners’. The other day I was looking at these stories and I thought, “these are people who have had to make their livings by selling themselves.'” Tax collectors gave up good relations with their own people, their own tribe, to work for the occupying country. Prostitutes gave up good relations with their own people, their own tribe, to survive.
The people that were listening to Jesus were looking for hope, for identity, for belonging, for someone who would talk with them rather than point at them or demand from them.
And then there were the people who pointed and demanded. The people who defined the tribe. The people who despised compromise. They were the people who did everything they could to silence Jesus, even as the others listened.
I once knew a person who sold her body to survive. She was using the money some to feed her family, some to feed a habit. We tried to help. We told her about Jesus. We gave her money, a place to live. We gave her encouragement and time and what we thought was trust.
I think though, that for at least my part, I missed something. Whatever we were talking about, it wasn’t whatever Jesus was talking about. I think that we were trying to get her to measure up, to live right. And that is no hope at all.
I think, from everything I read, that people with huge gaping holes in their hearts listened to Jesus and thought, “I’m tired of the acid etching my soul. He sounds like he really cares” and even before he died, they found hope.
Which had to make Easter Saturday devastating. They had listened. They had watched their lives turn around. They had been healed, inside and out. And now he was dead. Killed by the people he had said to love. Killed by the people he had forgiven while dying.
It would have been enough to make you give up hope. For maybe a day or two.
Until it was Sunday. And then everything changed.