James: The hour has come, fellas, the hour of victory!
Simeon: Within three days we’ll be heading for Jerusalem and in three days the capital shall be ours!
Julius: So the traitors to the country had better be ready! Down with the traitors!
Simeon: And with the Romans!
Julius: And the Herodians, too!
James: And the Sadducees too!
Neighbor: Who’ll be left in the city then?
James: Silly man, we’ll all be seated on twelve thrones with the scepter on our knees.
Neighbor: Really, James? Do you think we’ll go this far?
James: I’m certain about it! That’s why I’m going with the Nazarene and with all these people! Cheer up, man! The end of it will be something great! Later you’ll regret for not having come!
Anne: You heard it, comadre. Jesus said there would be trouble in Jerusalem and no stone in the Temple would be left unturned.
Rufina: And then what?
Anne: What else but the sharing of the loot, after the battle! I’ve been setting my eyes on the atrium’s drapes! And the tablecloths, too!
Rufina: Well, I’d settle for one of those candleholders with seven golden angels!
A Woman Neighbor: And what’ll be left for me, huh? The seven little candles? Oh, women!
Every day, more and more neighbors in Capernaum were getting convinced to go with us to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of the Passover that year. I guess everyone had a distinct idea of what was to take place during the holidays. Each one was holding on to a different kind of expectation. But everyone was dreaming of the grand day of liberation of our people….
Julius: Listen, Clete: the heavens will open wide! God will stick out his finger through the clouds and say: That Moreno is the Messiah! Follow whatever he tells you! Do you understand, Clete? He’ll be in the forefront! And we’ll be behind him!
Clete: Behind us are the guards with their cudgels, right? No, no, just leave me in peace. I’m not going anywhere!
Julius: Why not? What if the Lord sticks out his finger….?
Clete: Then let him lick it, I wouldn’t care! Even if you tie me up, I’m not going with you, even if you drag me.
The news of our journey to Jerusalem spread beyond Capernaum, through the valley, from village to village, from door to door, until it reached Nazareth and sneaked into the hut of Mary, the mother of Jesus….
Susana: Mary, Mary! Haven’t you heard? Haven’t your cousins told you anything?
Mary: Yes, Susana. I know it already. Jacob came a while ago, to tell me.
Susana: If Jesus isn’t crazy yet, then he looks like he is! Tell me, Mary, why can’t this Moreno son of yours just stay put? Did you nurse him with milk or with hot sauce?
Mary: They say about seven hundred, eight hundred, a thousand men are joining him. That’s an entire army!
Susana: Of course, an army of ants versus a giant!
Mary: Well, even David fought against Goliath and he won.
Susana: Oh, really? Are you changing your mind now? This is the height of it! Comadre… I’d say I’m smelling something different in this trip.
Mary: What do you mean?
Susana: Politics, revolution…
Mary: Well, if he is in danger, I can’t be at peace here in Nazareth. I’m leaving right away for Capernaum.
Susana: What nonsense are you saying, Mary? Don’t you remember anymore? The last time you went to see him, he sent you away. Jesus won’t listen to you anymore.
Mary: This time, I won’t quarrel with him, Susana, but I’ll be on his side. I’ll help him in any way I can. If necessary, I’ll go to Jerusalem with him, anywhere!
Susana: But, Mary, wait, let me explain….
Mary: Tell me on the road, Susana. You’re coming with me, aren’t you?
Susana: Who, me? But, Mary….!
Mary: C’mon, Susana, hurry up. We’ve got to be on our way before nightfall….
Susana: Holy God, what malady has gotten into me?!
Jesus: But Mother…… and you too, Susana… what are you two doing in Capernaum?
Susana: We’re going with you and your shaggy followers to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem.
Jesus: But, are you out of your mind?
Susana: The only crazy creature here is you, Jesus, but that’s another matter.
Mary: Jesus, son, this seems to be a hot topic. People talk of nothing else but the trip to the capital.
Jesus: Yeah, they just talk and talk…. When the moment of truth comes, how many of them will remain?
Susana: Well, here you have two more ants coming out of the anthill.
Jesus: So I see. But it’ll be better for you to go back to Nazareth. Things are getting more and more complicated and we don’t know the outcome of it.
Mary: Precisely, son. We won’t budge from here. If you go to Jerusalem, we go with you. If you go back to Galilee, to Galilee we go back.
Jesus: But Mother, don’t you realize that…….?
Mary: You’re just wasting your time, Jesus. You didn’t listen to me when I asked you to return to Nazareth, remember? This time, I won’t listen to you either. We’ll all go to Jerusalem together. Come, Susana, let’s talk to Salome, Zebedee’s wife, so she can tuck us in some corner of her house… c’mon…..
It was two weeks before the feast of the Passover, but the townsfolk of Capernaum were already preparing their provisions. Everyone was excited about the trip. That day, when I saw Jesus talking with Peter, I realized he had something else in mind…..
