Good Friday Golf :: A Metaphor

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Good Friday Golf :: A Metaphor

Friday.  Late morning.  Approximately 11:45a.m.  Mount of Olives Country Club.  The two dignitaries stood side by side studying the 14th hole.  It was a mild dogleg left about 346 yards from the blue tees. From their vantage point they could see the Beautiful Gate into Jerusalem just beyond the KidronValley.  Dazzling sunlight, the only bright spot in their otherwise bleak round of golf, reflected off of the roof of Solomon’s Temple.  Pilate was six over after a triple bogey on eleven.  He had shanked one out of bounds deep into the Garden of Gethsemane.  With the stroke and distance, plus missing a 30-inch put, his game and his attitude had started to unravel.  King Herod had had a mediocre front nine but had birdied 10 and pared 11, 12, and 13.  He was on a roll and was hinting at doubling the wager on 14. Pilate stepped up to the tee box and motioned for his caddy to bring him a fresh ball and new tee.  “You’ve got a nasty fairway bunker on the left at about the 150 yard marker, Sir.  The olive grove on the right is OB and there’s a little creek running north to south that you can’t see from here.  If you crush this drive you could roll into the water.  May I suggest a nice easy three iron from here?  It should leave you a seven or eight iron to the green.”  The governor pondered his shot while studying the hazards that lined the fairway.  The menacing mood he’d had since arriving at the country club was not helping his game.  “Do you have any aspirin,” Pilate asked? “Of course, sir.”  His caddy dug some out of his golf bag and brought them to the governor.    Leaning close and speaking just above a whisper, the caddy said, “If I might say, sir, you can play bogey golf from here to the end, and you’ll still take the round.” “It’s not this round of golf that’s giving me the headache,” Pilate said it loud enough for Herod to hear and chuckle over. “What’s the matter, Pontius, having a difficult time concentrating on the little white ball?”  Herod grinned when he said it.  This annual round of golf between the two leaders was a political necessity that had always been tolerated by Herod and loathed by Pilate.  But after the events of the night before, they both were finding themselves warming up to each other. “You know full well what’s giving me my headache.” Pilate pushed the tee into the ground with his ball and then stood up to address his shot.  “I can’t get that Galilean off my mind. What’s the latest report?” “Yes sir, everything is moving ahead on schedule.  All three men are on their crosses.  No problems.  Pretty large crowd.” The aid clicked shut his phone and slipped his sunglasses back over his eyes. “What did you expect?”  It was Herod’s turn again.  “He’s just another trouble-maker who this time tomorrow won’t be giving us any trouble.  He and His band of misfits are from Nazareth.  Nazareth, for Caesar’s sake!  You ever been there?  It’s a dump!” “Now, now, my dear Herod, you must watch your language.  Thou shalt not take the emperor’s name in vain.”  Everybody laughed at Pilate’s cynicism.  His back swing was slow and steady but he rolled his wrists over as he came through the ball.  It was a low and consistent riser, right between the lines, but when it finally bounced on the fairway the side-spin pulled it to the left.  It disappeared into the bunker.  “Caesar!”  Now it was his turn to curse. “You know, Pontius, you take these rabble-rousers too seriously.”  Herod talked as he walked up between the blue markers and set up his ball on the tee.  He turned to take a driver from his caddy and continued.  “Two years ago, I had this Galilean’s cousin executed.” “No kidding?” “Yea.  It was a guy they called John the Baptist.  I actually found him interesting.  But he meddled too much into my private life.  He didn’t approve of my marriage to Herodias.  You knew she had once been my brother’s wife? “Oh yes, Herod, your convoluted family tree is legendary.” “I’ll take that as a compliment coming from you, Pontius.  You Romans have your reputations too.  But anyway, he pushed Herodias too far and she demanded his head.  This Jesus is just another windbag from the wilderness.  Trust me, His followers will be heading home after Passover and you’ll never hear from them again.” Herod’s backswing was too fast but he managed to get good contact that sent his ball sailing down the middle of the fairway.  He winked to his caddy as he handed him his club.  The caddies dropped behind the two men as they started walking down the fairway toward their balls. “I don’t know if you can write this one off that easily, Herod.  He was different than any other man who has ever stood before my judgment seat.  The way He looked, and the way He acted, it was as though He was in charge and we were just bit players in the big drama.  He just stood there, calm, collected, resigned. There was this weird combination of sadness and anticipation.”  Pilate snapped his fingers toward his aid and was instantly handed a cigar.  Herod gave the man a look and was immediately handed one also.  Herod held a match for Pilate and then lit his own. “There was something different about Him, I’ll grant you that,” Herod said as he blew a series of rings from his first puff and then continued walking slowly by Pilate’s side.  “I’d heard all this stuff about Him doing all kinds of miracles.  I tried to get Him to do a few cart wheels across my swimming pool, but He just stood there looking at me, not staring at me mind you, but looking at me.  It wasn’t a threatening look.” “And I bet He didn’t look scared either,” Pilate butted in. “No, He didn’t look scared.  At least not scared of me.” “I know what you’re talking about,” Pilate said.  “It was incredible.  Those crazy Sanhedrin were shouting, the witnesses were screaming accusations and threats, the crowd was yelling at me to ‘crucify Him.’  The whole time He just stood there.  My wife woke up from a nightmare and came running into my court begging me not to have anything to do with Him.  I thought a thorough flogging would satisfy those Pharisee’s lust for blood.  My guy held nothing back.  That Jesus just whimpered and took it.  And when we got done, they yelled out even stronger for me to crucify Him.” From out of the woods on the left a flock of sheep slipped into the open and scampered across the fairway.  Their shepherd followed a short distance away. “You know, Herod, as far as I’m concerned, things are moving from bad to worse.  Politics back in Rome are more corrupt than ever.  There are more people enslaved in the empire than there are free.  Families are falling apart.  Gangs and punks are ruling the back alleys.  It’s just a matter of time before they’ll try to dominate Main Street.  Everybody’s suspicious of everybody.  They’re like those sheep over there, wandering around with no idea where they’re going.” Herod walked up to his ball.  His caddy whispered him the distance, handed him a club and then watched him hit it just to the left of the green.  “Listen, Pontius, you had a bad night.  We both did.  In a few hours, that Preacher from Nazareth will be dead.  Get Him out of your mind.” Pilate took a sand wedge from his caddy and climbed down into the trap and set up for his shot. Herod continued.  “Cheer up Pontius.  You’re center stage.  You’re a governor for crying out loud.  Two thousand years from now, kids are going to sit in school and read about how we rode the crest of Rome’s history.  You’re famous.  This Jesus won’t even make it as a footnote in history.” From where they stood they could see across the city to the crowd gathered around the crosses in the distance.  “I suppose you’re right, Herod.”  Pilate brought back his wedge to chip his ball out of the sand.  As he came down on his swing, the sun suddenly went completely dark . . .

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2: 9-11

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