This crisis leads at once into the final stage, the murderous rejection
. Jesus is now a fugitive from the province of Judea, because the death plot has been deliberately settled upon. The southern leaders begin a more vigorous campaign of harrying Him up in Galilee. A fresh deputation of Pharisees come up from Jerusalem to press the fighting. They at once bring a charge against Jesus' disciples of being untrue to the time-honored traditions of the national religion. Yet it is found to be regarding such trivial things as washing their hands and arms clear up to the elbows each time before eating, and of washing of cups and pots and the like. Jesus sharply calls attention to their hypocrisy and cant, by speaking of their dishonoring teachings and practices in matters of serious moment. Then He calls the crowd together and talks on the importance of being clean inside
, in the heart and thought. Before all the crowds He calls them hypocrites. It's a sharp clash and break. Jesus at once |withdrew.| It is the fourth time that significant danger word is used. This time His withdrawal is clear out of the Jewish territory, far up north to the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, on the seacoast, and there He attempts to remain unknown.
After a bit He returns again, this time by a round-about way, to the Sea of Galilee. Quickly the crowds find out His presence and come; and again many a life and many a home are utterly changed by His touch. With the crowd come the Pharisees, this time in partnership with another group, the Sadducees, whom they did not love especially. They hypocritically beg a sign from heaven, as though eager to follow a divinely sent messenger. But He quickly discerns their purpose to tempt Him into something that can be used against Him. The sign is refused. Jesus never used His power to show that He could, but only to help somebody.
The fall of that year found Him boldly returning to the danger zone of Jerusalem for attendance on the harvest-home festival called by them the Feast of Tabernacles. It was the most largely attended of the three annual gatherings, attracting thousands of faithful Jews from all parts of the world. The one topic of talk among the crowds was Jesus, with varying opinions expressed; but those favorable to Him were awed by the keen purpose of the leaders to kill Him. When the festival was in full swing, one morning, Jesus quietly appears among the temple crowds, and begins teaching. The leaders tried to arrest Him, but are held back by some hidden influence, nobody seeming willing to take the lead. Then the clique of chief priests send officers to arrest Him. But they are so impressed by His presence and His words, that they come back empty-handed, to the disgust of their superiors. Great numbers listening believe on Him, but some of the leaders, mingling in the crowd, stir up discussion so sharp that with hot passion, and eyes splashing green light, they stoop down and pick up stones to hurl at Him and end His life at once. It is the first attempt at personal violence in Jerusalem. But again that strange restraining power, and Jesus passes out untouched.
As he quietly passes through and out, He stops to give sight to a blind man. Interestingly enough it occurs on a Sabbath day. Instantly the leaders seize on this, and have a time of it with the man and his parents in turn, with this upshot, that the man for his bold confession of faith in Jesus is shut out from all synagogue privileges, in accordance with a decision already given out. He becomes an outcast, with all that that means. It's a fine touch that Jesus hunts up this outcast and gives him a free entrance into His own circle.
After this feast-visit to Jerusalem, Jesus probably returns to Galilee, as after previous visits there, and then one day leads His band of disciples up to the neighborhood of snow-capped Hermon. Here probably occurs the transfiguration, the purpose of which was to tie up these future leaders of His, against the events now hurrying on with such swift pace. From this time begins the preparation of this inner circle for the coming tragedy so plain to His eyes.
Then begins that memorable last journey from Galilee toward Jerusalem through the country on the east of the Jordan. With marvellous boldness and courage He steadfastly set His face toward Jerusalem. The ever-tightening grip of His purpose is in the set of His face. The fire burning so intensely within is in His eye as He tramps along the road alone, with the disciples following, awestruck and filled with wondering fear. Thirty-five deputations of two each are sent ahead into all the villages to be visited by Him. What an intense campaigner was Jesus! He was thoroughly, systematically stumping the whole country for God.
As He approaches nearer to the Jerusalem section the air gets tenser and hotter. The leaders are constantly harrying His steps, tempting with catch questions, seeking signs, poisoning the crowds -- mosquito warfare! He moves steadily, calmly on. Some of the keenest things He said flashed out through the friction of contact with them. A tempting lawyer's question brings out the beautiful Samaritan parable. The old Sabbath question provokes a fresh tilt with a synagogue ruler. There is a cunning attempt by the Pharisees to get Him out of Herod's territory into their own. How intense the situation grew is graphically told in Luke's words, they |began to set themselves vehemently against Him, and to provoke Him to speak many things; laying wait for Him to catch something out of His mouth.|
Though unmoved by the cunning effort of the Pharisees to get Him over from Herod's jurisdiction into Judea, despite their threatening attitude, the winter Feast of Dedication finds Him again in Jerusalem walking in one of the temple areas. Instantly He is surrounded by a group of these Jerusalem Jews who, with an air of apparent earnest inquiry, keep prodding Him with the request to be told plainly if He is really the Christ. His patient reply brings a storm of stones -- almost. Held in check for a while by an invisible power, or by the power of His presence shown under such circumstances so often, again they attempt to seize His person, and again He seems invisibly to hold their hands back, as He quietly passes on His way out of their midst.
