That winter passed swiftly, like a comet in the sky. The branches of the almond tree showed signs of their first fruits. The field began to spread its mantle of flowers and the fresh air of spring diffused its fragrance over the plains of Esdraelon…. That day, while we were having lunch in Peter’s house….
Peter: Anything wrong, Jesus?……. Why don’t you eat?
Rufina: Looks like the Moreno hasn’t slept a wink…
Jesus: That’s right, Rufina…. but this is nothing. The truth is, I had to see……. very clearly….. As a matter fact, I have been praying for months, asking the Lord to show us the way and…..
Peter: And what…?
Jesus: Guys, I think the time has come.
James: The time for what?
Jesus: For us to go to Jerusalem. This is also the time when the poor flock to the heart of the city to share what they have and thus confront this old weary world that is about to end. Yes, what we have been saying over and over again in all corners of Galilee, we shall be repeating all over the city.
Peter: Hey, Rufi, did you put a lot of spices in the soup?!…. I think it has gotten into Jesus’ head!
Judas: Well, then, Moreno, when do we start?
Jesus: As soon as possible, Judas. God is in a hurry. There’s so much misery in the country. Herod is committing a lot of abuses in the north and the Romans are getting more atrocious in the south. Meanwhile, Caiphas and the priests of Israel are talking about patience. Friends, we can’t be patient anymore! It’s time to put an end to all these, to expose the atrocities of these wolves, like Samson did when he set everything on fire!
Judas: Yes, sir! We should not be afraid to burn them. The ash is the best fertilizer ever!
Rufina: All of you will be the ashes! Are you all out of your mind? You were almost arrested last time, and now you still want to go back to Jerusalem? You’re all courting death!
Jesus: Of course, Rufina. This is what we’re gonna do. Samson also risked his life, but God gave him the strength to face his enemy. God will not fail us, either, I’m sure of that!
Thomas: I’m s..s..ure o..oour e.e..nemies have de..deadly fangs,….. b..b..b..ut we have to go!
Peter: And fast! The Passover is near!
Judas: We’ll have to take advantage of the time, fellows. It’s during this time when more and more people mill around the city.
Peter: And all the wolves come out of their dens. Pontius Pilate will be coming from Caesarea. Herod, from Tiberias. They all get together in Jerusalem for the Passover.
Jesus: We, too, shall go, but not only to remember our ancestors’ freedom when they left Egypt, but also to start a new liberation. We continue to be slaves, because the pharaohs are still well entrenched in their palaces in Jerusalem. We’ll go there to expose their abuses to their faces, like Moses did!
All: That’s right, Moreno! Very well said, Moreno!
Jesus: Go, tell everyone! All those who want to join us. We’re all going up to Jerusalem….. to set fire to all of them!
In a few days we incited the whole barrio of fishermen to go with us to Jerusalem. A lot of men and women from the neighboring villages of Sepphoris said they would join us. The city of Capernaum was virtually converted into a beehive. Nothing else was talked about except the journey to the capital in that month of Nissan…
Peter: Join us everyone! The time has come to go to Jerusalem! Hey, guy, are you coming or not?
A Man: Of course! I wouldn’t want to miss the action for anything in this world!
Peter: And you, M’am, what’s keeping you? C’mon, make up your mind!
A Woman: You better make yourself clear, Peter, and stop talking nonsense, will you? Tell me, what are you up to in the capital, huh? What the hell are you going there for? To look for trouble, to pray, or to have fun?
Peter: Oh, M’am, I haven’t had the time to think about that yet! But not to worry, because Jesus knows what he’s doing! We’re going with him and… we’ll cross the bridge when we get there! Believe me, neighbor, you will see, this Moreno is the Messiah that our ancestors have been waiting for!
Woman: Hey, what nonsense are you talking about, scoundrel!
Peter: What everyone else is saying, that Jesus will free Israel and he will smash the faces of these scoundrels who have been making a mockery of us! With Jesus on the front-line, we shall capture the capital and all the cities of the country!
Woman: Oh, yeah? If indeed this Moreno is the Messiah, where’s his sword?
Peter: He’s hiding it, damn! If he shows it now, the Romans will make him swallow it and all! Long live the Messiah!
All: Long live the Messiah!
Peter: So, what now, M’am?….. Are you going… or not?
Woman: No, no. I’m not going. I’m sick.
Peter: What an alibi! You’ve got a pair of strong legs to walk to Jerusalem!
Woman: Are you crazy, Peter? You’ll have to carry me then like a sack of flour. No, count me out. I’m sick.
Peter: No, you’re not. You’re just scared, that’s all. M’am, remember that cowards never have a place in history.
Woman: Right, and so much has been written about the valiant ones, but to read about it, they are stiff dead now.
Jesus: Hey, Simeon, c’mon and join us. We need courageous people like you, blazes!
Simeon: I’d like to, Jesus, but…
Jesus: But…. what?
Simeon: My family… You know how it is at home… My mother worries a lot about me…
Jesus: And you worry a lot about your mom. Hey, you’re almost thirty years old, man, and you haven’t cut off that cord yet?
