Devotion 4-11-14

Good Morning –

Continuing today with our break from John to explore Holy Week in the “other” gospels. We move today, in Matthew, from the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, with palm branches waving, to the courts of the temple:

Matthew 21:12-17

12 Then Jesus entered the temple* and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13He said to them, ‘It is written,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer”;
but you are making it a den of robbers.’

14 The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard* the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’, they became angry 16and said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read,

“Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise for yourself”?’
17He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

Jesus is no longer keeping silent, or avoiding attention, or staying out of the way of the religious leaders. In fact, in this passage, he intentionally antagonizes them. He goes to the temple and, finding the courts of the temple a market-place for exchanging money and selling animals for the offering, he becomes angry and turns over tables and shouts at them. But we misunderstand if we think that what angered Jesus was simply the fact that people were exchanging money or selling animals – they did these things in the temple courts by renting the space from the chief priest, Caiaphas. The temple would not accept Roman coins for the “temple tax” but only the temple coins; this made exchange of money necessary. It has also been suggested that the priests would not accept an animal for sacrifice that was not certified as pure, by the sellers in the temple. The whole system was corrupt, lining the pockets of the priests while oppressing the poor who came to the temple to worship. The passage that Jesus quotes from Jeremiah is an attack on the corrupt elite who oppress the poor while seeking legitimacy in the temple. Jesus is attacking the corrupt high priest – who is, of course, already plotting to have him killed.

In stark contrast to the corrupt leadership, the poor, the blind, the lame, and the little children come to Jesus in the temple. He heals the blind and the lame, and the sick. The little children danced around him, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David.”The chief priests and the scribes saw what he was doing, and heard the children, and they challenged him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus says, “Yes, have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babes you have prepared praise for yourself?’” The little children praised him – we are invited to come to him as children, trusting in him, ready to praise him.

All that week (according to Matthew) Jesus went out to Bethany in the evenings and returned to Jerusalem to teach in the temple courts during the day. The religious leaders would challenge him there – where did he get the authority to do these things? Or, in modern language, “Who do you think you are?” Jesus knew who he was, and his authority was from God.

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