16 JÉSUS IN ART AND LITERATURE 5 A probable date. Historians situate the death of Jesus between 26 and 36. 6 Passover is the Jewish feast commemorating the divine establishment of the people of the Covenant at the time of their liberation from slavery in Egypt and their passage through the Red Sea toward the Promised Land. For Christians, Passover prefigures the feast of Easter, in which the risen Jesus passed from death to life, opening for all humanity the way to eternal life. him. Exploiting as many grievances against him as they could and cleverly taking advantage of the complexity of the political situation, they would ask the supreme jurisdiction of the Roman occupying force to punish him for being a troublemaker, a potential conspirator against the authority of the Emperor in Rome. Jesus was judged swiftly. The procurator, Pontius Pilate, the only official authorized to make such life-or-death decisions, confirmed the death penalty for the man who was ironically pointed out to him as a pretender to be the king of the Jews. At that time, fugitive slaves, soldiers who had deserted, and criminals who were not Roman citizens were often condemned to be fastened to a cross in view of everyone so as to die there slowly of asphyxiation in the most unspeakable sufferings. This extremely cruel pillory was meant to serve as an object lesson, and it was a familiar spectacle then even for the Jews. More than a century earlier, the high priest of Israel himself, Alexander Jannaeus, had resorted to it to put down the major rebellion of the Pharisees against him for taking the title of King of Judea; he had several hundred Jews, his co-religionists, crucified. Sentenced to death, Jesus was denied and abandoned by his disciples, particularly by the apostles who had shared his life for three years. Terrorized by the prospect of suffering the same fate as their Lord, they were discouraged because of the evident failure of his promise of a kingdom, which they had believed so firmly, however, that they had left everything to follow him. Only his mother, Mary, two of his aunts, Mary of Cleophas and Mary Salome, Mary Magdalene, and the one whom the Gospel according to Saint John calls “the disciple whom Jesus loved” accompanied him to the place of execution, a hill called Golgotha (“place of the skull,” or “Calvary”), located within plain view of the entrance to Jerusalem. There, at around noon, on the eve of the feast of Passover in the year 33,5 Jesus was nailed naked to the wood of the cross. At three o’clock, sated with sufferings and humiliations, he gave up his spirit. That same evening, his mortal remains were placed in a tomb, after being embalmed and covered with a shroud according to the Jewish custom observed at that time. Having managed in time to escape lynching, the disciples of Jesus now had only one thought in mind: to be forgotten while waiting for the affair to settle down. Many had already left to return to Galilee. The only ones still hiding in Jerusalem were the appointed deputies of the Crucified, who were liable to be pursued as his notorious accomplices. According to the Gospel accounts, at dawn on the Sunday following the feast of Passover,6 the tomb of Jesus was found open and empty by three of the women who had accompanied him to his death. “Passover” means “passage”: very quickly the death of Jesus was understood by his disciples as a passage. The tomb was found empty: wasn’t this emptiness a space opening onto a new life, beyond death? The disciple whom Jesus loved, who had remained faithful to the end, was confronted with the empty tomb, where there was nothing to see: He saw and he believed, the Gospel according to Saint John states paradoxically (Jn 20:8). Standingby the tomb alsowasMaryMagdalene. She thought she saw a gardener, but when he spoke, she recognized the voice of Jesus calling her by her first name: “Mary.” She threw herself down at his feet and tried to embrace him: Noli me tangere, “Do not touch me,” Jesus says in response to her lunge toward him: the absence of his cadaver opens onto infinity and expresses his very real bodily presence, but under another form, with another untouchable, ungraspable, inconceivable nature; and yet still his own body, which the heart of Mary Magdalene recognized as the real, personal presence of her beloved Master. DEATH IS ONLY A PASSAGE On that same evening and over the course of the following days, other disciples too said that Jesus, “alive again,” had appeared to them, spoken to them, and even eaten with them. But they also testified that upon meeting him, no one had recognized him at first. And behold, fifty days after the death of Jesus, on the day of the feast of Pentecost, his apostles, having regained their assurance, dared to go out in broad daylight to address the crowd, proclaiming: “You Israelites, listen: You had this Jesus killed by nailing him to a cross, but God raised him up, and we are his witnesses” (Acts 2:22, 32). They were soon arrested and hauled before the same Jewish authorities who had