Simeon: Listen, Jesus…… Let me tell my folks about this… so they will understand….. Give me time, will you?
Jesus: Look, Simeon, let me tell you what happened to a neighbor of mine in Nazareth who went to sow and started plowing. While he was plowing the soil, he would turn his head here and there in order to greet everyone passing by the road… and of course, in the end, he got a twisted neck and the furrows were even more twisted.
Jesus: Listen, my friends: if a bricklayer were to construct a tower, wouldn’t he count the bricks first to see if he had enough, so that he would not be left hanging in the middle of the wall? Or if a king declared war against another king, wouldn’t he count his soldiers first? If he had ten thousand soldiers and he found out that his enemy had twenty thousand before the battle started, wouldn’t he send a peace emissary first? Yes, we are going to Jerusalem… but… how many soldiers can we count on?
A Neighbor: Here, count me in! All I need is a uniform!
Jesus: All you need is a pair of sandals and a cane, brother!
Neighbor: Well, then, I’m ready. To Jerusalem, I go!
Jesus: And after that, what?
Neighbor: What d’ya mean?
Jesus: Jerusalem is just the beginning.
Neighbor: I’ll go where you go, don’t worry.
Jesus: Are you ready to leave your nest?
Neighbor: What nest?
Jesus: Your nest. Everything that gives you warmth and comfort.
Neighbor: Oh, that’s another thing. I’m sleeping on a mat.
Jesus: What if we haven’t got a mat?
Neighbor: There ought to be something, a stone, perhaps, to sleep on, I’ll say!
Jesus: And if they take the stone from you?
Neighbor: Then I sleep on my two feet, damn it! Even horses do it, and how!
Jesus: In that case, you’re one of us. Yes sir! We can count on you!
Julius: Hey, Jesus, I wanna go with you too.
Jesus: Well, then, come. Who told you not to?
Julius: No one, but…. I’m scared, that’s the truth. You know, my father was killed when I was a little boy. My mom remained a widow, penniless, and with five mouths to feed. Yes, my father was a brave man, but…. what did he get? That was a long time ago, and yet, as you can see, things haven’t changed ever since…
Jesus: Your father lost his life, but you haven’t. That’s why you shouldn’t lose hope. Otherwise, you’re dead like your father.
Julius: Yeah, that’s it, probably. But, honestly, I’m scared. I know what’ll happen. The closer you are to the fire, the easier you end up burning yourself.
Jesus: But fire gives you light. Indeed, Julius, you gain life by losing it. My father, Joseph, also lost his life when he helped the unfortunate ones fleeing from an unjust murder. His life was short, but it was worth more than that of those who protect themselves. They end up smelling like moths. Have courage, man!
Peter: You can’t trust this guy, Jesus. He looks scared to death.
Jesus: Aren’t you scared, Peter?
Peter: Who, me? Huh! I’ve never been afraid in my life, mind you! Look Jesus, you know how deeply involved we are in this matter of the Kingdom of God. We’ve given up everything, even our fears! These guys who join the bandwagon at the last minute just make me laugh. At first, they looked at us like a bunch of crazy guys. Now, everyone wants to join us in Jerusalem.
Jesus: The more, the better. Don’t you think so, Peter?
Peter: Of course, but…. they should not break ranks! We’ve been rowing the boat for quite sometime now…. haven’t we?…. and when we finally conquer Jerusalem and sing our victory…… something special must be awaiting us, right, Jesus?
Jesus: Something special, Peter?
Peter: You know what I mean, Jesus…. not that I’m interested, but…
Jesus: Oh, I understand. Don’t worry. One hundred for every one…
Jesus: For every problem that you had before, you’ll have a hundred more. A hundred troubles more and a hundred persecutions more.
Peter: Well, Moreno, there’ll be rough and smooth sailing, I say. Everybody loves to sit at the place of honor, no?….
Jesus: Peter, where have you seen a servant seated at the master’s place?
Peter: I haven’t, but…..
Jesus: No talk. All of us, when we accomplish the task entrusted to us by God, will say just one thing: the task is finished, I complied with my duty. Nothing more…
During the week of going to and from Capernaum informing the people, Jesus never grew tired talking to the people…
Jesus: They will accuse us of dividing and inciting the people. Well, it’s true. From now on, there will be division even in the family: if there are five, they will be divided, three against two and two against three, the son against the father, and the daughter against the mother, and the mother-in-law against the daughter-in-law. No one can any longer just wave their arms around. Whoever does not reap, scatters. Whoever does not fight for the poor is against the poor and plays the game of the those who are oppressing the poor.
All: Very well said, Jesus! That’s our man, huh, Moreno?
Jesus: Onward, my friends. Jerusalem is awaiting us! God will be with us in Jerusalem and will deliver us from bondage just as he freed our ancestors from the pharaoh’s yoke! We, too, shall cross the Red Sea and we shall all be free!
