Monday, August 19, 2013

Visiting Bethany (part 1)

Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still in the place where Martha had come out to meet Him. – John 11:30  (NET)

In the time of Jesus, when the emperor (the Caesar) came to pay a visit to a town or a city within a colony or province under his dominion, his visit was generally referred to as a “parousia.”  When this visit would be made, as one would expect, the great emperor, for whom notoriety and honor (especially in an honor and shame culture) would be of paramount concern, would not simply enter into the town or city un-announced. 

Such a thing would be unthinkable, especially in light of the Caesar-cult (worship of Caesar as a divine being---the son of god) that was so prevalent in the first century world so dominated by Rome.  Quite the opposite would occur, in fact, as the Caesar would be lauded in grand fashion by the people of the places that he deigned to visit.  After all, the man making this visit was rightly viewed as the most powerful man in the world, and would be afforded as much honor as possible. 

Not only would this honoring of the god-man be expected, but it would also demanded.  To effect this, quite apart from Caesar simply entering into the city by himself, or with nothing more than his imperial entourage, a large group from the city would be expected to go out to meet him while he was still outside of or at some distance from their city.  This would occur while all (or at least most) inside the city would be preparing themselves, in a conformity (for some) that was most likely under the threat of physical pain or even death (or shame), to receive the exalted emperor with the appropriate acclamation and with reverence. 

Upon greeting the Caesar outside the city boundaries, the selected and special group from the city, quite naturally, would return to the city with Caesar  and his royal entourage in tow, celebrating his entrance into yet another place in which he was acknowledged to both reign and have complete and unrivaled dominion.  This would seem to be an entirely appropriate reception for the one who, beginning with that which would come to be said of the emperor Augustus, is referred to as “lord” (the lord of the world who claimed allegiance and loyalty from his subjects throughout the whole of his empire), whose birthday was referred to as “evangelion” or “good news,” is referred to as the “son of god” and “savior,” and who was thought of as the one who had finally brought light and peace and order into a  dark and often chaotic world.

Having provided that basic bit of information, the scope of this study move to the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John, and the story of raising of Lazarus from the dead at the hands and word of Jesus.  In the story, one is able to observe some rather interesting elements, making His visit to Bethany something of a “parousia” by Jesus.  The first thing to notice, though it is not revealed immediately, is that after Jesus had remained in the place where He was for two days after hearing that Lazarus (the one He is said to have loved) was sick (John 11:6), and upon His finally reaching the town of Bethany after what can be thought of as an unexpected delay, Jesus did not immediately go into the village. 

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