It was Sunday morning in Jerusalem and the staff at Temple House, administrative headquarters for Religious Affairs, were making their way back to their desks after the short Passover break. They were doing so with some reluctance; last week had been particularly tough across all departments.
It had started in Finance; temple money changers had demanded compensation after someone had been allowed to run amok, overturning their tables. Next, Stewardship had complained that queues of impoverished widows carefully placing single small coins in the treasury were putting off the more prestigious High Value Donors; important men who appreciated neither the wait nor the smell. Around midweek, HR got wind that a man called Lazarus, whose sisters had just claimed welfare payments following his death, was apparently alive and well and walking the streets of Bethany.
Across the corridor, Safeguarding were investigating rumours that an unknown rabbi had been, in the words of a reliable informant, “suffering the little children to come unto him”. There was no documentary evidence of him completing the necessary training. Legal had spent half the week looking into what powers they had to restrict him.
Communications had faced their own problems, when local media published a survey claiming an alarmingly high proportion of Sadducees did not believe in a physical resurrection of the dead. Getting out their rebuttals wasn’t helped by a meltdown in IT. Half the messenger pigeons had come down with bird flu and Maintenance couldn’t promise spares until after the holiday. To top it all, the secretary to the Buildings Committee had spent hours refuting claims that somebody had submitted an application to tear down the Temple and replace it in just three days. “Does nobody realise how many months it takes to approve moving a candlestick, let alone throw up an entire new building, and with unconventional construction techniques?”, she’d exclaimed.
Anyway, today was the start of a new week. Much of the trouble had been traced back to a single maverick preacher. With some help from the Romans, he had been appropriately dealt with. After that the Passover had been fairly quiet.
Actually, like most Passovers they could remember, it had been a bit of a let down. Every year, in the build up to the festival, there was at least a frisson of hope that this would be the time when God would act to save his people. Maybe this Passover would not simply be a remembrance of long ago but the moment when a new deliverance would be accomplished. It never happened, but the annual tinge of post-festival disappointment could not quite be expunged.
And the new week wasn’t shaping up well. Reports coming in suggested unauthorised removal of a body from a grave; was it a matter for Faculty administration? Some witnesses implied there had been violence against the troops guarding the tomb; did this make it a Discipline matter? A woman now claimed to have seen the deceased; perhaps it was a ghost, as he hadn’t allowed her to touch him. Maybe Deliverance were the people to handle it. Still, in every office there’s a place where the complex and difficult problems nobody wants to deal with get dumped, and Religious Affairs was no different. After all, if somebody was wandering around the city carrying a three-day old corpse that had lost its burial wrappings, it just had to be a case for Health and Safety.
David Walker is the Bishop of Manchester.