O Jerusalem,
Painted by Greg Olsen,
Painted in 2005,
Oil on canvas,
© Greg Olsen Artist

O Jerusalem,
Painted by Greg Olsen,
Painted in 2005,
Oil on canvas,
© Greg Olsen Artist

Gospel of 11 March 2020

Jesus was going up to Jerusalem

Matthew 20:17-28

Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, and on the way he took the Twelve to one side and said to them, 'Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans to be mocked and scourged and crucified; and on the third day he will rise again.'

Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came with her sons to make a request of him, and bowed low; and he said to her, 'What is it you want?' She said to him, 'Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.' 'You do not know what you are asking' Jesus answered. 'Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?' They replied, 'We can.' 'Very well,' he said 'you shall drink my cup, but as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father.'

When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, 'You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'

Reflection on the Painting

Let's look at the opening words of our passage today: 'Jesus was going up to Jerusalem'. Yes, we are in Lent and Christ's Passion will soon be upon us. His walk to Jerusalem is heavy with foreboding. Jerusalem is on a mountain (as nicely illustrated in our painting today), so Jesus and the disciples are literally "going up" to get there, as our passage tells us. They will arrive in Jerusalem in the very next chapter (Matthew 21). It is the place where ultimately He will be betrayed by His disciple, delivered to his enemies, suffer injustice, mockery, humiliation, insults, and finally face a horrible death… Jerusalem, the place where He will fulfil the purpose of His life…

A bit further on in our passage Jesus predicts His Passion and that He will rise on the third day. But the disciples consistently fail to understand these Passion predictions. They just don't get it. They may have grown overconfident that if Christ was truly the son of God, He would not have to go through any of this… Our painting by Greg Olsen shows a pensive Christ, looking at Jerusalem, with its magnificent temple, and understanding what is awaiting Him there. The orange sky tonalities show it is the end of the day: night is coming upon Christ soon… very soon…

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