When Jesus came up to Jerusalem before his death, he was not a hapless Galillean peasant who would be cut down by a powerful Jewish-Roman elite. He was not simply a healer who was killed because he stirred up crowds and might also stir up revolution in the sensitive land of his day.
Those who believed in him saw him as a great teacher, a “Rabbi” well aware of his times and his tradition. Matthew’s gospel emphasizes his role as teacher. But he was more than that, as Peter testifies in the 9th chapter of Matthew. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
In the chapters of the synoptic gospels preceding his passion, Jesus Christ speaks about the world and its future, the “end times.” In his new book,” Jesus of Nazareth, Part 2,” Pope Benedict calls this part of the gospel the most difficult part to explain.
Jesus sees the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and what follows it. That’s important as he goes to his death.
He sees himself as the new temple. In a new age, when the gentiles are called to believe in him, the old temple will be abandoned. Its sacrifices for sins now take place through the blood of the Lamb. His blood is shed for us and we are united to God through him.
So much of what Jesus does at the Last Supper begins that replacement of the temple and its sacrifices.
The temple and everything about it was dear to him. That’s obvious from what he says about it and his devotion to its worship. Like a mother hen he would have sheltered the Holy City under his wings, but it turned away, as it turned away from Jeremiah and the other prophets.
There are signs up on the buses from Union City to New York City that Judgment Day is coming on May 21st. That’s the word from Harold Camping on Family Radio, who has it all figured out.
The pope’s summary of the end times in his book is so much more nuanced than that of the biblical fundamentalists. He keeps the future mysterious, and repeats Jesus’ message to “stay awake” each day.