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Crossing Jesus: Mark 11

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard or read the story of Jesus in the temple, early in that Passover week. But this time, I experienced something new. This time I thought, Here’s a Jesus with whom you do not want to reckon.

The energy of the crowds that day must have been electric. The day before they’d flung palm branches on the road, shouted until they were hoarse, and jostled alongside the donkey on which rides the man called Jesus.

Did they stay up into the night, gathered in the inns and on the streets and rooftops, asking each other with wide eyes: Were you there? Did you see him? Is he the one? Will he be the one? What will he do? What will the priests do now? Are you for him? Will you follow him?

And now here he comes. To the temple, like he did yesterday. Only this time he’s not here just to look.

This time he’s enraged.

His face must be blazing, his chest heaving, his words churning out in livid shouts. He blows into the huge outer court of the Gentiles and grabs the edges of the tables and hurls them over. He launches tables and benches across the court with his feet. He waves and whirls that hand-made whip over the backs of cattle and sheep, driving them out of the temple and into the dusty streets. Do the merchants and bankers try to stop him, or are they shielding their heads with their arms as they rush out under that whip to catch their beasts? Does Jesus bowl through the men who must be charging at him? Or is his sheer presence enough by now to make them shrink back and flee?

Nothing is still. Everything is in motion. Coins and birds and baskets and animals scatter and fling, like china vases crashing upon slate tile. Bankers scramble in the dust to pick up their coins. Children and men and women chase the birds, cattle and sheep. Baskets crush under trampling feet. People stumble over broken tables and benches.

And Jesus must be shouting-like-a-roar, so full of that intense zeal. Is he whipping from one side of that immense courtyard to the other? Are his hands and arms thrashing as he gestures? Does he block with his own body and outstretched arms the merchants and bankers and crowds straining to get in? Does he knock the baskets full of birds and money from their hands, adding to the debris already in the dust?

He must look like a wild prophet of old—like the Isaiah or Jeremiah whose words he shouts: Get out! Get out of here! How dare you! This, whipping his arms as he turns in ever-widening circles, is my Father’s house! Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?

Does he drive them back with the sheer force of his words? You have made it ‘a den of robbers’! Does he shout more of the prophet’s harsh words? Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, ‘We are safe’—safe to do all these detestable things? Get out! Get out of here! How dare you!

Yes, here’s a Jesus whom you do not want to cross. Here’s a Jesus that sends chills down my back and darkens the pit in my stomach. Here’s a Jesus that brings me to my knees. Here’s a holy, incomprehensibly-righteous, terrible-to-behold Jesus.

But, oh my Lord, here’s a Jesus for whom I’d give up my life. Here’s a Jesus—the same Jesus who gently holds the hand of a blind man or embraces a child in his lap—here’s a Jesus I’d follow anywhere.

(Image: Whatknot at flickr.com)

Comments

Sally said…
what a wonderful view of Jesus, passionate and powerful too often we are shown the soft and sappy.
carmen said…
sally, thanks for your words. blessings.