Lenten Meditation: March 27
Today is the eve of Palm Sunday. This week we have been reading the stories of Jesus entry into Jerusalem with an emphasis on what is unique to each gospel story. Our final gospel account comes from John and is found in the the 12th chapter verses 12-19
One of the things we notice about John’s version is that it is considerably shorter than its synoptic counterparts. Jesus is riding a donkey-evoking Zechariah—but there is no story of the procurement of the donkey as in the other gospels. Interestingly, John is the only gospel that mentions palm branches. Luke makes no mention of branches at all.
John ties this story into a particular timeline. The account begins with “the next day”, which is a reference to the story of Jesus’ anointing, six days before the passover. This means that the entry occurs on a Sunday. John alone locates this event on a specific day and the church had followed John in its liturgical celebration.
We note that Jesus does not enter the temple as he does in the synoptics because that matter was dealt with back in chapter two when Jesus negated the temple and replaced it with his body. What we do have is another call back…this time to Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead.
Apparently this final sign of Jesus caused a considerable crowd to follow him, and it is this crowd that greets him at the gates of the city. The Pharisees, present in each account, have a unique concern here in John— the inevitably of the world going after Jesus,
This hearkens back to John 3:16- for God so love the world. It also serves as a preamble to the next event which we talked about earlier in Lent—the appearance of Greeks to visit with Jesus. The Pharisees realize that they have lost but they also have won. We learn in chapter 11 that Caiaphas, the high priest, has declared that it was best that one man die for the people—meaning Jesus should die to get Rome off their backs and save their position of authority. Perhaps this is the high point of Irony in John. It is indeed best for one person to die for the people….but Caiaphas sees this as someone else’s duty to protect him. Jesus sees it as his glorification…the consequence of God’s love… and the negation of the condition of sin under which humans live. In short, Caiaphas embodies the selfishness of religion. Jesus, the selflessness, as in the love one shares that leads them to lay down their lives for others.