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jesus the radical pastor | exploring the life and mission of the 1st century Jesus for our 21st century » Blog Archive » Jesus Goes Postal


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 What some consider to be Jesus’ most radical, violent action really wasn’t all that violent. After doing surveillance on the Temple the evening before (Mark 11:11), Jesus enters the Temple precincts the next day “locked and loaded” with his rich, prophetic heritage. As a one man army, he prophetically acts out and pronounces doom (‘the end is near’) on the existing Temple religious business and leadership.

Did Jesus cleanse the Temple? I don’t think so. I don’t think he intended to stop the needed commerce in the Temple precincts. I don’t think he wanted the Gentiles to be able to get into their court which had been hijacked by Jewish buyers and sellers and money-changers. I don’t think he wanted to reclaim that Temple spot, that sacred geography as a house of prayer from its being reduced to ”a cave for terrorists” (‘den of thieves’ is way too tame a phrase). Jesus wasn’t reclaiming the Temple for proper use; Jesus was announcing its end. He wasn’t cleansing; he was condemning.

Commericialization of the faith. The buyers and sellers. Did you know you can get Jesus figures playing soccer or golf or baseball or tennis? You can buy T-shirts (“I was predestined to be an Arminian”). You can buy a new niche Bible? The New International Bible for Post-Anorexic Recovery Group Members with 12 Steps notes in the Appendix (just kidding, but I venture to say that it’s not far off).  Coffee mugs, Purpose-Driven keychains, Bible recipe health bars, ad naseum.

Exclusion in the Name of faith. The Temple in Jesus’ day maintained a rigid hierarchy of who was closest and farthest from God. God-seeking Gentiles? Hey, let’s build a flea market in their spot. Never mind there are all kinds of markets already available on the Mount of Olives. Competition is good. Who cares that the traditional laws forbid carrying your wallet into the Temple area? This is AD 33! Get with the times. Your wallet: don’t leave home without it. But, keep the women out. Keep the cripples out. Keep the Gentiles out. Keep the am ha’aretz out! We are Jewish, well-bodied, well-educated, righteous men. We’re in! By his unexpected drama, Jesus declared that the days of exclusion were over. Are Christian gays welcomed into our ‘sacred space’?

On one occasion Jesus told a Samaritan woman that a time is coming and now is when all will not depend on a place and/or status to worship God. When the Temple curtain was  torn from top to bottom, I can hear God shouting, “Get me out of here! I am the God for all the nations. No exclusion from Me.”

“Say to this mountain [Mt Zion], ‘Be cast into the sea.’” In 70 AD Titus the Roman General laid waste Jerusalem. The Temple was destroyed and has not been built since. ‘Cast into the sea’ is a metaphor for “your time is up.”

A new, mobile Temple, on the 3rd day after being laid waste, walked around and spoke. He is not and never will be for sale. He joyfully welcomes all who come to him, especially sinners. His name is Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, Lord of all. Now that Temple is his second “body”–the church.

Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.

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