In the Gospel today, Saint John reports the seventh and final Miracle which Jesus worked on his way to Jerusalem and the Cross. This was the Miracle which infuriated the priests and the leaders: the Miracle, which led to his arrest, trial and crucifixion.
On the Tuesday before Palm Sunday, Jesus received word from Martha and Mary that their brother Lazarus – a good friend of Jesus – was seriously ill. Jesus told the apostles that “the illness was for the glory of God”, so He remained where He was for two more days. Finally, He told His apostles; “our beloved Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going to wake him.” The apostles didn’t understand what He meant, so finally He said: “Lazarus is dead.”
When Jesus arrived in Bethany (two miles from the walled city of Jerusalem) it was Friday morning. Jesus and the apostles went directly to the cemetery where the family would gather for seven days of mourning to receive mourners. When Jesus and the apostles arrived, there were a number of family and friends gathered near the tomb.
When Martha & Mary learned that Jesus was coming, they went to meet Him. They greeted him in tears and sobbed: “Lord if you would have been here, my brother would never have died.” Jesus assured them: “your brother will rise again.”
Then Martha said: “I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus then told her: “I am the Resurrection and the Life: whoever believes in Me through he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and lives in Me will never die.”
At the cemetery meeting, the sisters, as well as the people from the town, were caught up in the emotion of the meeting and all were crying – including Jesus. At this point, the sisters of Lazarus, the town people, the apostles and Jesus went to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across it. Jesus ordered that the stone should be removed, but Martha and Mary objected: “Lazarus has been dead four days, there will be a stench.” Jesus then prayed and called loudly: “Lazarus, come out!” and Lazarus walked out of his grave.
The Gospel records that: “many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in Him.” Can you imagine what it would have been like to be there? Can you imagine the excitement and the wonder of the people to have been witnesses to this Miracle?
That Friday night at sundown, the Sabbath began but the town of Bethany and the city of Jerusalem was buzzing with the news. On Saturday evening at the close of the Sabbath, everyone wanted to see Lazarus and Jesus, so the town threw a party and everyone was able to see and touch Lazarus who had died but who now lived. Everyone was convinced that Jesus was the promised Messiah – that He was the one sent by God to set Israel free.
On Sunday, the first day of the week, Jesus and his disciples made it known that they were going to take the two-mile journey leading to the Holy city of Jerusalem. They were going to enter the city through the golden gate which opened directly into the courtyard of the temple.
At first light, people from Bethany who had witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus, as well as people from surrounding villages, people on pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover and people from the Holy City of Jerusalem itself,
Lined the road that led from Bethany to Jerusalem. As the procession passed, they began to follow Jesus and His apostles. In fulfillment of a prophecy from Zachariah, Jesus was riding on a donkey. The crowds threw their cloaks on the road as He passed by. They gathered palm branches and waved them singing: “Hosanna to the Son of David”.
Jesus entered the city through the golden- gate of the temple followed by an estimated crowd of twenty – five to thirty-thousand people. They filled the courtyard of the temple. Near the doors of the temple were tables where money from various regions was changed into temple money – a tax was levied for the exchange of the money and in addition to that, a temple tax was also leveled.
Many of the poor were being cheated by the money-changers and the temple – tax collectors. Jesus walked up to the tables, overturned them and shouted: “My Father’s house is a house of prayer and you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
The people were outraged; Jesus was supposed to overtake the temple as well as the city of Jerusalem. He was supposed to over-power the fifty Roman guards who were in charge of the city and turn the city over to the Jews; but instead, He overturned the money changers tables and walked straight through the crowds of people who had followed Him.
The priests moved through the crowds convincing the people to demand his death. The same crowds who chanted “Hosanna to the Son of David” began to shout: “We must get Him! He must be arrested! He must be crucified!”
Jesus – who had fed twenty-five thousand people in the desert with five barley – loves and two fish; Jesus who cured their illnesses and raised three people from the dead (including Lazarus who had been dead four days and whose resurrection was witnessed by many; Jesus left the city a wanted man – a man with a price on His head – a criminal!
Judas took advantage of the situation. He made a deal with the priests and the authorities. “What will you give me if I hand Him over to you?” The price was set! The blood money was paid! Thirty peace’s of silver for the betrayal of the Son of God!
Are we as fickle as the crowds who witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus, who partied with Jesus and Lazarus, and who lined the road leading from Bethany to Jerusalem shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David”?
As we enter the first Sunday of the Passion, do we pay lip-service to Jesus with a desire to crown him with a golden kingly crown and yet with our attitudes crown Him five days later with thorns?