1990 Oct 7 – 27th Sun Ord Time (Prison Writings)
27th Sun Ord Time Cycle A
Matt. 21: 33-43
Dateline Jerusalem, Judea – Annual Feast of the Tabernacles Disturbances United Jewish Press
The annual fall feast of the Tabernacles celebrated at the Temple in Jerusalem, Judea was marred last night by a disturbance instigated by the well know critic of King Ahaz’s administration and peace activist, Isaiah, son of Amoz and some of his followers.
The Feast of the Tabernacles is the annual celebration surrounding the grape harvest. It commemorates the Mosaic Covenant and dates back to the time when the Ark of the Covenant dwelt in a tent outside the city of Jerusalem before the Temple was built during the reign of King David.
Last night was a perfect fall evening for the celebration. The skies were clear, the air crisp and the stars lit up the skies. Several thousand festival goers gathered outside the city walls at the tents or “booths”, as they are called, housing the harvesters next to the grape vineyards surrounding the city. From these vineyards an impressive candlelight procession began moving into the city and arriving at the Temple for the main services. Festival goers carried palm branches and sang many psalms, the most often and most popular being Psalm 118, the great song of thanksgiving and victory.
The official Palm Branch vendors, licensed by the Chief Priest, made a killing on the sales of palms, selling a record number. The Palm Branch venders were not the only ones making a profit from this year’s celebration. The president of the city’s Chamber of Commerce called the feast a make or break week for the whole yearly economy for Jerusalem. Record sales were recorded throughout the retail business establishments. Of course, the biggest beneficiary from the festival sales was the Temple treasury which taxes and licenses commercial dealings surrounding these high holy days.
The disturbance took place during the final hour of the celebration, when festival goers were gathered in the Temple courtyard to recommit themselves to the Mosaic Covenant. Just before the High Priest took the podium to give the renewal pledge, Isaiah, the well known agitator approached the center stage. Many observers familiar with the antics of the pacifist were prepared for the worst. To their relief Isaiah’s interruption began as a personal tribute to a friend’s vineyard. It was a beautifully versed song of praise of a well placed vineyard on the best of land, cleared of stones with the choicest of vines, equipped with a watchtower and wine press. All was made ready for a rich harvest.
Given the occasion, Isaiah’s fine voice and the beauty of the song, the assembly readily listened to the beginning of Isaiah’s message. Even the High Priest stepped back from the podium as Isaiah sang. However, the song took on an abrupt change in character and content. Isaiah shifted the meaning of the song to fit his own political message. It was nothing more than a propaganda stunt.
As a soon as Isaiah’s performance turned into a shameless ‘propaganda stunt’, the crowd turned on him and yelled down his message. Nothing else was heard from that point on. Four temple guards grabbed him and escorted him off Temple property and the recommitment services continued. After the services Isaiah’s followers were at the exits handing out leaflets to the crowds with the full text of Isaiah’s song.
The vineyard, Isaiah sang, produced sour grapes despite its good start. According to Isaiah’s leaflet the owner of the vineyard represented God, the vines the nation of Israel. The vines produced sour grapes because of Israel’s bad faith. In punishment for the harvest of sour grapes the vineyard owner destroys the vineyard, as God will do to Israel if she doesn’t change her ways.
This was a familiar theme of this malcontent critic of our establishment, a direct affront to the peace and prosperity that the festival itself was celebrating. This reporter wonders how long the good people of Jerusalem will have to endure such antics.
The very harvest in which the celebration blessed this year is proof of the wrong mindedness of this self appointed spokesperson for God. When asked why this negative and anti establishment troublemaker is allowed to speak, a spokesperson for the Chief Priest’s office said, “Though Isaiah is misguided, he has a right to speak his mind. The nation of Israel has always allowed the widest freedom of expression for its prophets and would be prophets.”
Special Report of the R. E. Regional Radio News Services – Jerusalem, Palestine:
“This is Abraham Moe son of Benjamin from the Temple Press Box in Jerusalem, Palestine. We are here following the fast developing story surrounding Jesus of Nazareth, the latest itinerant preacher, healer and miracle worker to disrupt the High Holy days of Passover. This Jesus and his followers have been laying seeds of discontent and rebellion amongst the mass of poor people throughout the region of Palestine the past three years. He was known to have close ties to the former, John the Baptist, a popular preacher who lost his head a few months age after running afoul of King Herod.”