Peter: But, Jesus, how am I gonna say that?
Jesus: Listen to me, Peter. It’ll be better this way.
Peter: But it’s like scaring the horse away even before he crosses the river….
Jesus: It’ll be worse if he gets scared in the middle of the current. We might have the same fate as the pharaoh’s horsemen…
Peter: Okay, okay, if you say so, then I’ll do it. But don’t blame me later. I warned you beforehand.
That night the moon seemed like a big piece of round cake sliced into halves. The barrio folks were gathered with us in the wharf, asking Jesus what we would do when we got to Jerusalem…
Julius: Tell us, Jesus, where do we begin, huh? Shall we start from the Antonia Tower or from Herod’s palace?
Simeon: I’d say, we should first give the fat Caiphas a nice good kick on his ass!
Anne: They will find out how we Galileans are if we are all united.
Neighbor: Last night, I dreamed of the moment we entered Jerusalem, with the banner of the Messiah in our hands! Long live Jesus, Hosanna!
As we became more and more excited, Jesus gave a signal to Peter….
Peter: Well, I dreamed of something else, fellas…
Anne: What was your dream, Peter? C’mon, tell us. A good dream is worth a bowl of nice, hot soup.
Peter: I’d rather not tell you…. anyway, it’s just a dream….
Some: C’mon, tell us! Speak up, man!
Peter: Okay. This was my dream…. We were all walking, walking along a huge valley…. we were walking…. when, suddenly, as we looked up…. we saw a vulture hovering in the sky, above us. And every time he finished doing one circle, another vulture came to join him, and together they flew…. until another vulture came…. and another….. until finally, there were many of them, a flock of black and ugly birds hovering over our heads, waiting….
As Peter said that, all of us swallowed dry saliva. The women looked at each other through the corner of their eyes. Some of us bit our nails, not daring to say anything…. It was Julito, a young man, and a little stupid, who broke the silence…
Young Man: Hey, Peter, that dream of yours…. does it mean anything? C’mon, explain it to us….
Peter: Why don’t you explain it, Jesus? I’m sure you know what it means better than I do.
Jesus: Alright, Peter, I think everyone here understands what it means… Friends, let us not be disillusioned here. The Kingdom of God has its price, which is blood. The powerful men of Jerusalem will make us pay the price. They will never forgive us for what we have done here in Galilee. Neither will they pardon us for what we shall tell to their face as soon as we get to the capital. The wolves roam in the night in search of the flock and they hide and wait for the right moment to pounce on the sheep and smash them. They’ll do the same thing to us. Then, they’ll offer us to the vultures.
Julius: Golly, Jesus, don’t be a killjoy! First it was Peter, and now, it’s you…!
Jesus: Look, we’re not going to a party, but to a fight. The enemy is a lot stronger than all of us. Today we’re here. Tomorrow, we might be in jail. We’re all in danger, and a lot of us will be pursued from town to town. We’ll be dragged before Herod and Pilate, and the high priests will beat us in the synagogues….. and then…… many of us will lose our lives.
Clete: Don’t talk that way, Jesus. We shall all be the victors, with you at the forefront.
Jesus: Precisely, I’ll be the first one to fall. The prophets always perish in Jerusalem.
We all looked at each other restlessly and felt the cold air of the night, like a knife penetrating our flesh and bones. Jesus’ words were of no use anymore, as he continued saying:
Jesus: But don’t be scared, my friends. You don’t have to fear those who kill the body, but not our spirit. God is on our side. God knows even the last strand of our hair and will not allow our struggle to be in vain. Maybe we shall fall in that struggle. But then, we shall bear fruit, like the seed when it falls on the soil.
I was seated on the floor, my head cupped in my hands. When I looked up, I saw Ishmael and his friend, Nephtali, leaving the wharf. The barrio folks, old Simeon, Mam Anne and the twins were quietly slipping away, too. Then, the biggest group of men and women, as if responding to a silent command, suddenly stood up, and disappeared in the night….
Peter: Cowards! May they swallow the devil’s embers for being charlatans!
James: The soldiers retreated before they could put on their uniforms!
Peter: I warned you, Jesus. We Galileans are all chickens. Look how many of us are left behind, twelve, as always!
James: Plus your mother and your neighbor, Susana.
Magdalene: Count me in, of course! Or, aren’t the Magdalenes people, too?
James: What’s this cheap woman doing here?
Magdalene: Like what’re your doing, paisano. I told Jesus I was coming, so here I am. I’m going to Jerusalem with you.
Peter: No one is going with anyone, Mary. There won’t be any trip.
Jesus: Why do say that, Peter?
