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Tuesday of Holy Week, 2008

March 18, 2008

Howdy again, folks…

One of today’s passages in the lexicon is Mark 11:15-19…

When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching. That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city.

The painting above is a fresco done by Giotto di Bondone (1304-06), and must be the most angry Jesus I have ever seen. Look at Jesus holding that whip, his laser-like attention on that merchant… wow! In a world of Precious Moments and various cheesy images of Jesus floating around it sometimes takes a painting like this to help us remember who we’re dealing with.

Jesus cared very deeply about the people around him, and when he arrived at the temple that day he found that the abusers had moved in and set up shop. The temple was to be a place of prayer, a place where people came and received goodness, a place where they met God. Instead, they arrived to find a “den of thieves,” a group of unscrupulous folks waiting to cheat and rob them.

I’ve often wondered what Jesus would find in the courts of my own heart… would he find a place of prayer where the people with whom I interact find all good things, or something else. Have I allowed the courts of my heart to be populated with the market’s values, where everyone is a bargain or a ruse, where people are seen not by what they need, but by what they might provide?

Jesus wasn’t mad necessarily that things were being sold, but that people were being cheated and robbed, cheated and robbed in a holy, sanctified place. This week I want to reflect on my own valuing of people. I can make a list a mile long of all the things that make me mad throughout a given day, but are they the things that make Jesus mad? Are my values lined up and in tune with Jesus enough that I am able to recognize a person’s worth and be so moved to anger by the injustices within my reach?

No, I’m not advocating a new brand of Jesus-driven popular violence in our streets or workplaces. That day was a special day, when the Lord of the house arrived and did some much needed cleaning. But I would like a nice slice of that kind of courage and wisdom that can recognize the times when I must speak and act on behalf of another person. I would like to voluntarily do some cleaning in my own courts.

My prayer today, on this Tuesday of Holy week, is for all our hearts to beat ever more in tune with the heart of One who so passionately loved people.

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