The King of Stories -- A Triumphant Scourging of Rebellious Figs

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.)

Since these next two 'chapters' are relatively short, I am presenting them both together, so that later I can divide the longest remaining 'chapter' into two entries.

The King's Triumphant Entry (5 days until the end...)

Now on the next day...

Jesus was passing through one city and village to another (around Jerusalem?), teaching and proceeding, going in toward Jerusalem. [See first comment below for a footnote here.]

And someone said to Him, "Master, are there only a few who are being saved?"

And He said to them:

"Struggle to enter through the short and narrow door; for I tell you, many will seek to enter and will not be strong enough, once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door.

"But you will be standing outside, beginning to knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord!--open up to us!'

"But He will answer, declaring to you, 'I do not know you! Where are you from?'

"Then if you start by saying, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets--!'

"He will also declare, 'I tell you, I do not know you! Where are you from? Go away from Me, all you workers of injustice!'

"There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you are seeing Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God--but you yourselves being cast out.

"And they will be coming from east and west and north and south, and will recline (to feast) in the kingdom of God!

"But look!--they are the last who will be first, and first who will be last."

Just at that time ('in that same hour'), some Pharisees came up, saying to Him, "Go away and leave here! For Herod (Antipas, in Jerusalem for Passover week) wants to kill you!" (probably a bluff; Herod is quite interested in Jesus and even would like an audience with Him...)

But He said to them, "Go and tell that jackal: 'Behold!--today and tomorrow I cast out demons, and perform cures... but the third day, I am completed!'

"More than this, I must be journeying on today and tomorrow, and the day that is coming; for it is not credible that a prophet should perish outside Jerusalem."


(All the Storytellers combine in harmony, to tell what happens next...)

Now it happened, that when He approached Jerusalem (again, later the same day), and had arrived at Bethphage near the hill called Olivet (or Olive Grove Hill), He sent two disciples, saying, "Go into the village opposite you (probably meaning from Bethphage into nearby Bethany, also mentioned here in some accounts), in which as you enter you will instantly see a tied donkey, and with her a colt on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie, and bring them. And, if anyone asks you, 'What is this you are doing?!', you say this, 'The Lord has need,' and he will send them straight away back here."

And those who were being sent went away, and found it just as He had told them, tied at the door outside in the street; and as they were loosing the colt, its masters who were standing nearby said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" And they said, "The Lord has need of it," just as Jesus had told them, and they gave their permission.

Now they brought the donkey and the colt to Jesus, and they threw their garments (outer tunics) on the colt, and mounted Jesus on it.

And this took place (adds the Disciple and the Evangelist) that what was spoken through the prophet (Zechariah) might be fulfilled, saying:

Say to the daughter of Zion,
'Fear not, daughter of Zion!
Behold!--your King is coming to you,
gentle and mounted on a donkey colt,
the foal of a beast of burden!'

Not that His disciples understood these things at first (the Evangelist explains), but when Jesus was glorified, then they recalled that these things (from Zechariah and Isaiah) had been written of Him, and that they themselves had done these things to Him.

[Note: The ancient symbolism being employed here, is that a king riding into a city which has been warring against him comes in war on a horse, i.e. intending to sack the city and treat it as spoils; but if on a colt, then he comes in peace in regard to that city, offering mercy and alliance. Herod and Pilate, by contrast, had probably entered Jerusalem already with great panoply and, in Pilate's case, also with military force.]

Now the great multitude of common people who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem, cut soft branches from the trees and foliage in the fields and went out to meet Him.

As well, the people who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead (several months earlier), were bearing Him witness. For this cause also, then, the multitude went and met Him: because they heard that He had done this attesting miracle.

Now as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began praising God as they rejoiced with a ringing voice for all the works of power they had seen!

And as He was going, they were spreading their garments in the road; and most in the multitude were spreading their garments in the road (as well), or else laying down the branches in the road.

And the multitudes going before Him, and those who followed after, were crying out, saying:

"Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! 'Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord'! (singing one of the Psalms) Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Peace in heaven!--and glory in the highest!!"

But some of the Pharisees from the multitude said to Him, "Rabbi! Rebuke your disciples!"

Yet He answered and said: "I tell you, if these become silent, 'the stones will cry out'!" (quoting the prophet Habakkuk, regarding the praise of earth to God--routinely interpreted by the rabbis to mean the pagan nations of the earth.)

The Pharisees therefore said to one another, "You see you are doing no good... Look!--the world has gone after Him!"


when He approached and saw the city (through the gates), He wept over it...


"If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace--! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.

"For the days shall come upon you, when your foes will throw a siege-bank up around you, and surround you, and be hemming you in on every side... and will level you, and your children within you...

"...and they will not leave in you one stone upon a stone... because you did not recognize the time of your visitation...

"O Jerusalem... Jerusalem...!"


Now when He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, "Who is this?!" And the crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee!"

And He went into the Temple; but after looking all around, He departed for Bethany with the Twelve, because it was already late.

Matthew 21:1-11
Mark 11:1-11
Luke 13:22-33
Luke 19:29-44
John 12:12-19

The Scourging of the Rebellious Figs (4 days until the end...)

Now in the morning (says the Follower), on their way from Bethany (back into Jerusalem), He hungers.

And seeing at a distance along the road one fig tree with leaves, He went in case He might be finding any in it.

Yet coming up to it, He found nothing but the leaves, for it was not the season of figs.

In answer to this, He said to it, "By no means may anyone be eating fruit of you into the eon."

And His disciples heard.


Now they are coming into Jerusalem.

