The Triumphal Entry
Amos shaded his eyes against the rising sun as he looked out over the wares he and his father had stockpiled for the feast. The faithful had been arriving in Jerusalem for several days and now, on the day that the Passover lamb was to be chosen, the city had swelled to many times its normal population. Jews and proselytes from all over the world had converged on the holy city and every one of them would require food during their stay. It was that need that Amos and his father Samuel counted upon. As one of the most successful merchants in Judea, Samuel had the resources necessary to prepare for the annual festival. As a result his considerable wealth was further enhanced with the coming of each of the required feasts.
Samuel suddenly appeared, walking quickly, weaving in and out around the piles of merchandise. A gaggle of servants trotted behind him listening carefully as he rattled off rapid fire instructions.
"Dathan ben Judah will need a full portion of dates" he snapped his fingers in the direction of a group of baskets full of the dry fruit. "Jonah ben Heli will want raisin cakes and a half portion of dates." The old man continued to fire off directives as he wound his way through the produce. Occasionally one of the servants would drop out of the procession and begin to shout orders to others as they loaded the foodstuffs onto donkeys for delivery to the city's vendors.
Suddenly Samuel stopped in the middle of the overflowing courtyard. He looked around with an expression of surprise on his face and then unexpectedly clapped his hands together and shouted. "Why are you all standing about like fools?! Hurry - the vendors are waiting - the people are waiting! If you want to eat tonight, then you best make sure that the people eat first! Now go!"
There was an instant of silence and then the courtyard seemed to explode into movement and sound as every servant within sight rushed forward to load an animal with goods. Then just as suddenly, the courtyard was empty and the servants hurried out into the city to make their deliveries.
The old man stood looking out the gate for a moment, hands on his hips. He shook his head and then turned. He seemed surprised to see his son standing at the far side of the courtyard.
"Amos, where have you been?! I cannot locate the fish you brought in yesterday. Azariah ben Gourdon will need at least - "
"They are there behind you father" Amos replied with a smile.
The old man spun on his heel and stared at the baskets of fish. His hands flew to his head in a gesture of despair. "Aiee! I have no one left to see that they are delivered to my vendors - " he turned back toward his son. "Amos, will you please load a donkey and see that - "
"They are on their way, my father" laughed Amos. "I saw Justus load an animal and head toward Azariah's location. He is a trustworthy man. Azariah will have his fish."
"Ho, ho, ho - well, Amos my boy, that is why I have you here - to see the things - the many things I do not see. Ah, all is well then. Business is good, business is good."
Amos chuckled quietly to himself. The truth was that his father didn't need him - or anyone else - in order to run his business. The older man thrived on the chaos that surrounded the feasts. Indeed he had come to plan his entire line of work around the annual festivals.
A servant appeared with a pitcher of water, a bowl and a towel and the two men moved to a low bench at the edge of the courtyard. It was Samuel's custom to take his meals in the court during work hours. Thus after he and his son had washed their hands in the ritual fashion required by their beliefs as Pharisees, a second servant brought food and they began to eat.
"And what plans do you have for this day my son" Samuel spoke around a mouthful of bread and cheese.
There was a long pause as Amos finished chewing and brushed the crumbs from his cloak. "I hear that the Galilean Prophet is in Bethany."
Samuel slowly shook his head as he continued to munch on the bread and cheese. Finally he rose to his feet and shook the crumbs from his robe.
"Amos, I have not labored long and hard to make my business a success just so that you might have time to follow some upstart around the countryside and - "
"There are those among our sect who agree with me" interrupted Amos, "agree that He is more than an upstart, that He is in fact - "
"Yes, I know" Samuel cut in, "Nicodemus believes that the man is actually the Messiah." Samuel waved a hand as if to dismiss the notion. "Granted, I am no member of the Sanhedrin as is our brother Nicodemus - I am just a merchant with little time to study the law - and a head only for business anyway." Samuel turned to face his son. "But you, Amos, you have a keen mind. One day you will be reckoned among the great teachers of Israel, just like Nicodemus." He paused and lay a finger along the side his nose. "That is, you will if you do not ruin your future by chasing after every conjuror who arises in Israel claiming to be someone or something."
Amos smiled and rose to his feet. He stepped toward his father and reached out to grasp the older man by the shoulder. He gazed into his eyes as he spoke.
"Father, he is no conjuror. No man can do what he does unless he is from God. And you say that I have a keen mind? Well, I beg of you to trust my judgement in this matter. I am inclined to believe that this man Jesus is the one spoken of in the law and the prophets."
"Then you believe that he is the Messiah?"
Amos let his hand drop to his side. He turned and faced the courtyard gate before answering. "I don't know." The young man looked back at his father and they held each other's gaze a long moment without speaking.
Samuel suddenly broke the silence. "Well, well, the day is getting on." He turned as a servant stepped toward him with a wax tablet which contained a message from one of the city vendors. "There is always plenty to do - oh Amos my son - before I forget - would you please go examine the colt that Epaphras the Cyrenian is selling?" He looked up from the message still in the hands of the servant. "He is holding it for our inspection in Bethphage."
Amos nodded and stood watching his father a moment. Samuel was a loving father and a devoted Pharisee. Yet it seemed to Amos that his father was more devoted to the idea of being a Pharisee than to the exacting requirements of the sect. Certainly Samuel was careful to observe all of the pharisaic demands but he did so in an absentminded manner a fact that was overlooked by his colleagues because of the large sums of money he donated to the various causes of the Pharisees. For Samuel, the world revolved around his business. He was rich because of his single-minded pursuit: but for his son, life was more than buying and selling.
Finally Amos sighed and turned to leave. The voice of his father barking orders to the servants followed him into the city street until it was finally drowned out by the noise of the crowds who thronged the city.
Amos wound his way through the narrow streets of Jerusalem toward the road that led to Jericho. Bethphage was only a mile or so down the road in the vicinity of the Mount of Olives and before long Amos found himself at the house of Epaphras.
"Ah, Amos - it is good of you to come." Epaphras met the young man at the gate and kissed him on the cheek. "I know that you and your father are very busy but I also thought that perhaps you would be interested in this fine yong colt I have for sale. Your father is always saying that he never has enough donkeys during the feasts." Epaphras finished with a flourish as he gestured toward a pair of donkeys tied just inside the court.
Amos nodded and turned his attention to the animals. "Is this the dam?" he inquired as he lay a hand upon the nearest donkey.
"Yes, yes - and a fine animal in her own right. I may be willing to let her go as well."
"I'm sure you would be my friend" said Amos with a smile. "But I have no doubt that you would only ‘let her go' as you say, for a fine price indeed."
"Amos, Amos - you insult me" said Epaphras, himself smiling, "Have I ever cheated you or your father with any donkey I have sold you? Now, look at the fine lines of both of these animals . . . "
And so the bargaining began. The morning wore on and servants came and went with refreshment but still the two men haggled. To a casual by-passer it would seem that donkeys were the furthest thing from their minds. They discussed the weather, the size of the festive crowds, the likelihood of a good crop of olives that year - only occasionally would one of them mention the two patient donkeys which stood tied before them. Finally Epaphras threw his hands up and sighed.
"You drive a hard bargain Amos my friend, but I will accept your original offer."
As Amos was loosing his money belt in order to retrieve the necessary coin to pay his friend, the two men heard the sound of a large crowd making its way from Jerusalem toward Bethphage and Bethany. Their eyes met and held for a moment and then they turned as one toward the courtyard gate.
The house of Epaphras was located at the far northern end of town and his gate looked out upon the main road leading into Jerusalem. From their vantage point Amos and his friend could see a crowd of tremendous size pouring out of the Holy City.
"Look to the north" said Epaphras.
Amos turned to look toward Bethany and was amazed to see another throng marching down the road in their direction. They glanced at each other and then took turns looking back and forth between the two mobs as they continued on a collision course with the point of impact apparently directly in front of the gate of Epaphras. All at once Amos noticed two men separate themselves from the group coming from Bethany and make their way toward him. As the men drew near Amos recognized them as members of the inner circle of the Galilean Prophet. The two men walked past him and Epaphras and made their way to the donkeys that Amos had just agreed to purchase. He was startled to see them loose the animals and turn to go.
"Why are you untying them?" Epaphras said gruffly.
The two men glanced at one another before one of them spoke. "The Lord has need of them."
Epaphras started to speak but Amos interrupted. "You may go. I am pleased to put the donkeys at the Teacher's disposal."
"But Amos my friend, those beasts still belong to me - you have not paid me for them yet."
Amos nodded at the two disciples of Jesus and then turned back to Epaphras. "Here we are my friend. Your money."
"I don't understand why you are so eager to help that Galilean" said Epaphras as he shook the coins in his hand. "Your comrades are none to keen on Him I should think."
"You are right. Most of the Pharisees believe that he is a trouble maker. Yet, some of us believe otherwise." Amos turned back to the gate as he spoke. "Indeed, my friend, I am inclined to believe that he is the Messiah."
