Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (Matthew 26:57-75) transports me to the grand funk railway station, where a betrayed and deserted savior is getting railroaded by the Sanhedrin in a stacked trial. The attorneys general sing out can I get a witness? as they scrape the bottom of their slimy barrels looking for false charges to trump up a capital offense case against this miracle-working woodman of the world who has been uniting people around a wonderful way of love. His itinerant message has been simple: You don’t need a whole lots of money, you don’t need big fine cars. When you have God’s love, you have everything anyone could ask for. The kiss of grace fills your heart with desire, desire to praise and please God, and it will set your soul on fire. When this savior wraps his strong arms around you, chills run up and down your spine.
This savior had been alright, clean out of sight, until it came time to face the music, and then all witness of his strange kind of wonderful vanished. Even bold Peter kept a safe distance, fearfully watching and waiting to see which way the wind would blow. The crooked lawyers had a hard time fabricating their case, with only a flimsy testimony of Jesus’ teaching about the destruction and resurrection of the temple. Finally, the lead lawyer put Jesus on the stand, in an attempt to gain some self-incriminating evidence. Are you the Christ, the Son of God? he asked. You said it, came the clever reply, better than pleading the fifth. But just you wait; there will be a time when you’ll see the Human One sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One, coming on clouds of glory. As odd as it sounded, that was all they needed to hear. Why do we need any more of these good-for-nothing witnesses? His own words make him worthy of death. A round of spitting and slapping of the innocent face followed. And Peter repeated the sounding denial three times, twice to servant girls and once to his fellow by-standers. Cue the rooster.
Can I get a witness? the kangaroo court wanted to know. Witness. The Greek word is martis, where we get the English word martyr. Can I get someone willing to stake life and limb on what they testify? The court had little trouble finding people willing to stake life and limb on false testimony, perhaps in hopes of gaining a whole lots o’ money or a big fine car for their trouble. But there was no counter-witness for the defense waiting in the wings. No one pulled a Perry Mason, coming through the courtroom door at the eleventh hour to stake life and limb on true testimony, on the Way of love. We talk a lot about witnessing as Christians, but I wonder how much we really taste the experience of staking our lives on the Way that is truly some kind of wonderful, a kind of wonderful the world cannot comprehend. Can I get a martis? Since I don’t have to run around or stay out all night, I’ll stop here and start daydreaming about a Way so wonderful that it just about drives me out of my mind.
How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.