Jesus and his buddies

At the end of a hot day, if there is a big lake in front of you, and some free time before dinner, you jump into it.  And if you are with good buddies, friends you’ve struggled and joked and argued with, someone pushes someone else in, and almost certainly, there’s splashing of the person on shore who doesn’t want to get his sandals wet.  Eventually he jumps in too.

Which is why, although, as far as I’m aware, there’s no biblical record of Jesus swimming in Lake Galilee, I’m sure he did.  This water wasn’t just made for walking. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Swimming in the strokes of Jesus, looking over the water to the hills, was just one more reminder of his alive-ness.   Picturing the shoving and the splashing (was it Matthew who stayed on shore the longest, the cautious tax collector, uncertain?  Was it James and John, the brothers, the sons of thunder, who competed with each other to see who could get to the shore first?), hearing the laughter, knowing the sheer physical joy of water, brought new colour to how I think  Jesus’ love meets us.  It is the love of someone who delights in our company.

God, who delights in our company.

We can ‘abstract’ God’s love, if we’re not careful – choosing to receive something theoretical or generic rather than the dangerous intimacy of this – wow – this friendship, this known-ness, this delight.

I have called you friends”.


And then, this gang of buddies, who knew and loved each other, went from splashing around in the lake and on the shore, from the miracles and the mountaintop teaching, through the desert into Jerusalem.

They hung out on the Mount of Olives – it was their neighbourhood.  “See you at the Olives later?” OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA One time, as they were strolling, Jesus walked ahead with three of them.  In one of those moments you sometimes have with friends, he told them how he was feeling and found himself in tears.  You can do that with friends.  “Stay awake with me”, he asked.  They saw him, their good friend, the one they had laughed and learned with, throw himself face down, sobbing.  And in those moments you sometimes have, even with friends, they had no idea what to say.  They waited, and eventually they slept.

They had no pattern for this moment of friendship, so when the arrest came, there was a confusion of shouting and protection, then fear and denial, and a scattering.  This gang of buddies, who knew and loved each other, didn’t know how to watch their friend die.

We visited a church called St Peters at Gallicantu.  This is thought to be built on the site of the old High Priest’s house, where Jesus was arrested, outside which Peter denied he’d known Jesus. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This is an unbearably poignant moment of the gospels, and an unbearably poignant spot.

I have called you friends” to “I don’t know this man”.

Jesus’ friendship, his vulnerability to our fickleness.


And then, from here, through the pit, the cave, the tomb, back to the beach on Galilee. Jesus, raised from the dead, victorious, met his friend Peter again.

This is a moment of incredible poignancy too, but instead of being unbearable, it is burstingly hopeful.

Peter hurried and tumbled out of the boat.  In the matter of friendship, of saying sorry, isn’t this the right side to err on?  The side of clumsy reconciliation, falling over yourself, splashing around towards someone, towards the awkwardness?

Jesus had cooked bread and fish for his friends on this beach.  It’s impossible to imagine this meal taking place without some memories of the last time they’d shared bread together.

“I have called you friends”.

We shared bread and wine nearby and had fish for lunch.


Palm Sunday

Our first day:  walking down the Mount of Olives, along the trail known as the Palm Sunday road.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Across the valley, Jesus’ Palm Sunday parade, all donkeys and waving palm branches, must have looked something like a carnival.  Unexpected sorts of people hanging out with an unexpected sort of a leader.  Shouts of promise, which could, carrying across to the opposite slope, have sounded like shouts of rebellion. From the steps outside the High Priest’s House, over the Kidron Valley, back towards the Mount of Olives, would probably take a brisk 40 minutes. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It’s just enough distance to decide what to do about the coming carnival. Is it threat, or promise?  Is it party, or is it protest?  To shut it down, or to join in?


This is the site where an angel spoke
Promising a new age.
A woman said yes,
And dropped to her knees on this ground.
We mark it with mosaic tiles and stained glass
Deep blue, shards of silver.

This is the site where God became man,
Heaven touched earth.
A woman cried and bled,
A baby took breath from this air.
We mark it with a star in the ground,
A room draped with red.

This is the site where blood was shed
A curtain was torn, forgiveness won.
A man cried, bled,
Struggled for breath from this air.
We mark it with gold.
Gold armouring the walls,
Gold dripping from the ceilings.

We stare at the dust and wonder – was it here, was it this dust?

And God, who has put eternity in our hearts,
Grins back, alive.
Don’t cling to me, he says.

This is the site
- where, though? -
This is the site where
New life came,
Although it had been thought death had the final word.
for hope
Sprang up again.

Where, though?

There is a tomb but it is empty.
There was a barbecue on the beach, but its ash has washed away.
Bread was broken, but the birds of the air have long since pecked up the crumbs.

We emerge from the gilded and draped and painted places and find ourselves
Outside in the carpark, KFC and Nandos alongside the olive wood souvenirs.

And after the plane has touched down,
And back in the places without stars on the floors
New life grins back.

We mark it with our ‘yes’.
We mark it, dropping to our knees.
We mark it with glimpses of hope, touches of kindness,
Shards of light.