Easter 2022

Christ is Risen! Yes, in fact, in deed, in truth, He is Risen from the dead!  Entombed on Good Friday, He is alive today!  For us in 2022, His sufferings still tell us that He, Jesus, paid the debt of our sins - Original Sin and personal sins.  His resurrection proves His divinity - He is the Son of God. His Father is God, my Creator.

Palm Sunday is in truth the Introduction to, the Part I of, the Prelude to Easter Sunday. Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecy of Zechariah (Zc 9:9). His entry into the Holy City seems an oriental version of a victory parade. Jesus sent two disciples to fetch a colt for his ride into the Holy City. All 4 evangelists mention the colt, and once Jesus had mounted the animal “the whole group of disciples joyfully began to praise God at the top of their voices for all the miracles they had seen – ‘Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Enthusiasm is contagious! The apostle Matthew recalls “the whole city being in turmoil, people asking ‘Who is this?’ The crowds answered ‘this is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee’ and ‘great crowds of people spread their cloaks on the road he would pass and others cut branches of trees to line the way.’

But Jesus’ thoughts were elsewhere.  “As He drew near and came in sight of the Holy City, Jesus wept and lamented aloud – “If only you (the city) had understood on this day the message of peace, but alas it is hidden from your eyes,” and Jesus then foretells the horrific destruction of Jerusalem (this happened in 70 AD - less than 40 years from that first Palm Sunday!)

SS Matthew, Mark and Luke each tell of a banquet the night before, when Judas was worsted by a woman whose extravagance Judas criticized and Jesus defended. To these three Evangelists this incident tipped the scales: Judas had enough of the apostolic group. Judas could deliver Jesus into the hands of the Jewish chief priests and they would pay him 30 silver pieces. The bargain was sealed – by money! The banquet and betrayal follow in just that sequence.

Matthew, Mark and Luke are the synoptic Gospels – giving the overall picture. St John is different. John has memory like a large canvas holding a grand picture which tells the whole story, with details affecting those he loves, friends dear to his heart. Only St. John mentions Lazarus and the incidents concerning him.

“There was a man named Lazarus who lived in the village of Bethany. Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Then Lazarus died - Jesus wept over his friend’s death - so that the Jews remarked:  ‘See how much he loved Lazarus’. Jesus went to the grave, shouted aloud: LAZARUS COME FORTH and the corpse, 4 days entombed, emerged, still bound in the burial shroud.  

This miracle upset the Jewish authorities and ignited a plan: kill Lazarus and so discredit Jesus.  St. John identifies Caiaphas the High Priest as prophesying that one man (Jesus) must die to save the nation from destruction by the Romans. (How wrong Caiaphas was. The Temple and City were razed precisely because they were unable, unwilling to recognize their Messiah -Jesus Christ!)

To Simon of Bethany, a local magnate and leading Pharisee, restoring Lazarus to life, Lazarus their friend, dead and buried for four days! was a huge event, and it demanded a celebratory banquet.  Saturday, the Sabbath, was the chosen day. Jesus and Lazarus were guests of honor. Martha, sister of Lazarus, served and Mary “did her thing”- she poured costly perfume on the feet of Jesus, provoking Judas’ criticism of such waste. Then Jesus intervened and defended Mary’s extravagance as a preparation for His own burial. Judas was humbled and fumed… an idea, a desire to betray Jesus came easily.

The historical story ends. These are the events.  It all happened.  The number of persons in the Gospel narrative is small, and their lives appear so interwoven, so closely compenetrated, that while each is focused on Jesus of Nazareth, the differences are unclear. How will it all end? By the end of the week, after the Resurrection, the lines of loyalty will be clear.

The Gospel of St John is the jewel of Community of John (the Beloved Disciple). Scholars say that the Community of the Beloved Disciple merged with the Great Church of 180-313 AD.  After 313 we have the Church of Rome (St Peter) and the Byzantine Church of Constantinople and St John.

Even today, in the Byzantine Church, the Palm Sunday Gospel starts with Lazarus and the supper at Bethany and proceeds to the Procession of Palms. During the 40 days of Paschaltide (in the Byzantine Church) John’s Gospel is mandatory with 6 exceptions – the feast of an Apostle, or St John the Baptist. Thought-provoking, but for another day.