Sunday, February 20, 2011

House of Prayer, Den of Thieves

This post is linked to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Y'all remember a couple of weeks ago we talked about Jesus and the children [Mk 10]? Yes. We covered that a little out of order to compare those kids going straight to Jesus to the boy with the loaves and fishes only getting access to the Apostles. Remind me please, who brought those kids to Jesus? Their parents. Yes, the parents knew Jesus was some kind of prophet, miracle-worker, maybe even the Messiah. What'd the parents want? They wanted Jesus to bless the kids. Yes, by...laying his hands on them!  Yes! Did Jesus tell the kids, "Hey now, your parents put you up to this; y'all come back when you have some faith of your own, and then I'll bless ya." No, he just blessed them! Yes, because the parents wanted it for their children; the parents had faith. It's the same with Baptism: do babies know anything about Jesus? No. Right. Babies don't know anything; but their parents do. Babies are Baptized because of their parents' faith.

Shortly after blessing the kids, Jesus started on a journey, probably to Jerusalem. "And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus says,"You know the commandments: 'Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness"...which means? Don't lie! Yes..."Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother." What's defraud? Tricking someone out of his money. Jesus is sort of teasing him, like saying, "What's the matter? Don't you know the 10 Commandments?" And the man says "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." And Jesus, looking upon him loved him..." Why do you think Jesus loved him? Because he wanted to be good?  Yes! And because he felt like observing the 10 Commandments wasn't enough...there was more he should be doing, but he couldn't say what.  Jesus said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Uh-oh...I don't know if I could do that.  Following Jesus means more than checking off the 10 Commandments every day. "At that saying [the rich man] went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions."  Jesus didn't let people stop with the 10 Commandments, he had two more: love your...neighbor? Yes, as yourself; and love your...? No guesses? Jesus told us to turn the other cheek if someone hits us, and to love...our enemies!  Yes! I think those two are tougher than the first Ten. And Jesus said, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And they were exceedingly astonished..." Tell me, in Jesus's day, how could you tell if God had super-blessed someone? They were rich? Yes, God blessed people with lots of kids and goodies. And if God didn't bless you, you might wind up with a son who was blind from birth. But now Jesus says being rich is more of a problem than a blessing. But if it's hard for the rich, who enjoy God's favor, to get to heaven, what chance do the poor Apostles have? They said to him, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For men it is impossible, but not for God; for all things are possible with God." Jesus means that whether someone is rich or poor, he still can't get to heaven on his own; we all have to trust in God. Now y'all may remember Peter had a mother-in-law, which means...he was married? Yes. And I know how much I miss my wife if I don't see her at lunch every day. But Peter had to leave home to follow Jesus all around the Judean countryside for a couple of years now. Peter said to Jesus, "We have given up everything and followed you." I think Peter's reminding Jesus that he didn't just give up being a fisherman, which would make him poor, but he gave up being with his wife and family, which is even worse! Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold...and in the age to come, eternal life." Jesus is telling Peter he knows what Peter has sacrificed. People like Peter, who trust in God and let go of whatever they have to to follow Jesus, will have eternal life, which is what the rich man was looking for at the start of the story. The rich man was afraid to completely trust in God. He also wanted to trust in his stuff; but that may keep him out of heaven. I know how he feels; I like to trust in stuff too.

Shortly after this episode, Jesus enters Jerusalem during the time of Passover, as we saw last week. One of the first things he does in Jerusalem is to go aggravate the scribes and priests at the Temple. