30 Pieces of Silver
Oh, what did you gain from the silver?
And, what was that kiss really worth?
Your fateful decision now met with derision
by all who have traveled this earth.
For, thirty mere pieces of silver —
the price of a slave's life, when lost;
this old law of Moses now vividly shows us
what you thought Messiah's life cost.
Did you feel remorse in the garden,
when seeing your Lord face to face?
When you were betraying was your conscience swaying
between revolution and grace?
Returning those pieces of silver,
did you think events could reverse?
Your three years befriended by Jesus now ended;
a life that was blessed — now a curse.
Once life was no longer worth living,
with you at the end of your rope;
before you stopped breathing did you dare believe in
Christ's love of forgiveness and hope?
I had been working on an Easter poem for two or three weeks and had 2 lines and no title to show for my efforts. Ten days before Good Friday, I was thinking about writing a line about Judas Iscariot into the poem and googled "30 pieces of silver", which led me to threads about how much that would be in today's terms. Ideas began percolating, and this poem was written in a matter of hours.
This poem was written a couple of weeks ago and written in such a way that contained some internal rhyming within each line. But, while writing this blog, upon reflection, I discovered that I wasn't happy with some of the forced lines in order to achieve those extra rhymes. So, I rewrote much of it between yesterday and today. The final verse was left alone from the original, leaving those internal rhymes intact.
I was thinking about Peter having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day on the day before Jesus was crucified. After his friend had died, the only things that Peter was left with were his words and actions of that day.
I can't imagine what he was thinking when he ran and saw the empty tomb. But, it is interesting what the angel told the women at the tomb, regarding Peter:
Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.
How wonderful it is to have a chance of redemption!
Peter, Simon Peter — how was Seder with your friend?
I'd heard you promised to protect him to the very end.
Then, when he took a servant's role to wash your feet, you said,
Lord, do not merely wash my feet, but wash my hands and head!
Peter, Simon Peter — it appears you've been asleep.
Did not your friend ask, Watch with me, my soul is crushed with grief?
Again, I saw him wake you so that you could watch and pray;
with tears of blood he bore his pain alone near where you lay.
Peter, Simon Peter — rise! Get up, and grab your sword!
Remember when you said tonight that you'd defend your Lord?
Ignore that you're outnumbered — overmatched with clubs and spears.
Select a target — one that's weak, and aim between the ears!
Peter, Simon Peter — get yourself away from there!
Why, you've denied you ever met your friend — I heard you swear.
You lied again and then once more — then saw your friend and froze.
Tonight, you will deny me thrice before the rooster crows.
Peter, Simon Peter — I can see you're filled with gloom.
I heard you heard the news and ran to find his empty tomb.
Now, more confused than ever, with uncertainty you grope;
your broken heart since Jesus' death just caught a ray of hope.
Peter, Simon Peter — cast your net into the sea;
then bring it up and hold it fast for heavy will it be.
No longer will you troll the deep — your friend is on the shore.
He beckons, Feed my lambs and sheep, and love me evermore.
This poem was written for Easter last year, in 2019. That was the year I furiously wrote forty poems from the book of Job and this was wedged, somewhat lost and overlooked, somewhere in the middle of all of that writing.
I'd come across an Internet article that brought out some really interesting points surrounding Christ's Triumphal Entry. First of all, it happened on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan.
Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household . . . . Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.
Exodus 12:3, 6
The 10th of Nisan floats around on the Jewish calendar. Last year, when I wrote this poem, the 10th of Nisan fell on Wednesday, April 15th. This year, 2020, it was on Saturday (yesterday), April 4th. In the third year of Jesus' ministry, it fell on Sunday — thus, our celebration of Palm Sunday.
Per the above scripture, the Bible mentions the 10th day of Nisan when instituting the laws concerning Passover. The day is also mentioned in Joshua.
The people crossed the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month. Then they camped at Gilgal, just east of Jericho.
All of this is brought out in the first half of the poem in order to set up the backdrop of Jesus' entry. If this is new information for you, as it was for me last year, it wasn't news to the Jews. They were well aware of their scriptures and laws and traditions, and of the parallels and imagery of this moment. It wasn't too long before this day that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead and his fame was yuge! This was it! This was the big one!
Cry out with joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout jubilantly, O daughter of Jerusalem! Look—your King is coming; He is righteous and able to save. He comes seated humbly on a donkey, on a colt, a foal of a donkey.
