Sometimes things aren't exactly as they appear to be. This picture of me and Jase looks like that our son, Cole, caught us in a moment where we weren't very happy with each other when in fact he told us to look away from the sun while he checked the lighting on his camera. We appear to be angry when actually, it was quite the opposite. It was our 30th Anniversary, and we were taking pictures in celebration. Similar could be said for what happened in the temple courts on Monday. Jesus had an explosion of anger in front of thousands of people and the ruling authority for everyone to see...or did he? Let's dig a little deeper.
Yesterday, Palm Sunday as it is now known, Jesus made a very public entrance into the temple courts. It is the beginning of Passover Week or Holy Week. Thousands and thousands of people are making that very same journey. Those who have arrived early were able to secure rooms at the inns or in private residences. Others who could not afford those nice accommodations were able to choose more prime spots to set up their tents or wagons for safety reasons as well as comfort. Under trees or next to hillsides would mean privacy as well. As the week went on, choices became fewer, leaving only the open roads or winding outdoor corridors where innocent and faithful families would be easy prey for thieves and criminals. Yes, it was best to get there early if you could.
On that Sunday, there were already a vast amount of people who had arrived early. They had heard of this Jesus and hoped he would be coming to Passover. If he really is the Messiah, he would have to come, right? Maybe he will come early and set up a place to do his miracles. The people were waiting for him. So when he topped the hillside and made his way down into the Kidron Valley on the donkey, surrounded by his disciples, he was spotted. The people flocked to him and shouted “Hosanna!” He did come! Luke 19:37b, “…the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.”
Worship has always been a very important part of my life. With my musical background, I appreciate what it takes to write or perform a worship song that inspires and moves people to want a closer relationship with God. Musically speaking, it’s so much more difficult than most people assume. The big pieces that build over a few minutes with multiple instruments and the beautiful voices rising are some of my most favorite. But I also really love simple, a cappella harmonies. Sometimes, just a few voices singing together somehow seem to come more directly from the heart with no prompting at all. They just flow out in certain times of spiritual highs or lows, in moments of overwhelming gratitude or even uncertainty. That’s what I envision happened at this moment that Luke recorded. All of the memories of the miracles, wonders, incredible moments of relationship, laughter, teasing, love and acceptance all collided on Jesus and his dearest friends at the same time. The disciples watched the results of their three years of learning and teaching come together as the people began to praise their Savior. Worship was the only natural reaction. They sang and worshipped together as they made their way toward the city. Then in verse 41, “As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it”. So much emotion. His heart was full and breaking at the same time. As a fellow human, we can definitely relate.
The Pharisees took notice. How will they rid themselves of this Jesus without causing a riot with the people. They clearly adore him. To cause a scene would be to jeopardize their place in society, not to mention they would be putting their own lives in danger. There are undoubtedly tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of people who could overtake their small faction of power quite easily.
Jesus had made his presence known on that Sunday. Those who weren’t there to witness it would quickly learn of the news. That was enough for one day. He wouldn’t give the rulers a reason to arrest him, not just yet. Tomorrow will be a little more aggressive.
On Monday Jesus traveled from Bethany (less than 2 miles from the city) back into the courts of Jerusalem. A familiar scene was beginning to take place as he looked around and saw the merchants once again taking advantage of the situation. The sacrifice of these doves are supposed to be an outpouring from the heart, the meaning of atonement for sins committed throughout the year. The merchants know the significance of this pure white bird and what it means to the Jewish faith. They also know they can get a high price for them for this very reason. But Jesus saw this happening yesterday, too, didn’t he? It’s not like he didn’t know what they were doing. He chose this moment to cause a bit more of a disturbance. By releasing the doves and overturning the tables and benches once again, he drew negative attention from the Pharisees who were watching it all unfold from their own perches.
Mark 11:15-18, “On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.”
This is what the rulers were looking for—a reason to arrest him! But they still have the same problem. What Jesus did was to validate the Jewish people who were being overcharged for these items. If the Pharisees arrest him now in front of all of these people, they would be the bad guys. They couldn’t risk their reputation nor their safety.
What we see in Jesus’ character is not an emotional outburst. What we see in Jesus is very calculating. He knows exactly what is going to happen. Out of all of the hundreds of thousands of people there, he is the ONLY one who knows exactly what is going to happen! He has the people on his side. They adore him. He is not only healing their physical ailments, he is now saving them from being taken advantage of by these crooks. They love him!
And word is traveling quickly through the city streets of his actions.
Caiaphas, the High Priest, is growing more angry with every minute that passes. If they were going to kill him, it had to be done before the Passover feast. That left them only 4 days.
When evening came, Jesus and his apostles went back to Bethany to spend the night. I can just imagine what those conversations were like between them as they were walking back. How did Jesus explain his actions? Did he even try to expound what his motivation was? Would they even understand? So much of what he had told them thus far was still a mystery to their human brain. Oh, so much more to do.
Tomorrow he will draw even more crowds.
(Please know that my purpose in writing is not for you to take my words for fact about Jesus but to prompt you to read more from him and about him in the gospels of the Bible.)