By Ken Asel
Reading from the Gospel of John, 12:9-19
9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord —
the King of Israel!’
14Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
15’Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!’
16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. 17So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. 18It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. 19The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!”
We begin in Bethany, about two miles from the temple. A great crowd has gathered in the hopes of seeing something similar to Jesus’ raising of Lazarus. John portrays the witnesses as seeking another miracle like the one in Bethany. But the religious authorities fear the implications of a world entranced by the preacher from Galilee. Some scholars see in this group similarities to the revolutionary crowd led by Judas Maccabaeus against Antiochus V in a previous generation. Might national freedom become a reality once again? Is Jesus the savior of Israel?
But the circumstances are different. There are considerable divisions among the Sadducees and Pharisees as to what form their nation should take. There are tensions within the Roman garrison. And the Roman armies know how to deal with restive colonials.
The apostles and disciples are there too, yearning for the establishment of the Kingdom of God, and for a savior to establish it, without much understanding of what that might entail, or of the price to be paid.
Most uncertain are the unspoken intentions of Jesus as he rides a donkey through the capital, welcomed by the cheers of the masses. Is Jesus planning a political move?
I am more intrigued by another explanation. Perhaps John the Beloved sees in Jesus the desire, not for power, but for a world transformed — one in which his disciples recognize that God wants them to become “saviors” to each other, and to friend and foe alike. He is the savior who makes a way for us to become like him. If we can commit ourselves to emulate Christ daily, might it be exactly what Jesus had in mind as he entered the holy city on that holy day?
(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married more than 28 years and reside in the Texas Hill Country.
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