The King of Stories -- Dinners and Proposals

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

Dinners and Proposals (7 and 6 days until the end...)

Now entering Jericho (says the Scholar, on the way westward to Jerusalem), He was passing through.

And look!--a man whose name is called Zaccheus, and he was chief of tax collectors (for the area) and he was rich!

Yet he sought to see who Jesus is, and was not able for the crowd, for he was short in height.

[Plotnote: also indicating that the crowd had no respect for him, despite (or because!) of his position in the community.]

Now running on ahead, he climbed up on a mulberry-fig, in order to see Him, seeing that He would be passing through that way.

[Plotnote: a relatively short tree with very thick foliage; Zaccheus is trying to hide from being seen by the crowd, so that he will not be mocked by them. Moreover, this probably takes place somewhere outside city limits, as Jewish cities had strict prohibitions about trees in the city--because their branches might be considered a tent, and thus any sin committed beneath them would ritually defile anyone entering their shade. This means the tree would be only allowed to grow well-away from the road, too. Zaccheus can safely look out through the branches without much fear of being seen by the crowd--they'll avoid getting near to the tree, especially in a town close to the Arabian border! True, doing this means he would run the risk of being considered ritually cursed by God, ‘hanging on a tree’; but what the heck, he’s a collaborator with the Romans, so he’s already cursed by God in their eyes!]

But as He came on to the place, looking up, Jesus saw and said to him: "Zaccheus! Hurry! Come on down! I will lodge tonight with you!" (literally 'today I must be staying at your house')

[Plotnote: Jesus has apparently gone through the whole town without stopping, even though the citizens went out to welcome Him in--and in their culture they would have honored Him by preparing a place for Him to stay. This is a subtle indication that Jesus had planned to stay with Zachheus, the hated tax-collector, from the start. Also notice the subtle implication that Jesus must have gone over to the tree, to pointedly look up at the man in the branches.]

And he hurried and came down, and received Him with rejoicing!

But seeing this, they (the crowd) began to growl among themselves, saying, "He has gone to find His lodging with a man who is a sinner!"

Now Zaccheus stood (in place, on realizing what the crowd was saying; or perhaps later during the dinner as part of his formal gratitude to Jesus), and said toward the Lord: "See here!--half of all I own, I am giving to the poor! And if from anyone I am receiving anything by force, I am giving back four times as much!"

And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation came into this home; because he also is a son of Abraham!

"For the Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost."

Now while they were listening to these things (says the Scholar), He went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they were supposing that instantly God's kingdom would appear.

He said, therefore:

"A certain nobleman went to a distant country, to receive the kingdom for himself (as from the Emperor) and then return.

"Now calling ten slaves, he gave to them ten minas (one per slave, each worth about 100 daywages), saying to them, 'Go do public business while I am gone.'

[Plotnote: the implication here is that these servants are expected to loyally fly the flag for the nobleman until his return, publicly doing business in his name.]

"Yet his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him (to the Emperor), saying, 'We do not prefer for this man to be reigning over us!'

"Now it happened that when he returned--having obtained the kingdom!--he said to call to him these slaves to whom he had given all that silver, that he may know what business they have done.

"And along came the first, saying, 'Lord!--your mina earns ten minas!'

"And he said to him, 'Well done, good slave! Because you have been faithful in a very little thing, be in authority above ten cities!'

"Now the second came, saying, 'Your mina, Lord, makes five minas!'

"And he said to this one also, 'Now you shall be over five cities!'

"But a different one came, saying, 'Lord, look here!--your mina, which I reserved within a handkerchief! For I was scared of you, seeing that you are so harsh a man... You take up what you did not set down!--and are reaping where you did not sow!'

"Yet he says to him: 'I shall judge you as you have said, you wicked slave! You knew I am a harsh man?--taking up what I did not set down and reaping where I did not sow?! Yet why did you not give my silver to the bank, that I may gather it with interest when I am coming!?'

"And to those standing by, he said: 'Take the mina away from him, and give it to the one who has ten minas!'

"But they say to him, 'Lord, he has ten minas (already)!'

"For I am telling you, that to whomever is having, shall be given; but from the one who is not having, shall be taken from him what he does have.

"'However, these my enemies (says the king), who are not willing for me to reign above them--

"'--lead them here, and slay them in my presence!'"


