Saturday, November 29, 2014

"Jesus didn’t cleanse the temple, he indicted it"

Rusty Butler:

Last week, Valerie encouraged us to look at the events of Palm Sunday and
to see in Jesus’ procession into the city of Jerusalem a counter parade to
the imperial/military parade that took place when the Roman Army
entered into Jerusalem at the beginning of the Passover celebration. On
one side of the city Pilot’s army comes thundering in with war horses, foot
soldiers, armor and swords, on the other side of the city, Jesus rides in on a
donkey a symbol of an entirely different kind of Kingship.

Was the parade enough of an affront to Pilot and the authorities to cause
Jesus death? If not, what else happened that week that propels the events
forward that culminate in Jesus death....

Well, a few questions spring to mind: Did Jesus do all this by himself? Or did
he have help from the disciples? Imagine this too..24 acres of open
courtyard. If Jesus and his followers had taken control of the entire
courtyard and held it for hours, the Imperial troops stationed at the
Fortress Antonia ....

...Some people call what Jesus did a Temple Tantrum, as if Jesus saw what
was going on and became surprised and then very angry that there were
such things going on. But the fact of the matter is, the buying and selling of
animals for sacrifice had been going on long before. Generations in fact,
even though before the courts were built, the buying and selling was to
have taken place away from the Temple proper.

Instead, I invite us to look at the act as an intentional one. One that is
strategically planned. Someone said, it is a symbolic act not unlike the Nuns
who broke into one of the missile silo sites and poured a vial of their blood over
the concrete missile site. That is a symbolic act, in no way do they
think they are bringing the entire nuclear missile program down, rather it is
supposed to suggest a stance, it makes a statement.

Think of what Jesus did in that way and it becomes something quite
different than a temper tantrum.

Most of us probably grew up knowing the story of Jesus overturning the
tables. And many of us probably heard that it had something to do with
people being cheated…during the buying and selling of animals and that
changing money should not be going on in a place of worship. In fact, we
talked about it on Wednesday at Bible study and each of us there has this
lingering sense that whenever we buy or sell something like Fairtrade
coffee or grocery certificates here at church we get a queasy feeling…that
that kind of thing should not be going on in a church…and that if Jesus
came back and saw that, he’d be distressed.

We grew up with that…but it is not the story.

For many, naming the story, the “cleansing of the temple” means that Jesus
sought to get rid of the money changers and vendors to purify the Temple.
But the fact is that this was a traditional practice, and the animal providers
and the money changers provided a service for the pilgrims and the
functioning of the temple. If you were a pilgrim who had traveled miles and
miles to get to Jerusalem, it was much more convenient to purchase your
sheep, cattle, dove at the temple than to bring it with you from home.
There is evidence according to Marcus Borg that the exchange rates were
closely regulated so the issue was not that pilgrims were being cheated by
these money changers.

So what was it that Jesus was taking exception to? Some have suggested it
was the animal sacrifice but Jesus mentions nothing about it. That seems
not to be the case either. As Mark tells the story, Jesus, after the turning of the
 tables teaches. And
this is what he says.
"Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?
But you have made it a den of robbers."
Herod had built the courts of the Gentiles so that people who were “all
nations” in other words, the gentiles could come to the Temple. That was
not the problem…The real key is the second sentence. You have made it a
den of robbers.

That phrase echoes a phrase found in the book of Jeremiah in the Old
Testament. Standing in the gates of the Temple, Jeremiah the prophet said
Do not trust in these deceptive words: This is the temple of the lord, the
temple of the lord, the temple of the Lord. He warns the people that the
Temple will be destroyed unless the people who worship there begin to
practice justice.

Listen to what he says: "If you truly amend your ways and doings, if you truly
act justly with one another , if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan and
the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after
other Gods to your own hurt, then I (God) will dwell with you in this place.
Then Jeremiah says, Has this house, (meaning the temple), which is called
by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight?"

The meaning seems to be, it was a den of robbers because it had become
the center of an oppressive system that did not practice justice but
exploited the most vulnerable in society. It was an indictment of the

They thought of the temple as their safe house and a place of security. It
had become a hideout for the robbers of society. When Jesus calls the temple
a den of robbers, he was rather indicting the
temple authorities who had collaborated with the Romans at the top of the
system. Jesus didn’t cleanse the temple, he indicted it....

...When we think about the fact that we are the followers of a person who
strategically made moves against the authorities when he felt the system
they represented and led was unjust…it may begin to creep into our minds
that this Jesus was about more than just getting people into heaven…and it
may even change what we think about who we are as Christians.   link

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