Today’s text is from John 12:12-36.
The crowd waited with nervous energy as Jesus approached.
A young girl jumped up and down to see who was sitting on the donkey. “Who is that, mamma?” she asked.
“It’s Jesus!” her mother replied.
“He’s the Son of David!” another said.
“He’s here to save us!” said yet another.
The little girl weaved between people’s legs until she reached an opening where tree branches had been spread out to form a road.
As Jesus and his disciples road past she could hear the crowd anxiously saying to one another, “Who is this?”
Others responded, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
The little girl’s eyes opened wide. “A prophet?” she asked her mother.
“Well,” she replied, “that’s what some people are saying.”
And so, the little girl stood anxiously at the edge of the crowd, waiting for Jesus to appear. She imagined a parade of important people would come down the road at any moment. People dressed in royal purple, maybe even wearing jewelry made from gold, with Jesus seated on the back of a horse. Maybe there would be a crown on his head? Maybe it too would be made from gold – with jewels of every color set on it.
His followers would certainly look the part, too. Wealthy, full of power, looking ready to take over the city.
“Mamma,” the girl asked, “is Jesus here to free us?”
“That’s what some people think,” she replied.
“Will he be made the king?” the girl asked.
“Well,” her mother replied, “we shouldn’t get our hopes up.”
But the little girl couldn’t help herself. In the distance she saw the crowds begin to shout and yell – tree branches were being held high in the air – a commotion of people were coming down the palm-strewn path.
“Here he comes!” the girl shouted in excitement. But as the group of people came closer she stood with a puzzled look on her face. No royal robes. No crown. No horse. No wealthy looking followers. No sign that this was a king.
“Is that Jesus?” she asked her mother.
“It must be,” she replied, but even she was lost in thought. Was this really Jesus? The Jesus of Nazareth who they had heard so much about? The Jesus of Nazareth who healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and raised the dead? Was this really him?
“I don’t think that’s a king, mamma,” the little girl said with confusion in her voice.
“No,” she replied. But after a moment of thought she continued, “At least, not our idea of what a king should be.”
Throughout the week Jesus taught at the temple. The little girl and her mother were joined by hundreds who sat patiently and quietly nearby as they took in every word. With each passing day the crowd became larger and larger.
But by the end of the week a dark cloud hung over the city. The mother and her young girl left for the temple like they had all week, but Jesus was nowhere to be found.
“Where do you think he is?” the girl asked. Someone nearby overheard and replied, “He’s been taken to the council of the elders – and Pontius Pilate.”
“Hurry,” the mother said, “we must go and see what is happening.”
They rushed off to find a crowd gathered at the foot of Pilate’s palace.
“What’s happening?” someone asked.
“They’re putting Jesus on trial!” another replied.
“Jesus?” the young girl said. “Isn’t he the one we’ve been listening to this whole week? What did he do wrong?”
“The leaders are saying that he’s been causing trouble in the city.”
“What trouble?” someone asked.
“Something about claiming to be the Son of God. And how he caused a disturbance at the temple the day he came into the city.”
“Well,” another said, “much of what he said goes against our law.”
“He is quite unusual,” the mother said, “and what you say is true – if our leaders think he’s broken some laws then we must trust them.”
“But mamma,” the young girl said, “what’s he done wrong?”
“We’ll just have to trust the council of elders,” she replied. “Look! Here they come!”
The chief priest spoke first: “Listen! This Jesus of Nazareth is a blasphemer! He openly teaches against our laws and against Caesar! He’s going to get us all killed!”
A hush fell over the crowd. The little girl could sense the fear rippling through the hearts and minds of those around her.
“People of Israel,” Pilate shouted to the crowd. “I find no basis for a charge against Jesus. However, during Passover you have a tradition for me to release one prisoner. Do you want me to release Jesus?”
Through fear and anxiety, the crowd shouted together, “No! Release Barabbas!”
“But why, mamma?” the girl asked.
“I’m not sure. But they’re saying he’s causing too much trouble,” she replied.
Others shouted still, “We have a law! According to that law he must die!”
Pilate responded, “Look, I have found no reason to charge him.”
But the chief priest was indignant. “People of Israel!” he shouted, “If we let Jesus go we are no friend of Caesar’s.” He turned to look at Pilate and said, “Anyone who claims to be a king – like this Jesus has done – opposes Caesar.”
Another hush fell over the crowd.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the crowd.
“Take him away! Crucify him!” they shouted.
“But why, mamma?” the girl asked again.
“Because,” she replied, “we must trust what our leaders are saying.”
At this, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified.