A Triumphal Entry
(The Jesus Diary Continues)
Jerusalem was agog, massively in love with Jesus. When he came riding into town on a donkey he could barely get through the crowds. Everyone wanted to see him, to touch him or be touched by him. There was hardly a person alive who did not know his name. They knew who he was and what he had done and they liked him.
No, they loved him. They loved him for the miracles he had wrought. He had cured their ailments, healed their blindness and cleansed their leprosy. They were now more than ever convinced that he was the Promised One, the Messiah, He who would restore Israel as a special nation chosen by Yahweh.
Ancient lore and the prophets told of the coming of such a savior. Books had been written about him before anyone even knew his name or what he would look like. Prophets had written hopeful tomes describing his royal status, the miracles he would perform, and how he would bring the masses together as one glorious people blessed by God. He would be a king, mighty and feared by his enemies, but beloved by the people he led.
Sure, there were some disconcerting elements to his story. He certainly didn't look like a conqueror or a king. There appeared to be nothing of the warrior about him. Instead he had a placid look, more peacemaker than warmonger. But no matter, he was their Chosen One and they were more than pleased with him.
Children echoed their parents' enthusiasm. They sang and strew palm branches before him. "Hosanna, Son of David" they shouted, recalling that greatest king of old. Yes, royal blood ran in his veins. His father, the carpenter, was from the house and family of David. Though now somewhat diminished in wealth and prestige, his lineage was unquestioned. He was The One.
As the kids sang their paeans of glory and the grownups congratulated themselves on their good fortune, another sector of the population looked on with jaundiced eyes. These were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Scribes, the pompous hypocrites who had hated Jesus from the first moment they saw him.
As usual, they stood off by themselves, obvious for their glum faces. I saw them, a gaggle of thugs, their bitterness so intense that it hovered about them like a foul miasma. I knew what they were thinking.
It seemed to them that Jesus had deliberately aroused their enmity. There had hardly been an opportunity for him to cross them that he did not take full advantage of. His every word seemed to be directed at them, exposing their falsity, their hypocrisy, and their greed and disdain for the common people.
They had thrown everything they had at Jesus, challenging him with their most complicated conundrums. But he was totally unfazed. Whether the question concerned the legality of divorce, or marrying one's brother's widow, or paying taxes to Caesar, or curing on the Sabbath, or ritualistic hand washing, or stoning an adulteress, he had the answer. Or he posed an opposition scenario for them that they knew would trap them in a lie or inconsistency.
And so they stood there, seething, in sharp contrast to the rest of the people, who were adoring their Messiah. And it was this contrast that cut them most deeply. Jesus was soaking up all the glory and love and praise and homage, and they were being ignored. No one was paying attention to them. No one was singing their praises. No one was tossing palm branches their way.
Instead, people turned their backs on them, even jostled them to get a better view of their hero, to be closer to him and maybe even touch him. Though they maintained an outwardly placid appearance, inwardly their pride roared.
They wanted revenge. The situation was untenable. Outrageous. Jesus had defied them for the last time. They would get even. They would find a way. There had to be some way to reach him where he was most vulnerable. He was only one person, they were many, the best and brightest minds in Israel, and the most devious.
All he had was that little band of misfits that followed him around like sheep. Their leader was the biggest joke of all, full of bluster with nothing to back it up. A rock, they called him. More like a pebble.
As they pondered this honorary parade for Jesus, a small isolated thought began to creep into their heads. Maybe one of his chosen few would be willing to rat on Jesus.
Maybe Peter wasn't foolish enough to be tricked into turning on his leader. Well, maybe he was foolish enough, but he was still faithful to Jesus. That was obvious.
But maybe, just maybe, there was a weak link in the group. Maybe one of them had become disenchanted with the message Jesus was peddling. Maybe one of them could be reached, somehow. But the question remained, which one?
(This article is adapted from The Jesus Diary, by Dave Mishur, which is available at Amazon and other online retailers and can be ordered at any bookstore. A sequel, The Big Tent, which records the Acts of the Apostles through the eyes of the same anonymous observer, will be available May 1 of this year.)