“Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” Mark 11:11
This is the concluding verse of yesterday’s Palm Sunday Gospel. Jesus has entered Jerusalem and made his way to the pinnacle, the very center of Jewish religious life, the temple. Nothing is more holy, nothing more sacred, it is the place that the Lord dwells according to the scriptures.
Jesus enters, he looks around, he seems to check the place out and then amazingly he turns and leaves, on Palm Sunday he just leaves the temple, leaves the city and takes his disciples out of the Holy City.
Yet, he returns the next day, today in our Holy Week observance, and when he returns things will be different. For on this Monday, the day after his Palm Sunday procession, he shows up again and this time it seems there is no looking around, but action, unexpected, and filled with an anger Jesus has rarely shown in the Gospel. Here is how Mark tells the event,
“Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.
He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.” Mark 11:15-17
What a change, from looking around to overturning tables, from seeing to acting. Now Mark is the only Gospel that has this wait. Matthew and Luke both have Jesus entering and cleansing the temple in a continuous story event. Mark has Jesus wait. It seems that Jesus has some wrestling to do. Perhaps his temper, his anger at what he had seen took time to grow, it took time for Jesus to decide what would happen next. So, he comes back, sees and acts on this second day of Holy Week. He attacks the very practices that take place in the center of the Jewish faith. He gets rid of those who are selling and from what Jesus say, the cheating going on in the courtyard of the temple, where animals were sold for sacrifices and money was changed so that an offering could be made.
What Jesus did on this Monday was to attack the ones who held power. He attacked the temple authorities who had created this practice, where the poor were left out and the powerful got richer. Sounds familiar to our day, where the division between poor and rich has grown to astronomical proportions. What amazes me about this story and the ones that follow is that Jesus survived until Friday. When you anger the powerful or you threaten their power they usually react quickly. You only have to see what happened on January 6 and the White Supremest’s attempt at overthrowing our government to see the reaction of the powerful to the loss of power.
We are told that the authorities look for that opportunity to kill him, to end his troublesome existence and put an end once and for all to this rabble rouser from Nazareth. Yet even afterwards as you read through this amazing Gospel you see that Jesus doesn’t just clean the place out, for in the next chapters Jesus continues to come there, continues to teach, continues to reveal a prophetic word to the people as the city fills with people for the upcoming Passover observance. He keeps coming back and shows the people what faith is all about. He teaches, he stirs up the people and the powerful become afraid. And in the words of Jesus Christ Superstar, “This Jesus must die!”
We have spent much of the last year afraid, afraid of others, people who might carry the virus. The powerful said words that have stirred the flames of racism, as if they needed any stirring, and caused some to react with violence against our Asian community, to go and demonize or kill those different from us, because of the fear of losing power.
Jesus shows us the way, the way of the cross, it isn’t a gentle way, it is rough and rocky and leads to Golgotha! It means feeling abandoned as Jesus does on the cross, but as we listen and see what Jesus does in the temple, teaches in the temple and then dies on the cross there is a glimmer on the horizon where light and life wait to be revealed! Stay with the story until the end and see what the powerful fear, the life and love of God for all people!
Let us pray...
O Holy One, you have revealed to us that to cling to power will destroy us and those we love. Help us to be open this week especially to your son’s teaching, to your son’s courage and his life-giving death on the cross. Help us to know that he truly is God’s son! Amen