1991 March 3 – 3rd Sun Lent (Bulletin Letters)
Cyle B – Third Sun. of Lent
Ex 20, 1-17
1 Cor 1, 22 – 25
Jn 2, 13 – 25
HE MADE A (KIND OF) WHIP OF CORDS AND KNOCKED OVER THE MONEYCHANGERS’ TABLES, SPILLING THEIR COINS. Jn. 2:15
Last week I asked the question why did Jesus go to Jerusalem? Most of us, looking backwards in time, almost always answer Jesus went to Jerusalem to die for our sins. This of course is correct and one of the basic tenets of our faith. Yet I don’t believe it adequately answers the question from Jesus’ perspective.
Jesus would not have seen himself as a sacrificial lamb passively going to his death in Jerusalem. Sure, he predicted his own suffering and death. He surmised before hand he was going to be “done in” by the leaders of his nation. But this was human insight as much as divine. Jesus’ whole public life was leading to a major confrontation with the authorities.
Jesus fully expected to be rejected by the leaders of his Faith. I believe he knew this rejection would become lethal only after his dramatic and forceful cleansing of the temple. The temple was the most sacred symbol of his society. To confront the temple was to call into question the whole political, religious and economic social order.
I’m sure as he approached Jerusalem, with the temple cleansing in mind, Jesus must have known he was about to anger the most powerful people of his day. Armed with only the truths his Father had given him and a keen sense of the dramatic, he was prepared to risk his own life for what he believed.
Like the great prophets before him, Jesus was a master of the symbolic. He know just what gesture to make, what law to break, to make his point and bring the deadly wrath of the authorities onto him. Yet he never compromised his spirit of non violence and attitude of unconditional love. Hardly the passive sacrificial victim, Jesus was a militant non violent activist who brought on his own demise.
In this weeks Gospel we read John’s account of the cleansing of the temple. Its a story found in all four of the Gospel.
Matthew, Mark and Luke placed the temple cleansing at the end of their Gospels’ during the last week of Jesus’ life. It follows right after Jesus’ Palm Sunday procession.
By all accounts the Palm Sunday procession was a well organized, street demonstration through down town Jerusalem. More than a mere religious devotional procession, Jesus’ Palm Sunday parade was a political statement that caught the attention of the whole Capital, the Romans included.
In these three Gospels, the temple cleansing served as the dramatic act sealing Jesus’ fate with the authorities. In all three Gospels, the conflict between Jesus and the authorities built up slowly, finally coming to a climax in the last week Jesus’ life.
John, however places this incident at the beginning of his Gospel story in the second chapter. John lays out the conflict between Jesus and the authorities differently. In John’s Gospel the conflict is established early. Its lethal potential made know right away and sustain throughout.
Yet, John’s temple cleansing account accomplishes the same thing in his Gospel as it does in the other Gospels. It serves as the dramatic and rebellious act that seals Jesus fate with the powers that be.
A great deal of my argument about the non violent resistance character of Jesus rest on the accounts of the cleansing of the temple. As I see it, Jesus was engaged in a direct non violent act of civil/religious disobedience. With the additional mention of the whip in John’s gospel account, for the same action today Jesus would be charged with trespassing, destruction of property and assault to do bodily harm.
For all the other great and holy claims we affix to Jesus, that he was a non violent resister to the unjust social, economic and political structures of his day must be added.