Sunday, March 4, 2012

Luke, Chapter 19: Equus

Jesus comes to Jericho, where his number-one fan, a rich tax collector named Zacchaeus, is eager to meet him. But Zach is small and the crowd is big, so he climbs into a sycamore tree to see better. Jesus sees him up there and tells him to come down. He also invites himself to stay at Zach's house. The people see this and are shocked, not because Jesus is too cheap to pay for a hotel room, but because tax collectors are seen as the corrupt tools of the Roman occupation. It's hard to argue, given that the dude's rich.

But Zach is one of the good billionaires who gives away half his earnings to the poor. Jesus promises he's going to heaven.

The people have the crazy notion that the apocalypse is going to happen soon. To soothe them, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who becomes even more wealthy when a relative dies abroad and leaves him his estate. So the rich man goes off to survey his domain and leaves his servants in charge, with 10 pounds for emergencies. As soon as he goes, his send word that they no longer intend to be ruled by him. Nonetheless, he is made king and eventually he comes back to see how his servants have put his money to work.

The first servant has managed to decuple his pound into 10 pounds. The lord makes him mayor of 10 cities. The second has managed to quintuple his money, and is given 5 cities. But the third has kept his pound tied up in a napkin. He digs himself even further into a hole by explaining that the master is a hard man who reaps what he doesn't sow. The master admits as much and says if the servant knew that, why didn't he at least put the money in the bank, where it might have earned some usury (v. 23). He orders the pound given to the guy with 10 pounds, and says unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him (v. 26) and then But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me. (v. 27) Which is just about the only thing this year's Republican presidential candidates have not had to promise yet.

Jesus walks on, eventually reaching the Mount of Olives. He sends one of the disciples off in search of a tree with a colt tied to it. If anyone asks, they're stealing the colt because Jesus needs it. Handily enough, the colt's owners do see them, but are oddly cool with people running off with their horse and claiming it's for a divine purpose. When they get back with the horse, they throw their garments over the horse's back, and everybody else throws their clothes down in front of the animal. Remember that Jesus has told people that they can only have one outfit, so what this must have been is a group of naked, singing people throwing their clothes down so a horse can walk over them. Though one suspects that this is just another day in Jerusalem.

The Pharisees try to get him to be reasonable, saying if they're going to run around naked throwing their clothes under a horse, at least do it quietly so they can get some work done, but Jesus says if the people shut up, the stones will start singing, turning this into even more of a Monty Python sketch than it already is. When Jesus sees the city, he starts to cry about how they wouldn't listen to reason and no he has no choice but to unleash armageddon. Then he arrives at the temple and starts throwing all the merchants out and starts preaching instead. The senior priests are mighty ticked off and start plotting against him.

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