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A Synopsis of Paper 172: Going Into Jerusalem

Jesus and the apostles arrived in Bethany on the afternoon of March 31st. Six days before the Passover, the people of two towns, Bethany and Bethphage, honored Jesus and Lazarus by attending a banquet at the home of Simon. Since all Jews were under order to deliver Jesus to the Sanhedrin on sight, this feast was held in defiance of the priests.

Near the end of the banquet, Mary, sister of Lazarus, went to Jesus and opened a large container of expensive ointment. She anointed Jesus' head and feet with it, and then wiped his feet with her hair. The crowd murmured. Judas thought that the Master should rebuke this wastefulness. He whispered that the oil should have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor.

Jesus said, "Let her alone . . . you have the poor always with you so that you may minister to them at any time it seems good to you; but I shall not always be with you; I go soon to my Father. This woman has long saved this ointment for my body at its burial, and now that it has seemed good to her to make this anointing in anticipation of my death, she shall not be denied such satisfaction. In the doing of this, Mary has reproved all of you in that by this act she evinces faith in what I have said about my death and ascension to my Father in heaven."

Judas felt humiliated. It was at this moment that Judas made his first conscious decision to seek revenge against Jesus.

Jesus, having decided to make a public entrance into the city, recalled a scripture that had sometimes been associated with the anticipated Messiah: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold, your king comes to you. He is just and he brings salvation. He comes as the lowly one, riding upon an ass, upon a colt, the foal of an ass." Warrior kings entered cities riding horseback, but a king on a peaceful mission always entered riding an ass. Jesus used this symbol in an attempt to reinforce the idea that his kingdom was not an earthly one.

Several hundred people gathered to escort Jesus into Jerusalem. As they moved toward Jerusalem, the procession became increasingly festive. The crowd began to shout the psalm, "Hosanna to the son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Jesus was lighthearted until he reached the brow of Olivet, where he stopped. Silence came over the crowd as they beheld him weeping at the thought of the fate of Jerusalem.

David Zebedee and his men had been spreading the word that Jesus was about to make his entry into the city, and several thousand pilgrims poured out of the city to greet him. The Pharisees were unhappy about this unanticipated acclaim; it prevented them from arresting the Master immediately. There was no deep significance in this outburst of public enthusiasm. The people who cheered Jesus so joyously as he entered the city quickly rejected him when they realized later that he would not inaugurate an earthly kingdom.

Jesus and the apostles strolled about the Jerusalem temple but did no preaching that day. When they returned to Bethany that evening the apostles were full of mixed emotions. Andrew had been worried that the other apostles, especially those with swords, would be swept away by the emotion of the day. Simon Peter was disappointed that Jesus had wasted an opportunity to preach in the temple. James Zebedee could not understand why Jesus would accept the crowd's acclaim, then refuse to speak once they had safely entered the temple.

John Zebedee suspected that Jesus had been emulating the Scripture that described the Messiah riding into Jerusalem on an ass. Nathaniel, besides being aware of the symbolism of Scripture, also reasoned that without the demonstration Jesus would not have reached the temple without being arrested; he was not surprised that once inside the city the Master had no further use for the cheering crowds. Matthew also recalled the Scripture. He was elated at the thought that something spectacular was about to happen, and when nothing occurred, he became depressed.

Philip's enjoyment in watching Jesus being honored was offset by his worry that he, Philip, would be required to feed the multitude. Thomas, at first bewildered by the Master's motives, soon realized that the crowd was keeping the Sanhedrin at bay. By the end of the day, Thomas was cheered by Jesus' cleverness at outwitting the priests. Simon Zelotes had visions as they entered the city of the nationalists taking action, of himself in command of the kingdom's military forces, and of all the Sanhedrin dead. By the anticlimactic evening, Simon was crushed emotionally; it was not until long after the resurrection that he recovered from his depression and disappointment. The Alpheus twins had a perfect day; they enjoyed every moment.

Judas Iscariot was still stewing over the Master's rebuke of him the previous day. The idea of coming into Jerusalem this way seemed ridiculous to him. He considered leaving but decided not to because he still had possession of the apostolic funds. Judas was especially humiliated by the ridicule of some of his Sadducean friends, who laughed as they teased Judas about his Master riding into town on an ass.

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