[Plotnote: the Follower, Scholar and Disciple, all relate the following story in different ways.]

Now it (had) happened, while He was approaching Jericho, that He (had) healed a blind man begging by the roadside, who (had) asked Him to open his eyes.

But (the next morning, six days until the end) as He was departing Jericho with His disciples and a numerous crowd... Look!--a(nother) blind beggar, Bartimaeus--the son of Timaeus (explains the Follower for his audience)--is sitting by the road.

Now, hearing a multitude going by, he began inquiring what this might be; and they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was going by.

And when he heard that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by, he began to cry out saying, "Jesus, son of David, be merciful to me!"

Now many of the ones in front (of Jesus) were sternly rebuking him, telling him to quiet down; yet he kept on crying even louder: "Son of David, be merciful to me!!"

[Plotnote: to be fair to the rebuking ones, they might have known that Jesus was not fond of being addressed by a militant Messianic title.]

And Jesus stood still, and said, "Call him"; commanding that he should be brought to Him.

And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Courage! Get up! He is summoning you!"

Now casting aside his cloak, and leaping up, he came toward Jesus!

And when he had come near, Jesus answered him by asking, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

And the blind man said, "To recover my sight, Rabboni! ('my master' or 'beloved teacher')"

Now Jesus, moved with compassion, touched his eyes (as he had done to the other beggar), saying to him, "Receive your sight! Go! Your faith has saved you!"

And immediately he regained his sight--and was following Him on the road (along with the other blind man), glorifying God; and when the people all saw this, they gave praise to God.

But having said all these things (in Jericho), He went in front, going up into Jerusalem.


Then (says the Evangelist, together with the Follower and the Disciple for this story) six days before the Passover (night), Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was--he who had died, whom Jesus raised from death. The crowd knew He was there, and they came, not only because of Jesus, but so they might be acquainted with Lazarus also, whom Jesus raised from the dead.

And the chief priests (adds the Evangelist parenthetically) are also plotting that they should be killing Lazarus as well, for many Jews went because of him and trusted in Jesus.

So they make for Him a dinner there, in the house of Simon the Leper; and Martha served. And Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him.

Now as He reclined at the table there, a woman came--Mary of Bethany (as the Evangelist clarifies)--having an alabaster vase (or chest) of pure nard attar, a full troy pound in weight, very costly, very precious.

And crushing the alabaster (so that the container can never be used again), she pours (all the liquefied spice) down His head.

She rubs the feet of Jesus (adds the Evangelist), wiping off His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the attar.

[Plotnote: remember, Jesus is reclining at a table when this happens. Attar doesn't naturally work its way down to the feet of a reclining man. Mary has massaged it down His body--starting a wedding night ritual there at the table, in front of God and everyone (so to speak!) The parallels between this incident and the earlier one reported by the Scholar are probably entirely intentional; but this is ramped up even further. Interestingly, that earlier incident happened in the home of a Pharisee named Simon; who complained about the woman's actions. Simon the Leper (healed of his leprosy?) doesn't complain; but the disciples do--although not strictly as if they're surprised she would behave in this extremely shocking fashion!]

Now some of His disciples growl among themselves, resenting this, and Judas (son) of Simon Iscariot--the one of His disciples who is about to betray Him--is saying, "Why was this attar destroyed!? It could have been sold for three hundred daywages, and given to the poor!"

But he said this (adds the Evangelist), not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, having the moneybox yet also lifting what was cast into it.

[Plotnote: meaning Judas is the first and only named 'bishop' in the canonical texts, ironically! Being accountant of the treasury collection for helping the poor, became the first official function of bishops, or 'shepherds', in the early church.]

Yet Jesus said: "Leave her alone!! Why are you bothering her!? For she works a very good work in Me! You always have the poor with you, and you can always do good for them whenever you want; yet Me you will not always have.

"She makes use of what she has; for she gets to smear My body with attar for My burial, beforehand.

"And truly I tell you: wheresoever this good news may be proclaimed in all the world, what she does shall also be told...

"in memory of her."

Matthew 20:29-34
Matthew 26:6-13
Mark 10:46-52
Mark 14:3-9
Luke 18:35-43
Luke 19:1-28
John 12:1-11

[Next time: A Triumphant Scourging of Rebellious Figs (5 days until the end...)]


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