Then comes the stupendous raising of Lazarus, which brings faith in Him to great numbers, and results in the formal official decision of the national council to secure His death. He is declared a fugitive with a price set upon His head. Anybody knowing of His whereabouts must report the fact to the authorities. This decides Him not to show Himself openly among them. In a few weeks the pilgrims are crowding Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus' name is on every tongue. The rumor that He was over the hills in Bethany takes a crowd over there, not simply to see Him, but to see the resurrected Lazarus. Then it was determined to kill Lazarus off, too.
That tremendous last week now begins. Jesus is seen to be the one masterly figure in the week's events. In comparison with His calm steady movements, these leaders run scurrying around, here and there, like headless hens. The week begins with the most public, formal presentation of Himself in a kingly fashion to the nation. It is their last chance. How wondrously patient and considerate is this Jesus! And how sublimely heroic! Into the midst of those men ravenous for His blood He comes. Seated with fine, unconscious majesty on a kingly beast, surrounded by ever-increasing multitudes loudly singing and speaking praises to God, over paths bestrewed with garments and branches of living green, slowly He mounts the hill road toward the city. At a turn in the road all of a sudden the city lies spread out before Him. |He saw the city and wept over it.|
|He sat upon the ass's colt and rode
Toward Jerusalem. Beside Him walked
Closely and silently the faithful twelve,
And on before Him went a multitude
Shouting hosannas, and with eager hands
Strewing their garments thickly in the way.
Th' unbroken foal beneath Him gently stepped,
Tame as its patient dam; and as the song
Of 'Welcome to the Son of David' burst
Forth from a thousand children, and the leaves
Of the waving branches touched its silken ears,
It turned its wild eye for a moment back,
And then, subdued by an invisible hand,
Meekly trod onward with its slender feet.
|The dew's last sparkle from the grass had gone
As He rode up Mount Olivet. The woods
Threw their cool shadows directly to the west;
And the light foal, with quick and toiling step,
And head bent low, kept up its unslackened way
Till its soft mane was lifted by the wind
Sent o'er the mount from Jordan. As He reached
The summit's breezy pitch, the Saviour raised
His calm blue eye -- there stood Jerusalem!
Eagerly He bent forward, and beneath
His mantle's passive folds a bolder line
Than the wont slightness of His perfect limbs
Betrayed the swelling fulness of His heart.
There stood Jerusalem! How fair she looked --
The silver sun on all her palaces,
And her fair daughters 'mid the golden spires
Tending their terrace flowers; and Kedron's stream
Lacing the meadows with its silver band
And wreathing its mist-mantle on the sky
With the morn's exhalation. There she stood,
Jerusalem, the city of His love,
Chosen from all the earth: Jerusalem,
That knew Him not, and had rejected Him;
Jerusalem for whom He came to die!
|The shouts redoubled from a thousand lips
At the fair sight; the children leaped and sang
Louder hosannas; the clear air was filled
With odor from the trampled olive leaves
But 'Jesus wept!' The loved disciple saw
His Master's tear, and closer to His side
He came with yearning looks, and on his neck
The Saviour leaned with heavenly tenderness,
And mourned, 'How oft, Jerusalem! would I
Have gathered you, as gathereth a hen
Her brood beneath her wings -- but ye would not!'
|He thought not of the death that He should die --
He thought not of the thorns He knew must pierce
His forehead -- of the buffet on the cheek --
The scourge, the mocking homage, the foul scorn!
|Gethsemane stood out beneath His eye
Clear in the morning sun; and there, He knew,
While they who 'could not watch with Him one hour'
Were sleeping, He should sweat great drops of blood, Praying the cup might pass! And Golgotha
Stood bare and desert by the city wall;
And in its midst, to His prophetic eye
Rose the rough cross, and its keen agonies
Were numbered all -- the nails were in His feet --
Th' insulting sponge was pressing on His lips --
The blood and water gushed from His side --
The dizzy faintness swimming in His brain --
And, while His own disciples fled in fear,
A world's death agonies all mixed in His!
Ah! -- He forgot all this. He only saw
Jerusalem -- the chosen -- the loved -- the lost!
