John 11:55-12:11 (spring AD 30, the week before Passion Week)
So far we have spent a week’s worth of devotionals covering Jesus’ first couple of years, skipped most of his next 28 years, and then gone through three years of his ministry in 80 days. Starting tomorrow, over the following 36 devotionals we will think about the final week before Jesus’ death and – very briefly – the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension. Although our readings are a consolidation of the gospels, omitting duplicated narratives, this heavy weighting towards the Passion Week is consistent with the emphasis of the gospel writers themselves. John for example, spends what became over 11 chapters on 33 years of Jesus’ life, then nine chapters on just one week.
All of that makes today’s reading one that is full of foreboding. Jesus was nearing Jerusalem on his final journey, surrounded by the hazy, darkened minds of his friends.
Previously, Jesus spoke to the many people who “thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once” (Luke 19:11). They were waiting for the final confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees – a conflict with all the escalation on one side. What would the Pharisees do to Jesus? What would Jesus do to the Pharisees? To the Romans? They would be disappointed by the lack of confrontation, and many would join the mob who were happy to see Jesus killed rather than have the Pharisees mad at them.
Just outside Jerusalem was the small town of Bethany where Jesus stayed and ate with dear friends. Over dinner, Judas Iscariot betrayed…not Jesus, yet, but his own greed, complaining about the expensive perfume that Mary poured on Jesus’ feet. Jesus saw his heart and would have grieved. He saw the hearts, too, of the “large crowd of Jews” (v.9) who came to see Jesus and the once-dead Lazarus, excited to see the Galilean miracle-worker and influential figure. So influential that the morally repulsive men who ruled the country mercilessly, made specific plans for the murder of Lazarus, whose resurrection was doing nothing for their sense of control over the people.
Suspicion become concern, concern into opposition, opposition into hostility, hostility into persecution, persecution into murderous intent. And here, murderous intent into specific plans for a double-killing.
So your Saviour went to bed that night, grateful to his Father for all the “Jews [who] were going over to Jesus and believing in him” (v.11). As he lay there, he knew that the very next day he would walk slowly, deliberately, publicly, into a den of lions, among whom he would sit and allow sinful nature to take its course.