Friday, April 3, 2015

Jesus' Politics, part 1

Jesus got up at the beginning of his final week and decided to make a declaration for public office.  He had a couple volunteers gather a colt and he entered Jerusalem.  Every good church-going person knew what was going on—he was fulfilling holy writ, that the next king of Jerusalem would go in triumph on a colt, a humble animal.  So his supporters gathered around him, made a parade into the city of Zion, and celebrated his candidacy.

To the people of Jerusalem, this was not such good news.   Although they were looking for a Messiah,  Jesus and his followers were foreigners, from the hill country, impure from their close proximity with foreigners.  Their accent was strange and their background questionable at best.  These upstarts were barely welcome to worship with them, let alone rule them. 

Jesus, in his first work in Jersusalem, just observes. He strolls through the streets with his throng of supporters, goes up to the temple and just observes the goings on.  He sees the sacrifices, he observes the praying men, and he sees the outer court filled with tables, allowing men to exchange their foreign coin with temple money, and then move over to purchase animals for worship.  He mumbles to himself, and then leaves the city for the day.

The next day, as is his custom, he gets up early to pray.  As his supporters rise and they eat and pray, he leads them back into Jerusalem, heading straight into the temple.  The morning routine was in full motion, with many rising early to exchange their coins and to purchase animals for sacrifices.  Jesus heads straight to the money exchangers, and knocks over their tables.  Outraged, they come at him and he picks up a long piece of rope and uses it as a whip, causing them to step back.

“Muggers!” he cried.  “Bandits!  You are stealing God’s glory!  People from all over the world come to worship my Father, and you take the only place they are allowed to worship and use it for your business.  You steal from God himself!  Get out!  Allow the women and Gentiles back in the temple, giving them a place to pray!” The money men quickly pack up their things and go. 

The local priests and some ruling authorities see this commotion and are outraged.  The high priest gave these local businessmen this space in the temple.  Who is this hick, this foreigner to drive them out?  They heard of him—he is the one who declared his intention to be king of Jerusalem.  Now, it seems, that he is taking over for the high priest!

“What right do you have to do these things?” they demand.  “Who gave you this authority?”
Jesus looks at them slyly, “I will answer your question, if you answer mine.  Was John the Baptist from God?”

John, of course, undermined the authority of the priesthood and the temple, declaring that all were unfit for the coming kingdom of God.  But he was also massively popular and the priests didn’t want to be given a bad reputation so they answered, “We refuse to answer your question.”
Jesus smiled, “Even so, I refuse to answer yours.  You figure it out.”

Jesus then announced to all in front of the councilmen,  “A successful businessman spent years creating and causing his business to thrive. He decided to hand his business over to a set of managers, and allow them to run it.  However, these managers refused to grant the owner any of the profits of justice and mercy that he deserved, that he worked so hard for.  So he sent them messengers and lawyers and  holy men to give him his fair proceeds.  The managers, deciding to rule the business themselves, tore up the letters, beat the lawyers and killed the holy men who demanded justice from them.  Finally, the owner decided to send his son, who had great authority.  The managers saw the son of the businessman and thought that if they killed him off, there would be no one to contest their ownership.  So they beat him up, forced him to sign a release agreement, threw him out of the building and killed him.

“What do you think the owner will do?  He will come back with a group of thugs and beat these managers and kill them, and place his business under the rule of someone who will do as he asks.”

Then Jesus turns to the councilmen and priests, “What kind of authority are you looking for?  Or do you think you can run things any way you want, without justice or mercy?  Remember the holy words, ‘The stone which the builders rejected became the chief cornerstone.’  The very one you reject and kill is the one who will rule over you and kick you out of the kingdom.”

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