Monday, January 16, 2012

Mark 11

     The Palm Sunday, Triumphal entry into Jerusalem is staged. There is a provocative intentionality to Jesus actions that is often over looked. I believe he prearranged for the the colt to be tied where it was. I believe he chose the donkey to convey a very specific meaning: a king rode a horse to conquer by force but a king rode a donkey when he came in peace. The donkey is chosen to convey his intentions -- not a political revolution but a much more dangerous kind -- a revolution of heart and soul!
     He cleans out the money changers, the sellers of doves and "those carrying things" through the temple. The golden gate from the Kidron valley into the City of Jerusalem opened onto the temple mount. It was a short cut for merchants to come in through the Golden Gate on their way up to the city. However, this route took the merchants through the "court of the Gentiles" the outer court of the temple. The money changers are changing money from Roman and other currencies to the temple shekel (at a profit). The sacrificial code allowed that if a person could not afford the animal sacrifice they could substitute a pigeon or young dove: the sellers of the doves are taking advantage of the poorest who are coming to worship. Animals and merchants are occupying all of that court of the Gentiles space made it nearly impossible for people to have peace and to be able to focus their prayers. Imagine being in Church on Sunday and having the back of the church filled with people clinking coins, the parlor filled with the cries of animals and the sounds of birds and, through and above it all, men shouting to their beasts of burden as the beasts carried merchandise through the middle of it all. I'm thinking it would be really really hard to concentrate, to listen and to pray. "My house shall be called a house of prayer for ALL the nations. But you have made it a den of robbers!" (Mark 11:17) The chief priests are looking to kill him because he is now directly impacting their livelihood -- the money changers are taking a profit, the sellers are taking a profit . . . and the priests (the Sadducee party) are skimming their share and renting the tables and booths.
     Making money off of religion is nothing new. We often decry the outrageous lifestyles of television preachers and evangelists and the enormous wealth of certain denominations . . . it is nothing new. All we can do is keep ourselves clear of the love of money and NEVER ever sell what God has given for free. This is not to say the priests were not entitled to their livelihood (Biblically this is provided for). It is not having the priests and Levites taken care of -- but the amassed wealth and using the place of worship to increase that wealth that is so troublesome. This makes Jesus angry and he responds appropriately.

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