Jesus comes to turn the Temple upside down
Yesterday we thought about how our world has become turned upside down and how Jesus came to turn it the right way up again. Well, in today’s Bible reading we see Jesus in action.
First of all he enters Jerusalem – but not in a chariot at the head of a conquering army as the world, or at least the Jews, expected or hoped – he came on a donkey! What sort of King was this to overturn the occupying Roman force?
Next he entered the Temple where commerce was thriving, money was being lent and things bought and sold. Did Jesus go with the flow? – the worldly flow? No! He chased all the sellers and buyers out! He turned over tables and benches! This was the Temple – a place of worship!
(Occasionally I visit the town where I grew up and see the church I attended – last time I visited it was a carpet shop! – I share Jesus’ dismay.)
As expected, there were many blind and lame people in Jerusalem. What was not expected was that Jesus healed them! You’d think the chief priests and leaders would be so pleased to see such good and to see prophecy coming true before their very eyes but they were no longer men of God but had become men of the world and they just saw their power and influence disappearing before their very eyes. Jesus was particularly saddened and angered that the chief priests and leaders had failed their God and set about telling them!
The next day Jesus cursed a fig tree because it had stopped bearing fruit and it quickly dried up. Do you think he may have been thinking of the chief priests and leaders because they had stopped being fruitful in God’s work and were fast drying up?
They tried to discredit Jesus asking on whose authority he was doing these things – they thought only they could act for God – though in practice they no longer acted for God but only for themselves. Jesus easily outwitted them and then went on to tell the story about two sons, the second of whom said he would do his father’s will, but didn’t. The chief priests and leaders recognised this disobedience but did not recognise their own disobedience when John the Baptist told them how to do right. Jesus left them in no doubt that they would pay dearly for their worldly and not Godly actions.
Jesus went yet further and told the chief priests and leaders the story of a landowner who rented out a vineyard. When he sent servants to collect his share of the grapes, the renters beat them up or even killed them. The same happened a second time so finally the landowner sent his own son thinking they would listen to him. The renters were only interested in themselves and killed the son!
The chief priests and leaders knew that the landowner would kill the renters and rent out his vineyard to people who will give him his share of grapes at harvest time. They also knew that this story was all about God (the landowner) and his kingdom (the vineyard) and Jesus (the son) and them (the disobedient renters). So were they sorry? Did they decide to turn back from the world to God? – No – just as in the story, they started to plan to kill the son – God’s Son!