Mark 11: 15 – 19
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves; 16and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17He was teaching and saying, ‘Is it not written,
“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”?
But you have made it a den of robbers.’
18And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. 19And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples* went out of the city.
A CLENCHED FIST – Peter Norman
Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi once said “You Cannot Shake Hands with a Clenched Fist”. What does that phrase mean? The clenched fist is a sign of not being peaceful, while if your hand is open it shows that you are willing to become peaceful, or at least trying.
Another way of thinking about it is that the clenched fist is a symbol of anger while a shake of a hand means peace. The symbol of a fist, a clenched fist or an iron fist can represent anger, oppression and tyranny. It is often said that “Josef Stalin ruled the Soviet Union with an iron fist” meaning he ruled with absolute authority to the detriment of many people.
In Jesus’ time Rome maintained, so called, Pax Romana with an iron fist to the detriment of many people. Any threat to the, so called, Peace of Rome was put down with an iron fist.
That was the context within which Jesus went to the temple and drove out those who were selling, those who were buying, overturned the money changer’s tables and the seats of the dove sellers.
Nowhere, in the gospel accounts does it say Jesus did this in anger. He did not harm anyone by his actions. Jesus maintained his integrity. He continued to reach out with an open hand and did not compromise. Jesus did not clench his fist.
Then, why, one might ask? Why Jesus did you carry out this so called “cleansing of the temple”? Could it be that these actions were intended to grab the attention of the High Priest and the Roman Prefect?
I would suggest that, it was attempt to make both, especially the temple leader, more aware of the plight of the populace. At that time the High Priest served as sort of liaison between Roman authority and the people of Israel. The High Priests were appointed by Rome and Rome looked to the High Priests to keep the Jewish populace in line. This was done through a strict application of the law and as a consequence many were prevented from worshipping at the temple.
It was, therefore, through this calculated act, that Jesus was drawing attention to the plight of the poor, the marginalized and the ostracized. Many of those labelled sinners could not afford to purchase sacrificial offerings and were banned from entering the temple. The high priest Caiaphas and Roman Prefect Pilate probably had standing arrangements for how to deal with subversive persons such as Jesus.
Pilate would have willingly acceded to a request from high Jewish officials to deal harshly with anyone who was being proclaimed as “King of the Jews.” Pilate would, no doubt, have been eager to bring that Iron Fist down and squash any threat to the existing order presented by the subversive theology of Jesus.
In the end, the form of execution used, crucifixion, establishes that Jesus was condemned as a violator of Roman, not Jewish, law. Jesus was challenging so called Pax Romana and the duplicity of the temple authorities. Jesus’ words and actions were not an indictment of Judaism. Jesus’ criticism was directed squarely against the Roman occupiers and the temple authorities of his day. The so called “cleansing of the temple”, by Jesus, symbolized the breaking down of barriers preventing people from entering the “house of prayer for all nations”. What barriers have we erected that are preventing people from entering our temples?
Mark 14: 32 – 42
They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”
He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him.
Jesus came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Jesus said, “Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.” All of them deserted him and fled.
THE WEIGHT OF FEAR – Jonathan Gale
Inordinate fears have some basis in fact; sometimes very tenuous, sometimes quite obvious. But the one thing all inordinate fears have is an illogical and inordinate power. This why you can never minimise the fears people have. The effect of their fear on their minds and bodies is very real indeed. Someone with an irrational fear of heights, for example, can be terrified, when most people would simply be cautious.
Rational fear, on the other hand, is a very good servant in that it is a warning of very real danger.
Overcoming this fear in order that you can achieve something for someone else’s benefit is a noble thing indeed. In John 15: 13 Jesus says, Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
This is what makes the brave actions of people like fire-fighters and soldiers so amazing. Their actions fly in the face of that hugely powerful desire we all have to live. They manage to overcome what is the most primal fear of all – the fear of death- in order to protect other people.
In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus faced just such a fear. However when he realised that God the Father required him to end his short and productive life on a cruel cross because it would lead to the redemption of all creation, he put aside his own fears and put his money where his mouth was. He claimed to love us all and he demonstrated it.
For that we will be forever grateful.
Matthew 26: 47 – 50
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.’ 49At once he came up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. 50Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.
30 PIECES OF SILVER – Peter Norman
In Leonardo D Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper Judas is a marked man. He is grasping a small bag, no doubt symbolising the 30 pieces of silver he has been paid to betray Jesus; he has also knocked over the salt pot, another symbol of betrayal. His head is also positioned lower than the heads of Jesus and the other disciples. Judas is the only person left in shadow. He is painted as a betrayer; he is portrayed as the one who not only “Sold Out” Jesus, but also “Sold Out” his fellow disciples.
In ancient times 30 pieces of silver was the amount paid out in compensation for the death of a slave. Today the phrase “30 pieces of silver” is often used to describe a price at which people “Sell Out”. The phrase is used to accuse politicians, artists and musicians of “Selling Out” their principles or ideals, and it is also used in literature as a symbol of betrayal. “Selling Out” is a common idiomatic disparaging expression for the compromising of one’s integrity, morality, authenticity, or principles in exchange for personal gain, such as money.
In terms of art or music, “Selling Out” is associated with attempts to tailor material to a mainstream or commercial audience; for example, a musician who alters his or her material to encompass a wider audience, and in turn generates greater revenue, may be seen by fans as a “Sell-Out”.
In political movements a “Sell-Out” is a person or group claiming to adhere to one ideology, only to follow these claims up with actions contradicting them, such as a “revolutionary group” vowing to bring about change, but failing to continue this upon obtaining power.
Judas was a “Sell-Out”. He “Sold Out” Jesus and the disciples for 30 pieces of silver, however, when he later witnessed the consequences of his actions Judas realised what was, and is, of true value as opposed to pecuniary gain.
Hence, the question needs to be asked have we as church compromised our integrity, morality, authenticity and principles. Have we too spilt the salt? Have we “Sold Out” and if so who have we rejected? Who have we turned our backs on? Could it be that we have also betrayed Jesus through our rejection of those who are different to us? Jesus, the one who called his betrayer “friend”! Good Friday presents an opportunity for us as Christians to re-examine our motivation and commitment.
“The coin fell on my hollow hand.
I could not bear it, although it was light,
and I let it fall. It was all in vain.
The other said: “There are still twenty nine”.
Matthew XXVII:9 by Jorge Luis Borges
Matthew 27: 27-31
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ 30They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
SHAME LIVES IN THE DARK – Jonathan Gale
We’ve all of us felt shame from time to time. We can feel shame because we’ve done something wrong and we know God is hurt by it.
We can feel shame because we’ve done something inappropriate and we think others will think less of us for it. It may not even be anything wrong. It‘s just something that will command the disapproval of people whose approval we value.
But there is another kind of shame that is prevalent today and that is the kind of shame experienced by victims of injustice.
When someone is abused, whether it be sexual abuse, racial abuse or simply finding oneself excluded from the power bases of society, one feels shame.
How might Jesus have felt: a completely sinless person, mocked, and beaten up before being cruelly crucified?
The prophet Isaiah, looking ahead to the suffering of Jesus says He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
The shameful behaviour of humankind towards God’s Son is of course the very thing God uses to save humankind. Is it any wonder we read in Matthew 27 that when Jesus was crucified, 45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land* until three in the afternoon.
The most shameful act of all, the crucifixion of the Son of God, took place in the dark. It wasn’t only Jesus who was shamed by his abusers. They too were ashamed by what they were doing. The whole cosmos seemed to shut its eyes from this most foul murder.
Jesus even felt that his father had shut his eyes and he cries out My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46
All creation hung its head in shame.