We had never seen Jesus speak so ardently as during those days. His eyes glowed like those of John’s, when the prophet cried out in the desert. Like John, Jesus spoke rapidly, as if words were being pressed up his throat, as if time was too short for him to say everything he wanted our people to hear.
The topic about “the time” of Jesus is of utmost significance in the fourth gospel. With this word, John designates the culminating moment of Jesus’ life, initiated by his last journey to Jerusalem. The “time” for John’s theology is the moment when God will intervene in a definitive manner, that of the fulfillment of the Mission of the Messiah (the final hour, eschatological). It is the moment of the glorification of Jesus and the emergence of the Kingdom of God in history. All this grand eloquence may be expressed in this manner: Jesus’ commitment at the time he was baptized in the Jordan will reach its ultimate consequence – the offering of his life. We must not see any tinge of fatalism in this, as if Jesus had prepared himself for this moment and had taken the death road, knowing beforehand what was going to happen to him. No, Jesus had thought of a plan of action and other activities, one of which is seen in this episode, and which eventually would be his ultimate plan: to jolt the foundations of Jerusalem with the Good News of the Kingdom. Jerusalem, the city of contentment and injustice, was the center of religious and socio-political power of that time.
One continuously discovers in the person of Jesus, in his psychology, in his words and actions, a dominant factor: the haste, the urgency. From a purely historical point of view, Jesus is presented to us as a man who believed in the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God. He was convinced that God’s definitive intervention in favor of the poor would be immediately realized, that the final hour was at hand. That is why, for him, every minute was precious. It was this sense of urgency that inspired him to speak the way he did: about the war, the sword and the fire. He tried to awaken the people from their lethargy, those who believed there was plenty of time. A lot of Jesus’ words and parables ought to be situated within this context of crisis which he lived historically. The future and ultimate crisis he saw was imminent and necessary in order for God’s justice to come. This should not make us think of Jesus as an enlightened fanatic, like the prophets of doom roaming our streets and cities, driving our people out of their wits. Nevertheless, one should not forget this vision of Jesus during this period, if we indeed want to remain faithful to the truth transmitted to us through the gospel.
At the time Jesus undertook his last journey to Jerusalem he was already known as a prophet, not only in Galilee but in the capital as well. Jesus had popular support, and the leaders hated him and persecuted him. His going to Jerusalem hinged on two given factors: he knew the risks he was taking; yet he also knew the importance of this prophetic gesture of his to be realized in Jerusalem, in the temple. He was anticipating death, yet he was convinced it would be a triumph for the Lord. He knew that the Kingdom should be won through pain and risks and he was ready to pay the price, trusting fully in his Father’s power. Obviously, this is not fatalism, but a full understanding of the forces at play: courage in the face of perils; blind – but not fanciful – faith in the power of God, who is the most powerful of all.
Within this atmosphere of urgency are found the “vocations” of the three compatriots of Jesus. Of the first, Jesus gives an analogy of the plow. The primitive system of plowing in Palestine demanded full attention of the farmer to his work, since any form of distraction would be adverse to the soil. It is a sign of what is expected of a vocation for the Kingdom: constant commitment regardless of consequences. A frivolous attitude is useless in a risky task. The second vocation demands austerity. There is “no place for one to stay.” One is expected to give up everything: one’s own comfort and tranquillity. Finally, one must be willing to give his or her life (Mt 16:24-26) to overcome the fear of death. Nothing makes one more free. Vocation is a lot more than a vague desire to be good (to be “perfect” as expected at times). It is adjusting one’s life radically to a direction which turns out to be difficult, conflicting and disturbing. Jesus came to bring the sword, not peace (Mt 10:34). The way entails a lot of tension, self-denials and firm decisions; intelligent strategies, too (Lk 14:28-33). Neither should one give much credit to what he or she does (Lk 17:5-10).
Sometimes, “vocation” is perceived to be only a matter for priests and sisters. A greater part of the evangelical texts make reference to those called by Jesus – including those of this episode in relation to the matter of “one hundred for every one” (Mt 19:27-29) – who are monopolized by the religious. This is wrong. Men and women of every social status are called to work for the Kingdom. Each one should do it in accordance with his/her family, social or professional status. Perfection is not greater in the monastery than in the street, nor is there more Christianity in the priest than in a lay person. All gospel texts referring to vocations are about God’s call to all people, from whom Jesus demands the same commitment. This commitment – and Jesus knew this fully well – would bring sorrows and sufferings. There is no need to pursue them; they will be provided by those who are opposed to God’s plan.
When we say that Jesus is a sign of contradiction, this must be taken seriously. That he belongs to the world of the poor, making them the beneficiaries of God’s message of love, makes him the object of scandal. In Jesus’ time he had to clash with the learned and the powerful who could not tolerate what he said and did, to the point – and this was the height of it all – of putting God’s name in the center, making God’s will ultimately responsible for all. Jesus was fully aware of the enmity engendered as a consequence of his actions. (Mt 10:34-35).
(Mt 8:18-22; Lk 9:57-62)