“The question has been raised why this radical Rabbi, Jesus, has been allowed to operate for so long and so openly these past three years. Sources within the Sanhedrin say there have been ongoing discussions within the Sadducee Party, the ruling party, just how best to handle this popular prophet. Jesus is only the latest in a long line of would be Saviors for the Jews. It’s almost a yearly event at Passover time that some country bumpkin claims to be the Messiah and causes a disturbance in Jerusalem. However many believe this Jesus, son of Joseph, a carpenter is someone special. Aside from the normal claims of miraculous healing powers, he is said to have control over the seas, winds and skies, can multiply food and even raise the dead to life.”
“Our same sources within the Sanhedrin say that Jesus’ independent political stand, refusing to align himself and his followers with the growing resistance movement of the Zealot party and his idealistic nonviolent political platform known as the “Sermon on the Mount” have kept his activities on the fringe of the political spectrum and a new threat to the delicate balance of power sharing that exists here in the Holy City between the Roman occupiers and the Sanhedrin, the ruling body that controls the Temple and governs the Jewish people.
“That has all been radically changed this week. Yesterday, Sunday, the first day of the week, Jesus and his followers took control of the annual enthronement procession, marking the beginning of the High Holy days of Passover. They turned this normally religious event into a self-serving political platform for Jesus’ own messianic aspirations. Palm branches, were distributed to the crowds as Jesus mounted a donkey and rode into the city followed by his disciples. Riding the donkey was a clear reference to the Prophet Zechariah’s description of how the Messiah would enter Jerusalem the day of enthronement. As the procession began crowds of thousands carne out to greet Jesus, many throwing their cloaks on the ground before him chanting, “Praise to David’s Son! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord. Praise be to God!”
All commercial traffic in the center of the city was held up the better part of the morning. . The crowds were so unruly that even the Temple, guards could not control them. The Roman Garrison in the city which is normally doubled during the Passover celebration with a specially trained riot control unit was called but Only a, ‘ reassuring message from the High Priest to. Pilate, the Roman Governor averted an open confrontation.
Immediately after this major street demonstration, Jesus and his followers appeared in the Temple courtyard. When a crowd began to gather Jesus lead them to the area in the Temple where the money changers for the Temple sacrifices and special services were open for business. A near riot ensued when Jesus, who claims to be a pacifist, attacks the moneychangers, overturning their tables chasing them and their animals out of the temple area. Some reports say that Jesus was armed with a whip and yelled, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a hideout for thieves.’ This all happened so fast that by the time the Temple security arrived on the scene, Jesus and his followers were already out of the temple area and lost in the crowds on the streets.”
“The whole city is up in arms about this Jesus of Nazareth. Most observers did not expect to see Jesus in the city again so soon after these militant rebellious acts but here he is, the very next day preaching in the Temple. This time we are told the authorities were better prepared. A delegation .of Chief Priests and elders met him in the Temple courtyard just a few minutes age as he began to address the crowds. They have been debating new for about 20 minutes.”
“At this time we are going to take you directly to the Temple courtyard to our cub reporter on the scene Joash Bender, son of Joel. Are you there Joash?”
Yes, I am Abraham. This is Joash Bender on the scene in the Temple courtyard following the debate between Jesus of Nazareth, the radical Rabbi and would be Messiah and a delegation of Chief Priests and Elders. I am on the edge o f the large crowd trying to listen to the debate. So far there has been a discussion about where Jesus is getting his authority to do the things he does. Jesus has been evasive on this question. Jesus on the other hand has brought up the subject of John the Baptist, a sore spot with the Chief Priests and Elders. I can barely hear the discussion from this spot. I am going to attempt to move in closer.
(In a hushed and whispered voice): “I’m now moving into the crew directly behind the delegation of Chief Priests and Elders. Jesus has just completed a short parable about a vineyard owner and his two sons. The Chief Priests and Elders seem to be very upset with Jesus. Jesus is said to be a master at telling parables. Parables are short stories with surprising and unexpected endings. They always have a moral point to make.
“I am now directly behind the Chief Priests and Elders. Jesus is beginning a second parable. I will try to give you a running commentary. It’s about a vineyard owner again. The vineyard apparently is a popular subject with Jesus. It seems this vineyard owner planted a very fine vineyard with a hedge around it; he dug a vat and set up a watchtower. Oh yes! This is very familiar. It is a take off on the song of the vineyard found in the writings of the Prophet Isaiah with a new and different twist. The owners seem to have rented the vineyard to some tenants. When the harvest time came the owner sent his slaves to get his share. These tenants were wicked; they refused to pay the owner his due. They abused the owner’s slaves, beating one, killing another and stoning the third. The owner sent another set of slaves to collect his share. The tenants treated them the same as the first. Finally the owner sends his son to collect his due, thinking his son will be respected by the wicked tenants. The tenants grabbed the son, dragged him outside the vineyard and killed him.”