Epaphras responded but the sound of his reply was swallowed up in the sudden shouts of the crowd. Amos stepped quickly to the gate. The two packs had met and they milled about like a hurricane spinning around the eye of a storm. Amos could see Jesus of Nazareth at the center of the multitude seated upon the colt, the cloaks of his disciples providing a makeshift saddle. The volume of the mob increased and he saw that many of the people had removed their outer garments in order to lay them on the roadway as a king's carpet for the Galilean and his mount. There were thousands of people, pressing forward, cheering and waving palm branches. Amos turned his attention to the shouts of the crowd and it was then that he realized the nature of their cries;
"Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest! Save now oh Son of David! Save now oh One who is in the highest!"
A wave of excitement washed over him and he found himself pulled into the vortex of human action. He was not surprised to see several fellow Pharisees among the pack.
"Teacher, rebuke your disciples" the Pharisees called over the din of the mass.
Jesus smiled, even laughed as he replied, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."
Amos lost sight of the scowling faces of his colleagues in the crowd and he was soon fully caught up in the exhilaration of the moment. As Providence would have it, he suddenly found himself very near the Galilean and his inner circle. The crush of people moved slowly and thus Amos had plenty of time to study the Prophet up close. He had seen him and listened to his teaching many times, but always from a distance and always with the aloof attitude that was expected of a Pharisee.
The crowd had inched forward to the crest of the ridge that ran from the pinnacle of the Olivet Mount and all at once the Holy City came into view. Amos could sense the tide of emotion that rose in the heart of Jesus and turned toward him. He could see tears streaming down the Prophet's face and abruptly the Galilean began to speak.
"Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation."
Amos realized that Jesus was lamenting over Jerusalem and the words of the Carpenter sent a shiver down his spine. He continued to stare at Jesus as the throng edged forward and when Jesus turned his way, his eyes met those of the Teacher. They held each other's gaze for a long moment and then, without thinking, Amos reached out toward Jesus. He was thrilled when the Rabbi grasped his hand.
"Follow Me" said the Propjet over the shouts of the crowd, tears still on His face.
Jesus' disciples turned in the direction of Amos with curious expressions and he unexpectedly felt embarrassed and out of place. As the Master released his hand Amos came to a halt and the crowd surged around him. He held the gaze of the Prophet a long while until he was hidden from sight by the clamoring mob.
Amos stood there on the flanks of the Mount of Olives for some time, watching as the enormous crowd flowed into the Holy City. It was nearing dusk before he finally moved from the spot and started walking back to Jerusalem. Even then the city was in an uproar.
Upon the arrival of Jesus, the whole city had been stirred, saying, "Who is this really?" Many in the crowds had said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee" even though they scarcely understood what that meant. What is more, Jesus had made his way to the temple, the multitude still surrounding him, and had proceeded to drive the moneychangers and livestock vendors from the temple courts. The priests and elders had protested at once but they feared to do anything against Jesus because of the crowds - the same crowds who then brought their sick and possessed to be healed by the Galilean Prophet in the temple court.
All of this Amos heard from the servants upon his arrival at the home of His father. And yet he hardly listened. His mind was occupied with other things. After the evening meal he wandered into the court and made his way to the gate that led into the streets of Jerusalem. Even though the sun had set, the city was still full of activity. Amos didn't really notice, however. His thoughts were on the events that had taken place earlier that day.
"He must be the Messiah" he thought to himself. "Indeed, when the Messiah comes will he do any more than this man? Even so, most of the religious leaders have rejected him."
Amos was startled from his thoughts by the approach of his father.
"You are preoccupied my son." Samuel placed a hand on the shoulder of the younger man.
"I am strangely stirred by the words that the Galilean Prophet spoke today."
Amos shook his head. "No. Rather he received the praise of the people - and wept over the city." He paused and turned to look at his father. "And he instructed me to follow Him."
"Merely a suggestion" offered Samuel.
"No, not a suggestion father, but a command."
Samuel cleared his throat nervously. "Amos, you cannot be seriously considering becoming one of his disciples. You have a wonderful future ahead of you. To throw it away for the sake of a simple carpenter from Galilee - why that would be preposterous!"
Again Amos shook his head. He let out a long sigh before speaking. "I cannot agree father. Besides I think that there is a change in the air." He took a step out into the street. "After today I am inclined to believe that the city - the entire nation - is ready to accept Jesus as the Messiah." Amos turned back toward his father. "Indeed, what better time than now, during the festival to be recognized as the promised Son of David. No father, it is not preposterous. I think the time has come for the Galilean to accomplish what he came here for."
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