He only felt that for her sake His life
Was vainly given, and in His pitying love
The sufferings that would clothe the heavens in black Were quite forgotten.
|Was there ever love,
In earth or heaven, equal to this?|
And so the King entered His capital. It was a royal procession. Mark keenly the result. Again that utter, ominous, loud silence, that greeted His ears first, more than three years before. He had come to His own home. His own kinsfolk received Him not!
Then each day He came to the city, and each night, homeless, slept out in the open, under the trees of Olivet, and the blue. Now, He rudely shocks them by clearing the temple areas of the market-place rabble and babble, and now He is healing the lame and maimed in the temple itself, amid the reverent praise of the multitude, the songs of the children, and the scowling, muttered protests of the chief priests. Calmly, day by day, He moves among them, while their itching fingers vainly clutch for a hold upon Him, and as surely are held back by some invisible force. By every subtle device known to cunning, crafty men, they lay question-traps, and lie in wait to catch His word. He foils them with His marvellous, simple answers, lashes them with His keen, cutting parables and finally Himself proposes a question about their own scriptures which they admit themselves unable to answer, and, utterly defeated, ask no more questions. Then follows that most terrific arraignment of these leaders, with its infinitely tender, sad, closing lament over Jerusalem. That is the final break.
Then occurs that pathetic Greek incident that seems to agitate Jesus so. This group of earnest seekers, from the outside, non-Jewish world brings to Jesus a vision of the great hungry heart of the world, and of an open-mindedness to truth such as was to Him these days as a cool, refreshing drink to a dusty mouth on a dry hot day. But -- no -- the Father's will -- simple obedience -- only that was right. The harvest can come only through the grain giving out its life in the cold ground.
Before the final act in the tragedy Jesus retires from sight, probably for prayer. Some dear friends of Bethany in whose home He had rested many a time, where He ever found sweet-sympathy, arranged a little home-feast for Him where a few congenial friends might gather. While seated there in the quiet atmosphere of love and fellowship so grateful to Him after those Jerusalem days, one of the friends present, a woman, Mary, takes a box of exceeding costly ointment, and anoints His head. To the strange protests made, Jesus quietly explains her thought in the act. She alone understood what was coming. Alone of all others it was a woman, the simple-hearted Bethany Mary, who understood Jesus. As none other did she perceive with her keen love-eyes the coming death, and -- more -- its meaning.
It is one of the disciples, Judas, who protests indignantly against such waste. This ointment would have brought at least seventy-five dollars, and how much such a sum would have done for the poor! Thoughtless, improvident woman! Strange the word didn't blister on his canting lips. John keenly sees that his fingers are clutching the treasure bag as he speaks the word, and that his thoughts are far from the poor. Jesus gently rebukes Judas. But Judas is hot tempered, and sullenly watches for the first chance to withdraw and carry out the damnable purpose that has been forming within. He hurries over the hill, through the city gate, up to the palace of the chief priest.
Within there was a company of the inner clique of the leaders, discussing how to get hold of Jesus most easily. They sit heavily in their seats, with shut fists, set jaws, and that peculiar yellow-green light spitting out from under their lowering, knit brows. These bothersome crowds had to be considered. The feast-day wouldn't do. The crowd would be greatest then, and hardest to handle. Back and forth they brew their scheme. Then a knock at the door. Startled, they look alertly up to know who this intruder may be. The door is opened. In steps a man with a hangdog, guilty, but determined look. It is one of the men they have seen with Jesus! What can this mean? He glances furtively from one to another.
Then he speaks: |How much'll you give if I get Jesus into your hands?| Of all things this was probably the last they had thought might happen. Their eyes gleam. How much indeed -- a good snug sum to get their fingers securely on his person. But they're shrewd bargainers. That's one of their specialties. How much did he want? Poor Judas! He made a bad bargain that day. Thirty pieces of silver! He could easily have gotten a thousand. Judas did love money greedily, and doubtless was a good bargainer too, but anger was in the saddle now, and drove him hard. Without doubt it was in a hot fit of temper that he made this proposal. His descendants have been coining money out of Jesus right along: exchanging Him for gold.
Only a little later, and the Master is closeted with His inner circle in the upper room of a faithful friend's house in one of the Jerusalem streets, for the Passover supper. A word from Him and Judas withdraws for his dark errand. Then those great heart-talks of Jesus, in the upper room, along the roadway, under the full moon, maybe passing by the massive temple structure, then under the olive trees. Then the hour grows late, the disciples are drowsy, the Master is off alone among those trees, then weird uncertain lights of torches, a rabble of soldiers and priests, a man using friendship's cloak, and friendship's greeting -- then the King is in the hands of His enemies. An awful night, followed by a yet more awful day, and the plan of the kingdom is broken by the tragic killing of the King.