Whenever I visit Jerusalem, I enjoy spending time in a lovely garden just outside the Old City. In this garden, there is a beautiful rolling stone tomb—a tomb! Exciting! Archaeologists love tombs—tombs full of stuff . . . but this tomb is empty. It is believed by many to be the burial place of Joseph of Arimathea, and therefore a possible site of the resurrection of Jesus.

The reality of the Good Friday is deeply disturbing—or it ought to be, yet we have learned to live with it. It is as if we have grown accustomed to the sour shock of vinegar. Looking at the news, we don’t have to wonder what time we are living in. It is Friday afternoon.

In this prayer, Jesus addresses the Heavenly Parent with tender concern for his disciples. “I have kept them safe. None of them were lost except the one destined for destruction, so the scripture might be fulfilled.” I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see a little grieving over the loss of Judas, one from the inside circle.

 I wanted nothing to do with this fight. It was messy, and it was dramatic, and I didn’t feel like being called in as a witness to what happened. My life was not messy. It was not dramatic. It was simple and organized and untainted with these sorts of dirty streaks.

The safe (and isolated) reading of this story interprets Jesus’ actions as a pious defense of the sanctity of the Temple space. In this reading, the problem is that prayer space has been invaded by noisy secular economic activity. If the sellers will take their business elsewhere, the problem will be solved, so Jesus chases them out. He cleanses the Temple.

The Quakers have a saying: “If you want to start a conflict, talk about peace.”  . . . Jesus’ commitment to peace doesn’t stop at halting violence between violent groups; it seeks to reveal even the small ways in which we live violently towards each other, towards ourselves. And this is offensive not just to violent power, but to us all.

The Beatitudes do not promise distant well-being and success; they celebrate the reality that God is already acting to deliver us. They are based not on the perfection of the disciples but on the coming of God’s grace, already experienced in Jesus.

People sometimes trust the two-legged gods a bit too much as well: they stand behind pulpits or lecterns, or they write books, or they hold public office. They make promises and utter platitudes, and we gravitate to them because what they say seems right. They say what we want to hear, and we lap it up like thirsty cats.

Don’t, Jesus counsels, give “holy things” to the nations, to Rome and its imperial promises of power and prestige. They will trample the holy things and then turn around and rip you to shreds. Fair enough, empires tend to do that, but what are the “holy things” Jesus’ listeners are to withhold?

I felt entitled to give him advice. But was I? Most of my adult life I have thought of myself as non-judgmental. When others speak negatively about a person, I often imagine good reasons why he or she might be that way and congratulate myself.

I began to view this passage as a weapon to condemn me for my mental health struggles. When anxiety attacked, I would simultaneously experience world-crumbling terror and soul-crushing guilt. An anxiety attack meant I didn’t have faith. It meant I let God down.

I admit that this passage is a tough one for me. No, I have never been homeless and have never gone without food or clothes, but I do know what it is like to worry about having enough money for basic needs. I was born in the Depression.

Uri paused. Then with a note of longing that was also heavy with regret, he continued, "Maybe my generation is the lost generation. Perhaps we cannot make peace because we are too close to the conflict. Maybe we will have to wait for the next generation to see peace.

What could be more inspiring than to stand on the hillside overlooking Galilee and contemplate the words of Matthew 5-7? I was sure I would know exactly what to write about the moment I saw the place. But as beautiful as the location was, not a single bolt, not even a tiny trickle of inspiration appeared.