And Jesus, entering the temple, begins throwing out those selling and buying in the Temple (just as on His previous Passover visit two years ago); and He overturns the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of the dove-sellers. And He refused to let anyone carry (even) a pitcher through the Temple! (Thus shutting down sacrifices altogether for the day.)

[Plotnote: keep in mind that the Sadducean party, led by Annas and his family, including son-in-law Caiaphas, had convinced the Sanhedrin to use the Court of the Gentiles, which was supposed to be reserved for non-Jews to worship YHWH, as a conveniently local place for moneychanging and the selling of sacrificial animals. They had also moved the Sanhedrin's regular meeting courts to a nearby chamber. Jesus has already made it clear two years earlier, that this was not acceptable to God, which many of the leaders especially among the oppositional Pharisee party took to be a prophetic sign. But here they are, back again, preventing Gentiles from worshiping God in peace.

Moreover, during the previous scourging of the Temple, related by the Evangelist, Jesus had declared the lesser charge that they had turned the Temple into a merchant-house. Since they're back at it again, though, after being warned--which could only have happened by the permission of the chief priests--Jesus now calls them rebels: 'lestes', like the brigands defying Rome. (Whether the moneychangers and vendors had been allowed back into the Court of the Gentiles before now is irrelevant; even had they been put back in the intervening years, Jesus has simply chosen this Passover holiday to make the charge of rebellion against the lawful authority of God.)

Ironically, the Temple will in fact literally become a 'den of rebels', against the Roman Emperor--invested, and infested, by the coming of the Zealots--forty years later during the siege of Jerusalem.]

Now He taught and said to them, "Is it not written (in Isaiah the prophet) 'My house shall also be called a house of prayer for all the nations'!? But you make it 'a den of rebels'!!" (as the Lord God said to Jeremiah the prophet--before sending armies to destroy Jerusalem and carry the people of Israel into exile...)

And the chief priests and the scribes hear; and they sought how they should be ruining Him; for they feared Him because the entire crowd was astonished at His teaching. But they couldn't find anything to do, for the crowd was hanging on Him.

And the blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple (adds the Disciple), and He cures them.

But the chief priests and the scribes, seeing the marvels He does, and the boys shouting in the Temple "Hosanna to the Son of David!", resent it--and say to Him, "Do you hear what these are saying!?" [Footnote: doubtless noticing, among other things, the boys' use of a military title.]

Yet Jesus is saying to them, "Yes!--did you never read (in the Psalms) that 'From the mouth of youths and babies You are tuning praise!'?" (i.e. praise for God Himself)

Now during these days He would spend His time teaching in the Temple, but when it came to be evening, they went outside the city to Bethany, lodging (or 'camping') there on Olive Grove Hill (possibly at the olive press up in the groves rather than in Bethany itself; the pressworks would be deserted at this time of year, out of season, and might be safer than staying in a house at Bethany.)


Now as they were going along in the morning (3 days until the end), they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. And being reminded, Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered!"

And Jesus said to it, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you."

Now seeing this, this disciples marveled, saying, "How did the fig tree wither at once?!" (If the tree had been slain the morning before, it might take this long for the effects to show enough for the disciples to notice.)

And Jesus answered saying to them, "Trust in God. Truly I tell you, if you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this black mulberry (an inferior fig), 'Uproot and plant in the sea', and it would obey you."

Now the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!!"

Yet the Lord said, "Truly I tell you, whoever says not only to this fig tree, but to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea', and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be to him!

"Therefore I tell you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe you have received them, and they shall be to you.

"But--whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in the heavens may also forgive you your transgressions.

"Now--which of you, having a slave plowing or herding, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come by at once and recline (for supper)'?

"But will he not say to him, 'Prepare a thing for me to eat, and gird yourself and serve me till I am eating and drinking; and after these things you may eat and drink'?

"Does he thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded?! I presume not!

"So, you too, when you do all the things which are commanded to you, say, 'We are slaves of no profit; we only do what we ought to do.'"

Matthew 21:12-22
Mark 11:12-26
Luke 17:5-10
Luke 19:45-48

[Next time: With All His Understanding (3 days until the end...)]


Jason Pratt said…
....... [first deferred footnote here]

An interesting hole appears in the story math here. GosJohn is quite clear that the Triumphal Entry--mentioned by all canonical Gospels--occurs the day after the supper with Lazarus in Bethany; a claim not directly contradicted by other accounts. (Their language leaves plenty of leeway for this. GosMatt and GosMark put the dinner later in their story order, but without direct timing cues; indicative of a topical port.) GosMark quite clearly, in an offhanded matter-of-fact way, tells us that on the day of the Triumphal Entry, Jesus goes to the Temple, but then turns around and goes home without doing anything other than looking all around, because it was already quite late; the (second) cleansing of the Temple (reported in all three Synoptic accounts) happens the next day.

So what is Jesus doing until late Sunday afternoon? He is already in easy walking range, spending the night at Bethany, just over across Olivet Hill, where He normally lodges while near Jerusalem.

All three Synoptic authors are also quite clear that He is coming to Bethany and Bethphage on this Sunday, right before the entry; and that He knows of provisions that have been made for the entry.

The math (assuming per historical hypothesis that we take details seriously wherever we can, unless one detail clearly contradicts another) gives us a picture of Jesus going somewhere most of Sunday. Where to, and what for?

Although I cannot give a certain answer, I have chosen to fill this hole with a piece of GosLuke, set while going toward Jerusalem. It has thematic linkages to the sermons given on the Jericho Road the past couple of days; and it links in several suggestive ways to being near this time and place.

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