Monday, March 25, 2013
Monday of Holy Week
Tradition tells us that on the day after the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, He returned to the city and cleansed the Temple. Actually, the word "cleansed" seems too mild to really describe what He did in that place. All the gospel writers include this event in their narrative of the ministry of Jesus, some with more details than others. Only John speaks of the whip of cords, but all enable us to see a side of Jesus largely unseen prior to this moment. As we get into the story we see Jesus striding about overturning tables, slashing his whip through the air, and shouting as He goes. Animals are making sounds of distress, coins and tables are crashing to the floor, and people are hollering at this madman who is causing such chaos in their ordered world.
Over the centuries, church folks and Bible students have wanted to tone this Jesus down a bit. They would tell He was not really angry, He was just expressing some righteous indignation at the injustice and exploitation He witnessed in the holy place of Israel. If we listen too long to them, there are no shouts coming from His mouth, just words like "You know you shouldn't be doing what you are doing. Shame on you." Some would want us to see only this mild mannered Jesus who smiles at everything and does nothing which would cause folks to think He was actually angry.
Personally, I would rather go to the other extreme. He was angry. He was way past being angry. He was fed up with people cheating and exploiting others in a place set aside for prayer and the purposes of God. Changing foreign currency for the Hebrew currency, or providing animals for sacrifice was not the issue. The issue was the price gouging and the exploitation of folks who had come only to worship. How difficult it was for these pilgrims to worship when cheated and exploited by Temple merchants! What we see in the story is a picture of the wrath of God being directed against those who hinder others from offering worship and prayers. It is good thing we live in the age we do. Certainly, there is nothing happening in any of our churches which makes it difficult for people to come for worship and prayer.