Many thanks to Peg Corwin for her suggestion that I send out an email telling about what happened each day of Holy Week. This short series begins today, with Monday.
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.”
And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. ~ Mark 11:12-19
The day after Jesus entered Jerusalem to the sounds of people singing Psalm 118 and receiving him as king, he traveled back to that city from Bethany, where he was staying (maybe at the home of his friends, Mary and Martha?). On his way, he was very displeased with a fig tree, and let it be known.
But the thing we remember most vividly about this day is Jesus’ response to what he saw as economic abuse at the Temple, the holiest place for Jews to worship.In "The Last Week" by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, the authors emphasize the tremendous love the Jewish people of the first century had for their Temple: they showed a willingness to both support it financially and to defend its integrity with their lives. When Herod installed an enormous gold eagle in the Temple (to show allegiance to Rome, of which the eagle was the symbol), two Jewish teachers instructed their students to remove it. They did, and they paid with their lives (about 40 were executed). Borg and Crossan stress that the people could love the Temple and revere it, while at the same time disagreeing with particular practices. Jesus sees in the buying and selling of animals for sacrifice an emphasis on commerce (and an exclusion of the poor) that is obscuring the Temple's true function: the worship of God.
The incident brings to mind another passage of scripture:
I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream. ~Amos 5:21-24
On the second day of Holy Week, Jesus both demonstrated and taught that worship is meaningless unless those who worship are committed to justice. The purpose of worship is to prepare us, strengthen us, and equip us to do God’s work in the world.