Chapter 28.1 Last Journey
Dedication A.D. 29 to last journey A.D. 30
(about three and a half months from winter to early spring)
Christ Blessing the Children, original oil painting on canvas by Bernard Plockhorst, before 1938
Christ Blessing the Children, original oil painting on canvas by Bernard Plockhorst, before 1938
(CLICK on the image above for a LARGER version)

Emergency Meeting of High Council

Next morning at dawn, the Pharisees and chief priests called an emergency meeting of the high council. These grim-faced men sat in their meeting hall on the west side of the Temple complex and discussed the crisis posed by Jesus’ activities, climaxed by raising Lazarus from the dead. Their decision would profoundly influence the future of Israel and their leadership—and unknowingly, the world.

“What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. If we leave him alone, the whole nation will follow him, and then the Roman army will destroy both our Temple and nation.”

Caiaphas called the meeting to order and explained the critical situation, “Yes you are right about these things. If we permit him to keep on with miracles and signs like this, he will have everyone believing he is the Messiah. We cannot allow a revolt against our own authority. It would certainly cause the Romans to attack us. But I have an idea. Why should the whole nation be destroyed? Let this one man die for the people.”

There was a murmur of agreement.

The high priest continued, “We must now cooperate with each other, come up with a plan, and take action that would cause the Nazarene to be put to death. The charge against him must appear legal and necessary in order for Pilate to approve it.” He did not say this of his own accord, but was prophesying that Christ would die for the nation; not only for the nation alone but to gather together the scattered children of God.

A small minority protested, including Nicodemus and kindred spirit Joseph of Arimathea, who were secret believers; but they were shouted down. So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death.

Nicodemus and Joseph quickly dismissed themselves from the meeting. On their way home, Nicodemus whispered, “We must get word to the Master. I know where he is and will send a message to him.” When he reached home, he sent for his most trusted servant, also a believer, “Give this message to Jesus in Ephraim, ‘The leading members of the Sanhedrin are plotting your death.’”

After receiving his friend’s secret message from the servant, Jesus smiled. It had required much courage by both men, and he was pleased with their faith. With his disciples, the Lord immediately left Ephraim, traveling along the border of Samaria to a safer place in Galilee.

When the group arrived at Peter’s house, some of the apostles and followers made visits to family and friends to prepare for the Passover. At sunrise, two weeks before the feast began, those who were going to Jerusalem with the Savior on his final journey gathered around the apostle’s home.

Parable of Persistent Widow

While they were waiting for the remaining festive family groups to join them, Christ told this story to illustrate their need for constant prayer and to show that they must never give up, no matter what the circumstances. “There was a judge in a certain city who was a godless man with great contempt for everyone. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, appealing for justice against someone who had harmed her. The judge ignored her for a while, but eventually she wore him out. ‘I fear neither God nor man,’ he said to himself, ‘but this woman is so great a nuisance that I will give her justice before she wears me out with her persistence!’”

The Teacher applied it to his listeners, “Learn a lesson from this evil judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end, so God will surely give justice to his chosen people who plead with him day and night.”

As soon as he finished speaking, he looked up and saw a group of followers from Galilee and surrounding areas coming toward them. Joanna and Chuza were there; Salome, mother of Apostles James and John; Mary of Magdala; the Lord’s mother with James, oldest of Christ’s half-brothers who was now head of the household. Present too was Mary, wife of Clopas and mother of James the younger and Joseph (Joses).

Then the caravan set out for Jerusalem with the crowd expecting Christ to assume his rightful position as Messiah. Jesus’ demeanor didn’t do anything to dispel that impression—at first. He walked at the head of the procession and seemed eager to reach their destination. From Capernaum, they headed south hugging the lakeshore, crossed the Jordan below it onto the east side in Decapolis, and then headed south along the bank toward Perea. Travel was slow, for as always a throng had gathered along the road, begging the Savior to heal the sick and have mercy upon the afflicted. Never having denied help to those in need, he healed them all. That evening they camped outside one of the Greek cities.

Story of Pharisee and Tax Collector

Jesus noticed some who were sure of their own goodness and looked down on everyone else, so he told a story about self-righteousness versus humility in prayer. “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector.

“The proud Pharisee stood by himself and said this prayer, ‘Thank you God that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there. For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’” Never were words of thanksgiving spoken in less thankfulness than these. Because of his self-righteousness, the Pharisee did not consider himself to be a sinner and felt no need for repentance or humility.

“The tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he felt only need for forgiveness, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored.”

Those to whom the story was directed went back to their camp and slept on its meaning.

Christ and Children

By next evening, the caravan was just inside the border of Perea. It was still early and mothers, believing in the Master’s touch of power and holiness, brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples objected, thinking how contrary this was to Jewish notions and how incompatible it was with the supposed dignity of a Rabbi. They told the parents not to bother the Master.

When the Lord saw what was happening, he was very displeased with the Twelve, “Let the children come to me. Do not stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you, anyone who does not have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.” In order to enter in, Christ’s followers must learn to receive it as a little child. There could be no distinction or intellectual qualification; but only humility, receptiveness, meekness, and simple trust.

Jesus took the children into his arms one by one; the babies and toddlers, and the older children with their gifts and treasures. He held each one and placed his hands on their heads, blessing them as though the child was his greatest treasure—and to him and the mother, it was. Each mother had suffered and risked death to give physical life, and he was about to suffer and die to give spiritual life. It was a scene of unspeakable tenderness; and so unlike anything Jewish legend would ever have invented for its Messiah. He folded these little ones in his arms until they fell asleep in the approaching darkness, thus forever consecrating that child’s life which a parent’s love and faith had brought to him. Peace in the valley reigned this one night.

After a few more days of traveling, teaching, and healing in Perean towns, they spent the night outside the Fords of Jordan. Where John had first baptized him at Bethany beyond Jordan to his last journey, the Anointed One had come full circle. For the final time in John’s rock pulpit, all the following day he taught and healed the multitudes while they rested.

In the pulpit, the compassionate Teacher and Healer in the homespun robe changed to a dynamic speaker. His voice echoed against the hills as John’s had before him, but he spoke words they had never heard before about the coming Kingdom of God. His words took on an authority and urgency that stirred and troubled the hearts of many of his listeners. Some even came to him afterwards to hear more; a few put aside their work and began to follow him.

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