Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cleanse the Temple, Again

Today, two days before Passover, when Christ and his disciples walked from Bethany to Jerusalem it was a much quieter walk. There must have still been many people who came out to see them but there weren't the crowds experienced the day before. This time however when they arrived at the top of the Mount of Olives they came across a fig tree that was completely leaved out. This was a bit unusual for this early in the year but Jesus and his disciples were quite excited because a fig tree bears fruit at the same time it's leaves come on. When they went to pick some fruit to eat however there wasn't a single fruit on the entire tree. When Jesus saw that the fig tree bore no fruit he said, "Let no fruit grow on this tree henceforth and forever". This must have seemed like a very strange thing for Jesus to say but Jesus offered no explanation and simply carried on towards Jerusalem.

Most people are well aware of how Jesus cleansed the Temple by driving the "money changers" from it but many are not aware that he did that again at the end of his ministry just before his crucifixion. This cleansing probably took place on this day, three days before he died. There is also a single line that mentions that Jesus would not allow anyone to "carry vessels" through the temple. What was probably happening is that people carrying freight and making other deliveries to various parts of Jerusalem were taking short cuts through the temple grounds. Apparently Jesus put a stop to this as well as driving the money changers from the Temple once again.

The commotion caused by Jesus throwing out the money changers apparently drew the attention of the Sanhedrin who immediately came out and demanded of Jesus by what authority he thought he could do such an act. Jesus, as he so often did, answered their question with a question of his own. He told them that he would answer their question if they answered a question of his. He asked them if John baptized with authority of God or with his own authority. The Sanhedrin knew right away that they had been trapped, if they said it was on Gods authority then Jesus would ask them why they didn't accept John as a prophet but if they said he acted on his own authority then the people would be angry because most of the people accepted John the baptist as a prophet. The Sanhedrin responded that they couldn't say who's authority John acted on so Jesus simply replied that he couldn't answer either.

The people loved it. Most of them saw the Sanhedrin as a bunch of self righteous men who took advantage of their position and were far too removed from their lives. They loved to see them get embarrassed like this. Jesus then told a parable of a man who had two sons. He gave his son's a job to do and one of them refused to do it and went on his way. He later felt bad about what he'd done and went and did as his father had requested. The other son told his dad that he would do the job he'd been asked to do but then he left and didn't do it. Jesus then asked the Sanhedrin which of these sons did the will of their father. The answer was obvious but when they answered saying "the one who at first refused him"; Jesus looked them in the eye and told them that Harlots and Publicans would enter the kingdom of God before they did because the Publicans and Harlots believed John but they didn't.

Just in case they didn't see the comparison Jesus went on and told another parable about a man who built a large vineyard and hired people to run it for him while he went in a far away land. When harvest time came the man sent servants to collect the proceeds from those who were hired to run the vineyard. When the servants showed up for the money those who were in charge of the vineyard beat them and even killed some. When the servants didn't return the owner sent more servants but they too were beaten and killed. Finally the owner sent his own son saying to himself that surely those running his vineyard will have respect for his own son but when those in charge saw the owners son coming they killed him thinking that they would be able to keep all of the fruits of the vineyard.

Those who loved Jesus and were with him couldn't have missed the fact that Jesus was referring to himself as the Son who was killed and it must have dismayed them to hear him once again talk about his own death like this. The Sanhedrin however didn't get it at first because when Jesus asked them what would happen to those in charge of the vineyard they replied that the Father would destroy them and put others in charge of his vineyard. Jesus only nodded and gave them a moment for it to sink in.

Later on this same day Jesus was confronted once again by some Pharisees who tried to trap him in his words. In response to this Jesus delivered what may have been his most forceful attack on the Pharisees yet calling them hypocrites. How they make themselves beautiful on the outside but are filthy on the inside. He compared them to a tomb that is painted to be beautiful and white on the outside but is filled with the bones of dead men. During his entire life Jesus had been very patient and loving towards the sinner but it appears that the one thing he can't stand is a hypocrite. Following such an excoriating attack it is almost no wonder that the Sanhedrin hated him so much that they actually wanted to kill him.

The Sanhedrin was furious but they saw how the multitude loved Jesus and they didn't dare do anything  while he was surrounded by so many who loved him. It was probably this day that they looked for someone who would be willing to betray Jesus and let them know when and where he could be taken without all of the crowds around to witness it.

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