When the King Came: Stories from the Four Gospels - George Hodges

On the Way to Jerusalem

The raising of Lazarus made so much excitement that our Lord felt obliged to go away. He knew of the determination of the Pharisees and Sadducees to kill him: but his hour was not yet come. He retired, therefore, to a place called Ephraim, among the northern hills of Judea, on the borders of a rocky wilderness. There he stayed with his apostles, preparing himself and them for the final and fatal visit to Jerusalem.

Winter was now over, and spring had come. All the trees were green with tender leaves, and flowers were growing by the side of all the little brooks. It was the season of the Feast of the Passover, and for this feast our Lord was waiting. He knew that Jerusalem would be full of people. They would come from all the land, from Judea, and from Galilee, and from Perea, from the towns in which he had spoken his blessed words of wisdom and had done his gracious works of wonder. At that day, in that city, the whole nation would be represented Then and there, accordingly, the King would come. The King of Glory had now made it plain what kind of a kingdom he proposed to establish, and he would present himself to his people that he might be accepted or rejected.

He foresaw how it would be. He told a story once about a man who planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time: and at the season, he sent a servant to the husbandmen that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard; but the husbandmen beat him and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty. Again he sent a third, and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the lord of the vineyard, "What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be they will reverence him when they see him." But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, "This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours." So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. You see what he meant. The planter was God, the husbandmen were the Jews, the servants were the prophets who had come with messages from God and had been stoned, the son was the Son of God. Jesus knew that they would do to him what the wicked husbandmen did to the lord's son in the story.

But the day came, and he started on his last journey. He steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. He walked before along the road, and the apostles walked behind; and they were amazed to see him. On he went as a hero advances into battle. They had never seen him look like that before. "It cannot be," they said one to another, "that he is going to defeat. He would not walk with such a step as that towards death." And they began to lift up their hearts, thinking that in Jerusalem they might find a crown and not a cross. But he turned about and spoke to them in the old way, saying the old words, repeating what he said that day when they had all recognized him as the King of Glory. "Behold," he said, "we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on; and they shall scourge him, and put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again." But even now they did not understand.

Indeed, so far were they from understanding, that two of the apostles, James and John, made now a strange request. Their mother was in the company, with Mary Magdalen, out of whom our Lord had cast seven devils, and other good women, who ministered to our Lord and to the Twelve; and the two brothers, being perhaps ashamed to go themselves, persuaded the mother to ask the King for the best places in his kingdom, one for James and one for John. "Grant," she said, "that these my two sons may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom." They still thought that the King of Glory would be the ruler of Jerusalem, that he would have a court and a palace, and would sit upon a throne of gold. The two fishermen wished to sit on gold thrones also. The ten were much displeased when they heard of this request of the two, for they, on their side, had a mind to occupy high seats in the new kingdom. But our Lord called them all together, and taught them the true meaning of greatness. "Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." Greatness, he said, does not consist in having many servants, but in being, one's own self, the servant of many people.

One day, on this journey to Jerusalem, mothers came bringing young children to him that he should touch them, and his apostles rebuked those who brought them. The apostles were altogether too active in keeping people away from our Lord; as, indeed, many of their successors have been. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased. He said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein." The little children, simple and natural and affectionate and truthful, had the spirit which the Sadducees and Pharisees so sadly lacked. And he took the little ones in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

Another day, as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men who had a grievous sickness. They were lepers. They had a disease which begins with a little sore spot on the skin, and keeps on spreading till the leper is worse than dead. People said that it was like sin, which begins with some small, wrong act, or even thought, and unless it is stopped, grows on and on into dreadful disaster to both soul and body. And because it was a symbol of sin, and also because it was catching, the leper had to live apart from other people. When he went along the road, he must cry "Unclean! unclean!" so that whoever was coming might take warning and get out of the way.

Ten of these poor men, brothers in misery, met our Lord as he came to the first house of this little village. They stood afar off, not venturing near, and lifted up their weak voices and cried altogether, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." For they had heard that he was kind, even to lepers. And when he saw them, he said, "Go show yourselves unto the priests." For the priests were the Board of Health. The rule was that if any leper felt that he was cured, he must go to the priests in the temple and let them examine him that they might make sure of his condition, whether he was really well or not. So our Lord said, "Go show yourselves unto the priests."

But the men were still lepers. They were not in the least cured. Why, then, should they go to the priests? If they had been like some people, they would not have gone a step. Sometimes even small children, when they are told by their parents to do this or that, say, "Why? What for?" But the lepers asked no questions. Straight they started, fast as they could go on their feeble legs, to find the priests in their office in the temple. And as they went, they were cleansed. Step by step, as they made their way along the Jerusalem road, their pains were eased, their sores were healed, and their skin began to grow like the skin of a little child, and they were well. By doing what the Lord had said, setting their faces in the right direction and keeping on, they were cleansed. So that here also their leprosy was like sin, which is overcome more and more by every good deed that the sinner does.

They were cleansed then; should they go on or turn back? Nine of them went on. That was what they were told to do, and they did it. They went to the priests and showed themselves, and the priests pronounced them cured, and they returned to their homes. No doubt their hearts were full of gratitude as they were full of joy. But they said nothing. Of the ten, only one turned back. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at our Lord's feet, giving him thanks. And he was a Samaritan; he was one of those whom the priests and the ministers despised. And Jesus said, "Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? They are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger." And he said unto him, "Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole."