Michael Pacher – The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence. 1480

The first comedians ‘roast’- Feast of St Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr – John 12: 24-26

The setting of today’s reading is Palm Sunday (John12: 12) and these are the opening words of His Palm Sunday ‘homily’ preached to His disciples. Interestingly, He is the author of the text, He is the subject of the text and it is in Him that we find our context.

The plot to kill Jesus has already been set in motion in chapter 11 and snowballs into killing all those around Him who in any way increase the strength of His popularity, including Lazarus (12:10). Clearly it was the growing popularity of the mission of Jesus that threatened the foundations of Pharisaic beliefs. 

Their fear of losing this battle is confirmed in the scripture text that precedes the Gospel of today (12: 19), for right before their eyes they  see and confess that the “world has gone after Him (Jesus).” The message of Jesus had certainly spread like wild fire, enough to attract ‘some Greeks’ who had come to worship during the Passover festival. These ‘God fearing’ Gentiles, clearly have been drawn to the Jewish festivities, yet hearing the message of Jesus, they now seek Him and not the temple.

The Good News that Jesus came to preach, was principally to the Jews, but it soon began to captivate the beliefs of the Gentiles too. The Early Church had to struggle through this phase. Should the mission of Jesus be limited only to the Jews and the demands of its traditional customs?  It was the Jewish ritual of circumcision, demanded of the Gentile converts, which created divisions between St Paul on one hand and the apostles on the other.

The first council of Jerusalem which took place around the year 50 AD, recorded in Acts 15 and the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, debated precisely this issue necessitated by St Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. The Church had a rapidly growing Gentile following over a smaller Jewish leadership who sought to make the acceptance of Judaic rituals a prerequisite to becoming a Christian.

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