Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday

The night was as restless as the previous day had been invigorating. Upon their late afternoon return up the Mount of Olives to Bethany, everyone was full of hope. And ideas. And speculation.

Peter had announced with authority that it would be time for them all to put their lives on the line. Matthew and Judas Iscariot spoke of how to manage the budget, should they determine to start their own government.

Tight, little groups had climbed that trail. Each knot of followers was talking about the day. What did it all mean? What were they supposed to do next?

Jesus walked quietly. John stayed near, also silent.

The conversations continued into the wee hours of the morning. No one seemed to notice when Jesus slipped outside in the cool darkness and looked for his customary quiet place.

On the heels of their Sunday drama, they started back down the Mount. Monday morning. What would happen today?

Just a short distance along the dusty road, they looked up. The fig tree near their path seemed especially beautiful today. The morning sun illuminated the fresh growth of spring leaves.

Jesus stepped off the beaten trail and walked up to the tree. "I'm hungry!" he announced. Everyone wondered what he was referring to. The season for the rich, ripe fruit was months away.

Then, as if he had forgotten their presence, he said, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again."

What could that mean? Then, slowly, imperceptibly at first, the leaves began to lose their fresh, green tint. It was as if they were dying and falling to the cold, winter earth. Jesus had never done anything quite like this. He brought life from death, didn't he? Surely they were missing something.

The Teacher gave no explanation as they again started down the road. This time, their raised eyes noticed the beauty of the Temple just inside the city wall. Travelers journeyed for weeks just to catch of glimpse of the glory shining in this morning's light.

Their hearts began to quietly leap with expectation. After yesterday's triumphant exclamation that Jesus is the hope of Israel, would he announce his new kingdom today? Would their feverish overnight plans need immediate implementation?

He continued to quietly walk, the small crowd grouped behind him. He went through the gate and immediately joined the crowd filing through the Hulda Gates into the Temple compound. His steps were intentional, purposeful; his followers anticipation thrust forward with each one.

As he entered the Court of the Gentiles, he stopped. How this location had changed in just a few years. Built as a place for non-Jews who wanted to seek The Eternal, it had disintegrated into a bazaar. The Law required people entering the Temple to pay a one shekel tax. The only shekels left which approximated the value of their ancient coins were the ones from Tyre. Roman money must be exchanged for Tyrian coins and the rate was usurious. This had been done for years at the markets on the Mount of Olives, near the roadway leading into the city. Then the High Priest seized on this as a way to make more profit for the religious leaders. Caiaphas invited money exchange merchants to rent space here at the Gentiles Court. Gradually, the merchants who sold the sacrificial doves came, too. Their little birds must be bought with shekels, after all.

The followers closest to Jesus noticed first. It was his eyes. How could eyes that usually shone with kindness become such intimidating embers?

The Teacher marched to the first little table inside the Gate. He threw it to the ground, coins rolling in every direction. "Leave this place!" One look at those eyes and the merchant ran for his life.

Stepping further in, Jesus began moving from one to another, his ferocity growing. "Leave!" he shouted. Merchants were now gathering their things and running out the gate. All over the Court, people had stopped to stare at the raging man.

Within moments after it started, the entire Court had ceased activity. The final merchants were carrying their equipment and their wares out.

Jesus stood in the middle, every eye upon him; every ear tuned to his voice.

"My house shall be called a house of prayer, even for Gentiles!" he shouted. "You have turned it into a place where thieves openly lurk!"

To my readers: the eight days we have come to know as "Holy Week" is detailed graphically in Scripture. The parts we don't know much about are the human elements, especially from the viewpoint of Jesus' closest followers. My attempt this week is to stay true to the Biblical text, while shading in what it may have been like "between the lines." Please distinguish my ruminations from God's Word by reading the last few chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. My hope is that the reading of my words impacts you even a tiny percentage as much as writing them has impacted me.

3 comments:

Sandra said...

I'll especially look forward to your posts this week, Sam.

Sam said...

As always, thanks, Sandy. I appreciate your encouragement.

C. Beth said...

I have wondered about the fig tree; what do you think was the significance of that act?