Yesterday’s jittery waiting and jubilant arrival were behind Him. Pontius Pilate’s procession into the city through the West Gate had raised the ire of the patriotic citizens of Jerusalem, Jesus’ procession through the East Gate made everyone wonder what would happen next. He had already dealt once with the Pharisee’s during the procession. The city was buzzing. The pressure had been building for weeks. The heightened political situation and the intense spiritual mood of a High Passover had swollen the number of visitors in Jerusalem from one-hundred-thousand to over two and a half million. A storm was about to break.
Early in the day Jesus had announced the fulfillment of the old covenant by cursing a fig tree, the biblical symbol of Israel, to bear fruit no more, ever. That pronouncement was like a distant clamoring thunder and the rumor of rain. Then came the lightning.
Jesus of Nazareth fell on the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem like a flood. No reluctant reformer coming in the night to nail his manifesto to the church door under cover of darkness, no, Jesus struck from a clear blue sky and shattered the false peace of the Passover participants, overturning the tables of the merchants and moneychangers as He overturned the old order. He liberated the sacrificial animals being sold in the name of convenience and holiness, an excuse for unethically taking advantage of the poor and unwise who only came to find peace with God. Driving all before Him with a whip plaited contemplatively by His own gentle hands, He shouted them down! They had corrupted the Temple! They were thieves, peddling redemption! Form had trumped function in the Temple of God and Jesus was there to clean house!
To the lost and broken, Jesus comes as a gentle Savior and Redeemer; a shoulder to cry on and strong arms to help us stand. He comes on Sunday riding the foal of an ass, the picture of regal humility, accessibility and kindness and we welcome Him. We who know how poor we are in spirit; we who realize our brokeness and weakness; we who long to reconnect with who we are meant to be and know we can’t get there on our own; we who need Him welcome Him and rejoice at His peaceful, loving, shining face.
But to the arrogant, the ones who claim to understand His teaching and yet refuse to love; those who place tradition above truth and piety above peace; those who sit on lofty seats in high temples of their own wisdom and condemn all who they find distasteful and disagreeable; and all those that would use the message of the Lord to their own benefit, be it power, prestige or financial gain; to those He comes with a whip and a shout to clean His house and purify the place of worship.
Maybe it’s our churches. Maybe it’s our arrogant minds. Maybe it’s our willful, egotistical hearts. Wherever our temple is located, He comes to purify us, His children. His greatest desire is that we will respond to His gentle love and teaching, but it is good to remember this Passion Week, that He is not above a good Spring Cleaning.