For Lent, I am reading David Seccombe’s account of the last part of Jesus’ ministry from his The King of God’s Kingdom.
In Mark 10:32 we read:
They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem. Jesus was going ahead of them, and they were amazed, but those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was going to happen to him (NET Bible).
Seccombe says it is hard to account for the disciple’s and crowd’s amazement and fear before Jesus makes his death prediction. Within the story as Mark tells it, the amazement and fear anticipate what Jesus will say. But if we put the verse at the beginning of Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem from his hide out at Ephraim, thus connecting Mark and John, the fear and amazement make much more sense.
So our author comes back to the three synoptic gospels to talk about Jesus’ final approach to Jerusalem.
Jesus goes through Jericho. So perhaps the Zacchaeus story in Luke 19 goes here. Also the story of the healing of the blind beggar, Bar Timaeus, goes here (Mark 10:46ff). In Mark the triumphal entry into Jerusalem immediately follows this story.
Luke puts the parable of the Talents or Minas just before the triumphal entry. Jesus tells this story because they were near Jerusalem (Luke 19:11). The parable ends with a king pronouncing judgment on “these enemies of mine” who did not want him to be king (v. 27).
The parable has a king go to a far country and then return to a poor reception (vs. 12-14). Seccombe says the story mirrors the historical event of Archelaus returning from Rome after the death of Herod the Great. Jesus is coming to Jerusalem to establish a kingdom.
Seccombe points out that on the way from Jericho to Jerusalem you pass Herod the Great’s winter palace, which Archelaus repaired. Jesus, he thinks, may have used this as a prop as he told his parable.
Seccombe brings up N.T. Wright’s suggestion that Jesus’ was knowingly enacting and dramatizing prophecies of God’s return to Zion. He is not sure that is quite right. Some have thought that, though Luke sees Jesus kingdom not necessarily immediate, Jesus himself expected a decisive political or apocalyptic event to follow immediately upon his coming to Jerusalem.
Seccombe rejects this. He thinks Jesus was consciously going to Jerusalem to die. He always threw cold water on the disciple’s expectation for an immediate kingdom. The kingdom would come, but not at once.
At this point I am going to raise an issue with Seccombe.
He thinks Luke’s and Jesus’ views were one (p. 497). If questioned about this, he would probably qualify it. The thing is that Luke, because he came a generation later, knew things Jesus didn’t know. Jesus never claimed to know the times and the seasons. But Luke knew about the events of 70 CE and what led up to the Jewish war. He also knew about Paul’s mission to the gentiles.
So to say that Jesus’ view of the coming of the kingdom is one with Luke’s goes too far. There is good evidence that Jesus expected something apocalyptic to happen soon. His ethic was in part an interim ethic that was not going to work if life just went on and the world needed bankers, policemen and new generations of babies.
I don’t know what Jesus expected when he went up to Jerusalem. His prayer-ordeal in the garden points to a lot of uncertainty. He was probably partly wrong in his expectations. Albert Schweitzer’s idea that he expected to usher in the apocalypse by his actions should not be entirely rejected.
It is a theological problem. Many think that to say Jesus may have been mistaken is heresy. We need to ask ourselves how seriously we take the humanity of Jesus. When Paul says that he emptied himself, what does that mean for his participation in the human state of only knowing in part?