Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Jesus is Not a Nice Guy

I was privileged to teach last week on Matthew 21.  This is one of those portions in the gospel for people who thought Jesus floated around for a few years saying ambiguous happy things about loving children and helping others until some mean people misunderstood him.  Uh, no.

CS Lewis' line in the first Narnia story about Aslan not being safe but being good is often cited in this regard.  We want to put Jesus in our own mold and be comfortable with him, and then, for goodness sake, he goes and does these confrontational things!  What are we to do with him?

(I hope my irony is evident.)

The first incident is the "triumphal entry," although I am not sure why it is called that, since he would be dead six days later. The event is full and ripe with Jewish symbolism, either prophesied, cultural, or historical.  Solomon came into the city on a donkey.  The palm branches were used for royalty.  The use of the colt was in prophesy.  Military conquerors come on big white horses, not donkeys.  The crowds are enraptured.  And Jesus does nothing to stop it.  Jesus never tells someone not to worship him. Nice people don't do that.

Second, he took on the Mafia in the Court of the Gentiles in the temple.  "Zeal for my house has eaten me up," Psalm 69.

A little background. 
--> This was the third temple:  Solomons, then Zerubabel's rebuilt one in the 5th century, then Herod's rebuild/renovation to make it spectacular.  The temple was a place of restrictions, because it symbolized holiness and presence of God.   Temple had three courts:  one for Gentiles, for women, and for men (closest to the inner sanctuary, of course).   
 The casting out of the merchants was in Court of the Gentiles, outermost  Originally the animals were outside but over time they came into the temple complex.  Every male was expected to attend Passover in Jerusalem,  sort of like people going to Jasper or Ellijay for the eclipse.  These Jews and proselytes would have to pay the half-shekel temple tax in the coinage of the temple, and thus foreign monies were unacceptable (had pagan images on it) and had to be exchanged for the proper coins. These worshippers also had to offer up their sacrifices, and for many of these travelers, the only solution was to buy a sacrificial animal there in Jerusalem.”  Bringing their own animal would have been difficult and then the priests could have said it wasn’t good enough, had something wrong with it.  

So guess who benefited from this business where hundreds of thousands of dollars exchanged hands--.Caiphas’ family, (the high priest).

God loves the poor and hates for them to be mistreated by the powerful and those who have plenty of money.  Jesus was human but not out of control.  Jesus did not steal from these people, and they probably came back in eventually, just like they did in John 2 (a separate incident three years before).  Anger in the sense of zeal is sometimes needed, and in Jesus here it is a good thing, but not a nice thing. 

These are just two incidents of Jesus not being a 21st century nice guy type.  There are others.  Thank heavens for that.   
   

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