I’m reading Pope Benedict XVI’s “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week,” which treats of his journey into Jerusalem to his resurrection. The pope introduces the book by saying he’s not going to overwhelm us with the historical questions that so many of the studies about Jesus concentrate on today. By reducing Jesus to his history, we can miss his presence with us today, he says.
Still, Benedict is obviously trying to incorporate into his study the work of recent scriptural scholars which give us renewed appreciation of Jesus Christ.
He begins with the different approaches to his journey to Jerusalem found in the gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke describe one journey. John’s gospel describes three journeys to the Holy City, beginning with the ominous one where he overturns the tables in the temple, which creates a growing suspicion among the Jewish leaders that he’s a danger to Judaism and its temple.
Jesus “ascends” to Jerusalem. His ascent is concrete, first of all. From the Sea of Galilee, 690 feet below sea level, to Jerusalem almost 2,500 feet above sea level. But he “goes up” to Jerusalem in a spiritual sense as well. He makes his way to the Jerusalem which is above, the “new Jerusalem,” and he brings his followers with him, beginning with the twelve but then with others who join him on the way.
As he goes through Jericho, also a symbolic city of journeys, he meets the blind man, Bartimaeus, who shouts out “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” When Jesus calls him over and gives him his sight, he says to Bartimaeus, “Go on your way; your faith has made you well.” And the man begins to “follow him on the way.”
The pope doesn’t overwhelm us either with obvious conclusions from the scriptural sources. They tell us that others joined Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, in great numbers, including this poor blind man, who follows him on the way.
And what about us, as well? The crowd around him try to shout him down, but the blind man keeps calling. “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” Surely, we are among those who call and follow.
I downloaded the pope’s book from Amazon and I’m reading it on my iTouch. I’m trying to discover the limits and possibilities of ebooks these days of Lent. So far, so good.