Day Forty of Lent

April 14, 2019
By MB Discipleship

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. – Matthew 21: 10-12

Have you ever heard the phrase about someone “upsetting the apple cart”? The mental picture is someone knocking over a cart of apples in a market. What happens if you drop apples? They all roll everywhere in different directions, creating confusion and chaos, making difficulty in knowing whether or not you’ve found them all; even if you do find them all, apples bruise when they’re dropped, so you can’t return them in the same condition.

Figuratively, Jesus went from his hometown hero parade straight to the center of religious authority, the temple, and upset the apple cart. He took the status quo and flipped it upside-down when he chased out people who were profiting off the poor. If you wanted to make a sacrifice at the temple – in other words, if you were trying to follow the law – you needed the right currency. You needed to buy animals, like doves. Remember, when Jesus was a baby, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple like they were supposed to; we’re told that their sacrifice was small birds, meaning they were poor. So poor people attempting to worship God as they knew how were being ripped off by the official people who would exchange their currency – for a price – and who would sell them the animals they needed – for a profit. (This may sound odd, but compare it to a poll tax, in which you would need to pay money to vote; people with low income were having to pay to follow God’s law and to worship.)

Imagine someone shutting down the lucrative website of a slick tv preacher who promises you’ll be healed if you send him money. Imagine someone turning off the electricity to the broadcast studios of a network that promises that you’ll be wealthy if you send them money. Someone who did that would be interrupting the fleecing of the vulnerable, but they also would be making some enemies, right? Anyone who interrupts a stream of revenue makes enemies.

But Jesus wasn’t just “a prophet,” like the crowds described him. He had authority to determine what was righteous and unrighteous in the temple; and he did to the corrupt market what the religious leaders would not. He told them no (and flipped over furniture in the process; it wasn’t just verbal confrontation, he made a mess that couldn’t be quickly cleaned up, right before a big religious festival – Passover).

What might we notice from this? For one thing, Jesus valued a righteous temple over a profitable one. He also valued the dignity of all worshippers, whatever resources they had or didn’t have. He also knew the teachings of the law and knew that the spirit of the law was being violated. Jesus was also willing to make powerful people angry.

It’s easier to like underdog stories than to be the person challenging authority or power. We like Cinderella stories in sports, but it’s not as fun to be the person from the small school playing an unlikely game against a big school with a deep bench. But here are a few of the values Jesus is modeling in this scripture:

Everyone has value in the eyes of God and deserves respect and dignity.

Sometimes doing the right thing will make people mad; do it anyway.

*In what ways is it tempting to see other people as a means of gain for yourself?