A very interesting adaptation of one of the prophet Isaiah’s best-known songs, Jesus is now asking the Chief Priests and Elders what they supposed the owner of the vineyard will do?”
“Well, that should be an easy question to answer. The Chief Priests and elders respond that the owner should do away with the wicked tenants and lease the vineyard to others. I wonder what Jesus is getting at here. The chief priests and elders are visibly upset. They sense Jesus is putting them down. Now Jesus is raising his voice so the whole crowd can hear. He is reciting a scripture passage from, I believe it’s a quote, from Psalm 118 about the stone rejected by the builders becoming a keystone of the structure. The chief priests and elders are even more upset. Some of them are beginning to grumble.”
“Jesus is now directly looking in this direction with his finger pointed at The Priests and Elders. Oh my, he has just told them that the Kingdom of God will be taken from them and given to another nation. Oh boy, now the Chief Priests and Elders are hopping mad. The crowds are loving this confrontation. They are now giving Jesus a standing ovation. Jesus is not making friends with any o f the Chief Priests, that’s for sure.”
“I’m sorry Joash, we need to break in here. Thank you for your on the spot reporting. Stay with the story. We only have a few moments remaining. This is Abraham Moe of the Roman Empire’s Regional Radio News services with a special report covering the Jesus of Nazareth story. We were just listening to a running commentary of a parable that Jesus was presenting in the Temple courtyard. With me here in the Temple press box is Rabbi Jacob Moses, son of Micah a member of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee and an expert on Jesus of Nazareth.
Rabbi Jacob has been following this radical Rabbi from the very beginning of his public ministry. Rabbi Jacob what do you make of the parable we just heard Jesus deliver?”
“Ah, I thought it was brilliant Abraham. For a man with no formal training Jesus’ grasp of the Holy Scriptures is unmatched. He must have done his early training with the Essene monks in the desert. Today’s parable of the vineyard owner and the wicked tenants is a good example of this mans great grasp of the Word of God. He is a genius!”
“Well Rabbi Jacob, if Jesus is such a genius why is he in so much trouble with the authorities?”
“The problem with Jesus, Abraham, is he is always taking it too far. The parable is obviously about the people of Israel and our unfaithful history with God. The owner’s slaves represent the way prophets throughout our history were ignored and poorly treated. No problem here. Easily defendable. Where Jesus gets in trouble with this parable is the part about the owners son. He is obviously referring to himself. Here and in many other statements, Jesus makes a fundamental error in his thinking. Jesus overstates his relationship to the Lord God, as though God and he were like Father and Son. This is out and out blasphemy. It will never do.
“What about the part where the son is killed? What might Jesus mean by this?”
“This is where the parable may well be closer to reality than anything else Jesus has been saying. There has been a rumor within Jesus following that Jesus has talked of his own death in Jerusalem. And now, the last couple days he has acted in some very dangerous ways. I hate to say this, for I have come to respect Jesus very much, but I believe he is on a self-destruct path. He is literally forcing the hands of the authorities. I’m sure they will move against him.”
“But Rabbi Jacob, what about his great popularity with the masses?” Will they not fight for him?”
I don’t believe Jesus will let them and beside the Chief priests are very shrewd. Jesus is over stepping his boundaries here
What do you think will happen, Rabbi Jacob?”
“Mark my words, before the Passover is done there will be a solution to the Jesus problem.”
“Thank you Rabbi Jacob, this is Abraham Moe of the Roman Empires Regional Radio News service with a special report from the Temple press box signing off.”
I hope no one is offended with this week’s scripture reflection. The historical context of Scripture is so important to our understanding of the text. I thought presenting this week’s text as they might have been reported in their own day through our modern news services might help us get a better feel for their meanings.
90 10 07- Time Slowing Down
Time is elastic, like a rubber band, it can stretch out. This is especially true for short timers in Jail. With less than a month to go I ‘m closer to my freedom but ironically it’s taking me longer to get there. These are the most difficult days to endure for me. My only consolation is knowing I must go through them to be free.