by miriam berg
Chapter XII

(John 12:12-19)
Finally, after an indeterminate period of flitting back and forth between Jerusalem and Galilee and making enigmatic remarks about going where the others could not come, John reports Jesus as making a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, hailed by the people as a prophet. Now this event is confirmed by the Synoptics, as the first time Jesus has come to Jerusalem, including all the details of the palm branches and the quotations from Isaiah and Zechariah. There it has significance as the beginning of Jesus' final confrontation with the Jewish rulers; but it cannot be interpreted as having any significance other than as a grandstand stunt in John where it is the fourth time Jesus has come to Jerusalem. It is also notable that in the Synoptics Jesus is not reported as claiming any significance for the homage of the people, but merely says that if he makes them keep quiet then the very stones will cry out; and he quotes from the Psalms about praise from the mouths of babes. John the narrator however comments that this entry was in fulfilment of prediction, and that the people did so because of the "sign" that he had performed, but Jesus himself is reported as making no comment.

Mark and the other Synoptists report that the first act of Jesus upon his coming to Jerusalem was to cast out commerce from the temple, but John reports that incident at the beginning of Jesus' career. Now it is plausible that it was indeed the first act of Jesus' career, and that Mark and the others have simply misreported it in their timetable of Jesus' life; but their entire account is so coherent, each confirming the other in the general outline of Jesus' life, beginning with traveling and teaching round about the Sea of Galilee, continuing with the trip to Jerusalem, and culminating with his confrontations there with the priests and elders and his death, that it is difficult to read them as having reported their story as events chosen at random. In fact, does it not make more sense for the cleansing of the temple to have occurred as the Synoptics report it, upon Jesus' final entry to Jerusalem, rather than for Jesus to have done so and then to have gone back and forth and back and forth afterward, as John reports? Does not the John's gospel look like the one which consists of events chosen at random, one in Jerusalem, one in Cana, then another in Jerusalem, another in Galilee, rather than as the Synoptics report it? Does not this further indicate that John is at best composing his gospel out of bits and snippets he has heard, and filling Jesus' mouth with his own (John's) interpretations and explanations and offering his own (John's) comments besides?

(John 12:20-50)
Then Jesus is reported as discoursing with certain "Greeks", not Jews, about the glorification of the Son of man. The logic of these passages is difficult to follow: it reads like a collection of epigrams: about a grain of wheat, about losing your life to find it, about following and serving Jesus, and finally a weak plea to escape "this hour". Now certainly similar epigrammatic statements occur in the Synoptics: and in particular this last plea is the only statement we have encountered in John's portrayal which shows any human quality in Jesus, such as he shows in his prayer in Gethsemane. It is, however, spiritless and dull by comparison: Jesus is reported as continuing to see his life merely as a play which he is acting out: "For this cause came I unto this hour." Contrast this with the scene reported in Matthew, Mark, and Luke:
My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death;
Abba, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt. (Mark 14:34-36)
Clearly, John interprets Jesus as carrying out a fore-ordained plan: but he is refuted by Mark and the others, who show Jesus in great agony, in Luke as sweating drops of blood, over his impending death. This is yet another passage where John's picture of Jesus as a divine being falls far short of the Jesus of great humanity and power shown by Mark, Luke, and Matthew.

We can note here that John reports the Passover as following immediately Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, whereas some of the choicest bits of Jesus' repartee with the priests and elders are reported in the Synoptics as occurring inbetween: the challenge to his authority by the rulers, many parables about political conditions, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, the riddle of the resurrection, Mark's version of the giving of the Great Commandments reported also in Matthew, Jesus' koan regarding the Messiah being the Son of David, the discourse condemning the practices of the scribes and Pharisees, and the discourse predicting the destruction of Jerusalem, not one of which is reported in John. This still further confirms the dramatic nature of the rendering given by John of Jesus' life: the triumphal entry into Jerusalem followed immediately by the Last Supper, the arrest and trial, and his death. Whose timetable shall we accept? The travels in Galilee with a final visit to Jerusalem as told by the Synoptics, or the shuttling to and from Jerusalem as told by John? "Now I am here, the King of Israel," John would have us believe Jesus said; while Mark and Luke report that Jesus asks, "Why callest thou me good? none is good, even God," to a questioner who addresses him as Good Master. "Blessed, rather, are they which hear the word of God and keep it," he replies (Luke 11:27-28) when a woman cries out from the crowd that he is blessed. Surely this last bit shows conclusively that in Jesus' mind the "word of God" and his own person were separate; how can anyone believe otherwise?

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