(I wrote something similar to this back in 2012. I’ve edited it a bit, as the first version has Jesus, and John, with fists clenched against the coming tide. That’s how I saw it then, felt it then. But I see things differently this morning. I see them no less courageous, but their hands are open)
Please don’t. Please. It is what I wanted to say. But I stood silent. And who am I? I am the one some say closest to him, the one he loved. And maybe that’s why. For I knew, I knew he was like flint now, unswerving. I knew I had to be like that too, for him, for me, for the rest of us. I had to will myself to hold my tongue. He did speak to me just before the clop of hooves began: Courage, John.
And so I dropped my wants as once upon a day I dropped my nets, and followed. Those felt such brief widening years. His ride that day was nothing short of awkward. Had it not been for the press of crowd on either side he would have fallen off more than once. But they hemmed him in that next chapter of the story. From where I followed it looked as if he rode their shoulders instead of the colt. Jesus – to the crowd a shoulder-high hero. But to me – my Lord and my God, and my dearest friend slouching toward Calvary. On he rode as they brayed their praise.
It is remembered as a triumphal entry, something in contrast to his cross-laden steps only days later. But I saw it as the death gyre, all of it, from the green of the palms one day to the red of his wrists that soon followed. And if I am honest I have to confess that I feared the center would not hold, that this man I grew to love like no other would drown and be lost. That I would wake one day to the sound of the sea licking the boat’s edge and find it all only a dream. And I would be alone again.
But we had come too far. I decided to follow with more than my feet. I opened my hands to the fear, something I’d seen him do time after time, and I surrendered. I had to, for me, for the rest of us, and for him. Then I prayed as he often did – Let this be. When he’d gone almost far enough, he dismounted and turned round twice searching the crowd until he found me. He stepped toward me and placed the rope in my hands, his face an elegy. Courage, John.
As he walked on with the crowd I noticed his hands, open, fingers spread wide as if stretching to a breaking point. They were shaking too, just slightly, like leaves in the wind. I knew then that he was not a dream. He was this defiant publisher of love loosed upon our world. But I still did not understand why it had to be this way.