So, in the second half of the poem I wanted to convey the following information taken from the above-mentioned article:
Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem four days before Passover is not a coincidence. The lambs chosen for sacrifice by each family on the 10th of Nisan (the day we call Palm Sunday) must be visible for 4 days before the Passover Feast in order for everyone to observe the selected lamb’s perfection.
During those days of inspection of the lambs, the perfect Lamb of God was present daily at the Temple, where everyone could see Him….. allowing Himself to be inspected by the people.
Jewish historians cite that the lambs during that time all came from Bethlehem and were brought into Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate. At that time, only the sheep from Bethlehem, that had been raised especially for this purpose, were allowed to be used for selection.
Jesus entered Jerusalem along with all the Passover lambs through that same Sheep Gate.
The road into Jerusalem was extremely crowded that day. Hundreds of thousands (or according to Josephus, millions) of pilgrims were flocking into the city to begin the celebration of the Passover season.
There are many who differ from this information. They say that Jesus entered Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate, and not the Sheep Gate; that it happened on Saturday or Monday or the entire event even happened in August. For the most part, this poem can accommodate those differences.
For someone thinking this event happened on Monday, then "Monday" could easily be interchanged with "Sunday".
For someone believing this event happened on Saturday, then "Sabbath" could be interchanged with "Sunday" without missing a beat.
For those who say that Jesus entered through the Eastern Gate (also called the Golden Gate, or the Gate of Mercy), then that line could be replaced with: Through the Mercy Gate, Mercy has come.
All joking aside, there may be some merit as to which gate was used. Consider the following:
Ezekiel prophesizes that the Eastern Gate will eventually be sealed shut, because the Lord entered through it. Zechariah describes the messiah as going out through the Eastern Gate to do battle on the Mount of Olives.
The Mount of Olives, or Olivet, is just outside the Eastern Gate, and lies on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem. At the foot of the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane. The Gospel of Luke tells us that, after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “Each day he went on teaching in the temple, and at night he lodged on the mountain which is called Olivet.” (Luke 21:37)
According to Luke’s account, Jesus would have left Jerusalem through the Eastern gate every evening following his triumphal entry to get to the Mount of Olives, and returned again every morning through the Eastern Gate to teach in the Temple. This continued until the evening of the Passover, when, after the Last Supper, he went out through the Eastern Gate for the last time to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. There he was arrested, and entered Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate for the last time as a prisoner.
When was the gate closed?
The Eastern Gate was first closed by Muslims in 810 and then reopened in 1102 by the Crusaders. Saladin walled it up again after regaining Jerusalem in 1187. Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilt it together with the city walls, but walled it up again in 1541, and it has remained walled up ever since.
Thus, was the prophesy of Ezekiel fulfilled. “Shut this gate must ever be, the Lord told me, nor open its doors to give man entrance again, since the Lord, the God of Israel, entered by it.”
And, from another link:
Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple..
Seleiman the Magnificent so strongly believed the prophecy that he sealed up the gate he built only three years earlier to prevent Jesus from coming. The gate has remained sealed ever since.
I tweaked some wording from last year to this year. And, in the future, the line concerning the gate may change as well. But, for now, as it was written last year, I like the imagery of the Shepherd entering through the Sheep Gate on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Lamb Selection Day.
Lamb Selection Day
In the morning that Sunday, he crossed Jordan's River,
to the Jericho-side Jesus came.
Years before, crossed the people God sought to deliver,
on the tenth day of Nisan, the same.
Forty years before that God was building a nation
with a people awaiting I AM;
they were asked to prepare for their coming salvation
with the death of an innocent lamb.
On the tenth day of Nisan, their lamb was selected;
without defect or blemish or scar.
For the next four days this year-old lamb was inspected,
and protected from possible mar.
As the lamb lived among them, was there any grieving
when this lamb, on the fourteenth, was slain?
He'd provide the last meal for its family soon leaving,
and its blood on their door posts would stain.
On this tenth day of Nisan — Jerusalem's thriving,
over-crowded as you walk the streets.
With the lambs born in Bethlehem quickly arriving,
sometimes all you can hear are their bleats.
Here he comes! On a donkey and foal he is seated;
through the Sheep Gate the Shepherd has come.
Cloaks laid down and with palm branches waving he's greeted:
now he'll free them from Rome's heavy thumb.
For another four days he allows their inspection,
cross-examined and grilled to the end.
In the garden, arresting this Lamb of perfection,
he's betrayed with the kiss of a friend.
From that Sunday when crowds — in their wonder — surround him,
till he wrestles alone with the cost;
on the tenth day of Nisan the crowds would have crowned him,
by the fourteenth they scream for the cross.