Translation and commentary on John’s Gospel
So when the large crowd of Judeans realised that Jesus was there, they came not only on his account, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus too, for because of him many Judeans were going off and putting their trust in Jesus.
The next day the large crowd that had come to the festival, when they heard that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem, took branches of palm tress and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the Lord’s name, yes, the King of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as the scripture says,
“Do not be afraid, Daughter of Zion!
Look, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt!”
His disciples did not understand these matters at first, but when Jesus was made splendid they recollected that these things had been written about him, and had happened to him.
Now the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead, maintained its witness to him. (The crowd that went to meet him did so because they heard that he had done this miraculous sign.) As a result the Pharisees said to one another, “Recognise that you’re achieving nothing; look how the world has gone after him!”
Indeed, there were some Greeks amongst those who came up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip who was from Bethsaida in The Galilee, and asked him, ” Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus responded, “The hour has arrived for the Humane Ruler to be honoured! Amen, amen I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears lots of fruit. The one who loves his life will lose it, but the one who hates his life in this world, will keep it in the Age to Come. If anyone serves me, let her follow me, so that where I am, there my servant will also be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour her.”
This passage is about the recognition of Jesus by two groups, the Judeans and the so-called Greeks.
The Judeans recognise Jesus as the one who has raised Lazarus, that is, as the bringer of the life of the Age to Come into the world now. Lazarus, who is depicted by the writer as the representative of mortal humanity, becomes part of the recognition of Jesus by some and of the rejection of Jesus by others. The religious leaders are planning to kill the bringer of life and the mortal human being who has been given new life by him!
However they have to wait as the crowd welcomes Jesus as the King prophesied in Jeremiah 9:9, the who comes in humility riding on a donkey to bring peace by removing the weapons of war from Jerusalem. Such a king would be a threat to Israel’s holy warriors and to the Roman imperialists. This writer is unambiguous in having the crowd welcome Jesus as Israel’s king. The writer notes that the understanding of prophecies as applying to Jesus, only came gradually in the life of the believing community. Given the hostility between Christians and orthodox Jews, especially after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, the determination of Christian Jews to hold on to the Jewish Scriptures as essential to the understanding of Jesus, is impressive.
The Pharisees are made to note that the world has gone after Jesus. This ironic admission is immediately followed by the incident of Greek speaking pilgrims to Passover declaring their interest in Jesus. The little dance of disciples in response to their request is meant to remind the reader of the calling of the first disciples; and Jesus’ words show him taking the visitors as signs that his hour has come, when he as the Jewish seed will “fall into the earth and die” in order to be fruitful throughout the Gentile world. Those who love their tradition and security too much to put them at risk will come to nothing; while those who can sacrifice both for God’s future will share the life of God’s kingdom. Those who serve Jesus have to be ready for this sacrifice. To the dismay of comfy Christians, the Gospels are united on this point.