It was Passover time in Jerusalem. The streets were filled with vendors, travelers, thieves, beggars, pilgrimers. The city was also alive with religiosity. The Sadducees walked around with their inflated importance. The Pharisees were on each corner praying fervently for the coming of the Messiah. The Zealots were gathering crowds in back streets and exhorting the Israelites to rise up and claim their heritage. The Romans stood watch bemused but ever watchful for inciters of riots or thieves who were causing too much disruption. The vendors were as carnival barkers telling of their wares. Wine merchants, bakers, animals for sacrifice, prostitutes, and sundry of other people all gathered for this great religious event.
Jesus had never been to Passover before in Jerusalem. He had never seen so many people gathered in one space. John was his guide. They had without their parent’s knowledge escaped from the compound of John’s house. They were totally immersed in the hordes of crowd. John had told Jesus if they went he needed to stick close. He was the host and would be held responsible if anything happened to Jesus. But he knew by this time keeping Jesus under control was not going to be easy. John stopped at a vendor and was aghast at the prices and the newest in tassle fashion. “What were we becoming,” John thought, “that price gouging was allowed at Passover.” He turned to voice this to Jesus but he was gone. John had made a wrong turn because of the crowds. He did not recognize the street. He stopped to regain his bearings. But even worse he had lost Jesus. Then he saw them row after row of beggars. The beggars were out in full force this time of year. Beggars knew the Sadducees and Pharisees would have their generosity on full view especially near the temple. It was Passover time in Jerusalem. But where was Jesus.
He looked frantically about. After turning completely around several times he found Jesus only fifteen feet away. He had been right in front of him lost in a crowd of beggars. Jesus blended in so well. Then to John’s horror he watched as a Roman centurion passed by and assuming Jesus was a beggar flipped him a coin with Caesar’s engraved face. John was embarrassed and angered so much by this he ran to Jesus and snatched him up without thinking. John angrily denounced,’ Jesus what are you doing? You are not a beggar. Where is your lunch? Where is your coin purse? You gave it all away to these beggars didn’t you?” Jesus smiled and shrugged sheepishly yes. John continued,’ You share your lunch and coin one day don’t you realize you will never be able to feed them all. And oh my lord you smell like a beggar already. If you are so high minded why don’t you join the Zealots? At least they have a plan for ending this occupation and creating a better world. Maybe they can end the corrupt Roman power structure that creates a beggar. But don’t sit there with beggars and accepting coins from a centurion.”
Jesus calmly replied,’ Gee John stressed much?.” John grimaced at him. Jesus continued,” These beggars should have not be fed and loved but should I had spent my time with some far removed government and not addressed the people right in front of me.” John more relaxed now as he prepared for his usual verbal joust with Jesus, ’Yes but they will be hungry again tomorrow. We must plan and strategize not lower ourselves to beggar’s standards.” Jesus chided,” And tomorrow if someone does not look to change governments but looks to help the person in front of him they will be fed again.” John sternly, “Have not you yourself said the poor will always be with us? Especially if we spend time not looking out for tomorrow.” Jesus nodded his agreement,” but today I was not leading rebellions or advocating for our countrymen. So today was the day to feed and give coin. Who knows maybe tomorrow I will throw all these price gouging vendors out of the temple and start an uprising.” John seeing he was not getting anywhere attempted the last word,” Somebody needs to lead the children out of the Wilderness in to a new Promise land. But we must realize the Wilderness is our home first. And we must demand the Promise Land not beg for it’ “John, we should not look to be yet another leader of the poor. We both know too many people who want to lead. My goal is to show the poor their worth and their power. We cannot do that in temples or on thrones but only by being amongst them.” The conversation was over. They had silently agreed to think on each other’s words.