Peter: Open your eyes, Jesus… Everyone has gone. Only a handful of nothing is left…
Jesus: So what, Peter? Remember Gideon? He went to war with thirty thousand men but only three hundred went forth. The rest had left. They were scared and they surrendered. But the Lord granted victory to that small group. Yeah, we’re only a small flock, but the Lord will raise the shepherd’s staff and protect us from the wolves. Let us not fear: God will be with us in Jerusalem.
James: Are you serious, Jesus?
Jesus: Of course, James. Tomorrow, we’ll be leaving for the capital.
Peter: But it’s still two weeks before the Passover…
Jesus: We’ve got to hurry. We can delay no longer. There are too many spies and surveillance teams around. Hey, fellas, cheer up! God’ll be with us. Jerusalem is awaiting us!
Peter: And the vultures, too!
That night, we all went to sleep startled. After a few hours, when the sun had barely risen, having stretched our arms and legs, we took our walking sticks and knapsacks and headed for the route of the caravans. Capernaum was left behind. The fishermen’s boats were already at mid-sea. Ahead of us was a three-day journey; Jerusalem awaited us.
Jesus’ idea of the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God is not the same as that of his disciples, nor that of his neighbors in Capernaum. Although everyone awaits it, some give it individual considerations, others take it as an opportunity for just revenge against the Romans. Some know not where they are heading; there are others who have a deeper understanding of it. The moment of screening comes, generally, when people begin to see the risks, the dangers and the price to pay. Then the prudent ones, the less convinced, the comfort-loving and the cowards back out of it. Commitment to the gospel is extremely demanding. By the time Christians grow in it, they discover the consequences of such commitment in their life, just as they begin to discover the strength given them by God as God accepts them.
Mary lived this process of growing in faith. Her “yes” to the Lord was an everyday thing, with every new situation she was in. She would not have been a model of our faith or of our hope had she not doubted, had she not taken the risk even if things were not clear to her. At this point of the episode, aware of the risk that Jesus was undertaking in his trip to Jerusalem, she wanted to share this risk with him. She was no longer opposing – as she used to, during the initial activities of Jesus – neither did she passively await what was going to happen. Now she wanted to collaborate. Her faith had matured and reached the decisive point of the process: solidarity in the face of danger.
As he undertook this trip to Jerusalem, Jesus had to consider the possibility of a violent death. His confrontations with the religious authorities in deliberate violation of the Law (specially the Law of the Sabbath, the apex of the social and religious system of the time) had exposed his life to danger. He was fully aware of this. In Galilee, Herod had the authority to have him killed. In fact, he had wanted him killed (Lk 13:31). In Judea, where Jesus went, only the Romans could mete the sentence, but his decision to perform a prophetic act in the Temple had put him in the most grievous danger before the civil authorities, who were very close to the priests.
In Jesus’ time, the people considered the prophets as martyrs, because they were persecuted by the kings of the country. Besides, many of them were killed on account of their accusations against the oppressive rulers: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Micah, Zechariah, were, for the people of Israel, national martyrs. Jesus knew he was to become heir to the prophetic tradition which began with Elijah and continued with John the Baptist. By this time he knew he was a prophet. That is why, without directly seeking death, he could not expect for himself a destiny better than that of the great men of his country.
The gospel tells us that Jesus “predicted” his passion. He even makes three predictions of his passion as more evidence shows that the days of his death are nearing. Caution must be taken in reading these texts, in order not to come to a conclusion that Jesus predicted his own life and death; that he knew beforehand what would happen to him and therefore, suffered “less,” knowing the beautiful denouement of his story… Given that interpretation, we dehumanize Jesus, converting his death and resurrection into a theatrical play. Being fully human, he was aware of the risks, though he would not know the exact circumstances. And being fully human, he was amazed at the circumstances, and would try to modify them. Everything seemed to indicate, for example, that Jesus thought he would be stoned to death (Mt 23:37), that he would be buried as an offender in a common pit (Mk 14:8); that immediately after his death, his disciples would also suffer violent persecution and death (Lk 22:35-38). Likewise, he thought that God would not allow his downfall, that God would not abandon him. Had he thought that way, then his anguish on the cross could not have been explained. But things did not happen as he had imagined: Jesus died, though not by stoning, was interred in a dignified sepulcher and the Jewish authorities left his group in peace. All this tells us that Jesus, indeed, considered the possibility of a violent end, nothing more. His awareness of danger cannot be construed as an infallible prediction of everything that was to happen to him. Jesus’ death happened in history, subject to actual, historical circumstances, although they could have been otherwise. The passion and death of Jesus are historical events. They are not the fatal fulfillment of the design of a God detached from history, nor the result of predetermined “prophecies.” These events are the fruit of human freedom. Jesus was free when he risked his life deliberately engaging in his awareness-raising activities for months, especially his actions in the Temple. The people who killed him were free. In the passion, no one is God’s puppet, but human freedom including murderers and the murdered victim for the sake of justice, are put at play.
(Mt 10:16-33; Mk 11:9-13; Lk 12:4-12; 21:12-19)