The next day, after they had left Bethany, Jesus became hungry;
hunger is a suffering
residing deep within
bodies with a future
emotions with a present
spirit with a past
person hungers for person
place calls out to place
to meet habitual expectations
to cover a recent loss
to finally begin a quest
leaving little Bethany
for a short stroll to Jerusalem
is not a place for hunger
if Martha has any say
but Mary’s curiosity is never sated
Jerusalem to Bethany and back
is a long journey
calling for surprising reserves
unexpected wearing details
Another scene begins and we are met with a strange comment about Jesus’ hunger. It would be a huge breach of hospitality to have a guest, particularly one in whom are seen great events, leave hungry.
The word for hunger here is πεινάω (peinaō, craving) and is the same word Matthew uses in his Beatitude: Privileged are people who are hungry and thirsty for “the rightwising eschatological activity of God”…. [“rightwising” phrase from M. Eugene Boring in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VIII179.]
Here we might speak of heart hunger instead of stomach hunger.
This shifts our perspective from individual desire to that unbending arc of justice or mercy enacted so needed if a community is to have a core strength beyond an economic measure of relative worth. It also returns us to the scene with the one asking the cost of eternity only to find it beyond his means to divest himself of the reigning power of resources.
To come to Jerusalem with cheers is a cheap victory. Even if Jesus had come to Jerusalem early on the previous Day of the Colt, he would have had to leave to come back “hungry”. The lateness of the day was not the triggering of his prior leaving, but a recognition that he had not given his “Son of David” title away.
Unlike a recent Snickers commercial, his hunger was not going to negatively happen to others, but it did need to be sharpened. His time back in Bethany was a return to his days in the wilderness following an announcement of belovedness—a hunger for mercy for all.