Matthew 21, 1-13
What strange contrasts in this reading… a tumultuous day…
The peace-loving Lord who approaches Jerusalem not on a war-horse but in a different way, Jesus making a point about the kind of Kingship he represents.. ‘…humble and riding on a donkey’. The crowds greet him with cheerful shouts, yet within a short space of time the Good News Bible says ‘When Jesus entered Jerusalem the whole city was thrown into an uproar. Who is he, the people asked?
Who is he indeed?
Who is he for you?
Who is he for me?
He contravenes the expectations of the people, he often comes to us in a way that unsettles and totally surprises us…
He comes with peace, he comes with challenge, he comes indeed as ‘God of surprises’.
From v. 12, we read of Jesus going into the Temple, and driving out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and pigeon-sellers.
When we visited Oberammergau for the passion play, the noise and clatter of this scene came as a great shock after the gentle cheering and praising of the people who had led Jesus into Jerusalem.
Coins tumbled all over the place, people fell over, there was shouting and swearing in response! Jesus stormed into centre-stage and furniture flew. To see Jesus raging was a huge shock.
As the daughter of a shop-keeper (I didn’t mean that to sound like Maggie Thatcher) I have always been anxious about this bit of the bible! The temple traders will have been well established, part of the noisy and busy scenery of the Temple business. Yet suddenly, with a shout, and legend has it, with a whip in his hand, Jesus overwhelms the story with the physicality of his presence. With arms flailing, throws the furniture about, scattering money, causing shouts of protest, upsetting peoples’ calculations, damaging their livelihood, disrupting the usual system of preparation for worship. I imagine animals and birds flustering about as they make their bid for freedom, rather than being sacrificed…
The sheer power of Jesus bursts into our vision. He is challenging business ethics. He is challenging priorities… he is willing to call it as he sees it, naming the traders as thieves, presumably as they make profit from the poorest at their point of deep need.
He is making a point about not needing animal sacrifice… his own loving self-giving is about to be the once-for-all sacrifice necessary for salvation.
All these things are challenges to our own lifestyles as we enter into Lent…
Fairtrade fortnight also challenges us as to our buying habits, our concern for the two-thirds world. Our personal shopping, and our church provision…
Our motivations come under scrutiny.
Lent is an opportunity to look at the power and the wisdom of God, as we see it in Jesus.
The power to challenge and change, the physical action as righteous anger makes a very visible protest, the wisdom to pick a moment and make it count.