According To Luke: What's Wrong With Jesus?
Luke 19:41-48 (NRSV)
As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”
Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, “It is written,
‘My house shall be a house of prayer’;
but you have made it a den of robbers.”
Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.
Last week we entered Jerusalem with Jesus on what we call --- PALM SUNDAY
One thing you may not have noticed in Luke’s version of the story ---- there are NO PALMS
Instead of waving palm branches --- Luke has the people laying their cloaks on the ground.
Why no palms?
I don’t know!
When we read the story carefully there are a couple of things we can note right away.
1. The event was pre-arranged
In verses 30-34 the colt was arranged to be there for Jesus
2. If you don’t know your Hebrew Bible the story makes very little sense
If you don’t “know” the story and you are hearing it or reading it for the first time you might have thought that Jesus was just tired from his long journey from the Galilee and he needed a lift for the last little bit
That maybe Jesus wanted to be high enough (sitting on the colt) so that the people could see him
But we all know Zechariah’s prophecy
Zechariah 9:9 (NRSV)Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he,humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Jesus entry was making a political statement about who Caesar was and about who Jesus was
Luke is lampooning Caesar who would have ridden into the city on a grand white stallion as a conquering king
Instead Luke has the real King (remember Luke starts the Gospel by letting us know through Jesus birth that Jesus is the real king) coming in on a lowly colt
One other thing to notice --- is that clearly a day has past between verse 40 (the end of the Palm Sunday story) and verse 41.
Our story this week begins on this second day ---- Monday ---- of what we like to call “Holy Week”
The day begins with Jesus (most likely) on the Mount of Olives --- standing and looking toward Jerusalem and the Temple
Luke tells us that Jesus weeps over the city because he knows that the people have failed to understand who he really is
They have failed to understand what kind of Messiah Jesus is to be
And, Jesus knows what they days ahead are going to bring
Today, just a little way down from the top of the Mount of Olives there is a rather small --- yet beautiful Church --- that is there to help us remember Jesus weeping over Jerusalem.
The church is built in the shape of a bottle that one would use to collect teardrops ---- it is one of my favorite churches in Jerusalem.
Jesus --- once again --- walks down from the Mount of Olives and back up into the walled city of Jerusalem.
It is there that our main story for today takes place.
Luke’s version of what we often call “The Cleansing of the Temple” is surprisingly only 2 verses long.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all put this story at the beginning of Holy Week.
John, however, puts it at the very beginning of his Gospel --- in Chapter 2
John clearly does this for theological reasons --- and is the longest version of the story.
But I think that we are fairly safe in saying that this event most likely happened where Matthew, Mark and Luke place it ---- on the Monday of Jesus final week.
One more thing we really need to keep in mind as we examine this story is that the first hearers of this story ---- whether from the hand of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John --- would have known that the temple was completely and utterly destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE
But even by the time Jesus walked up to the temple on that Monday of his final week, it was clear that it was a shell of its former glory and mission.
Instead of being a holy place ---- which of course was its core identity and function ----
it had become a shopping mall,
a government building
and a revolutionary symbol wrapped into one.
The moneychangers and sellers made a profit selling sacrificial animals to the people,
- especially the poor (thus the analogy with a mall);
- the treasury and records of debt were administered there (thus the bank),
- the high priest, who was a Roman appointee, and the scribal lawyers had their offices there (the government)
- and the zealots looked to it as a national symbol that, if it could be recaptured, could house a new government (the symbol).
Every interest group saw the temple as the symbol of salvation, but none of its current functions was going to save the temple or the people.
So Jesus walked right in and drove out the sellers,
which effectively shut down the temple's sacrificial function for a brief time.
Jesus was --- in modern terms --- occupying Wall Street.
He seemed to be announcing a foreclosure on the temple
Indeed, Jesus would do what the temple could --- would not --- do.
Jesus came with humility and not hubris.
Jesus gave himself away instead of pursuing more power,
calling his disciples to lose their lives in order to find them.
Jesus engaged in the risky venture of challenging the prevailing religious worldview and risked death on a cross to see his mission through.
Jesus didn't grasp at another way of salvation, but embodied it in his own life
And, finally, Jesus didn't capitulate to death, but demonstrated the reality of resurrection.
In short, Jesus showed his disciples that the path of righteousness was the path of suffering and self-denial, and not the wide road of the temple that seemed to be leading straight off a cliff.
One of the ways that this passage often gets preached is as a polemic against selling things in church, (and I hear that from many of you all the time) but it really is so much more than that.
Jesus is challenging us to look within Ridge Church and ask ourselves if we (as a community and individually) are being faithful to his call.
Or if we are following the wrong messiah
He seems to be asking us:
- How do we measure success?
Is it in numbers who attend --- or lives that have been changed?
- Do we get so enamored with budgets and buildings, programs and high tech stuff that we fail to ask “Are we really doing what Jesus wants?”
- Are we so busy chasing more
That we have begun to equate bigness with success?
In other words --- are we busy trying to grow an institution rather than make disciples one life, one person at a time?
Have we stopped being prophetic and challenging one another to the way of Jesus because it seems too hard?
Instead turning the gospel into something that demands little of us and promises us great returns?
Do we blame others:
When things don’t go the way that we expect?
Are we looking for the easy fix
- New programs
- Better leaders
- Better coffee
To solve our problems and turn everything around?
Does the church have a spirit of hope or a spirit of defeat?
If any of those are true . . . then Jesus might be calling us out just like he did the merchants in the temple courtyard
We have to make Jesus the center of our worship and our mission.
What would Jesus want to drive out of Ridge Church?
Are we really willing to ask ourselves that question?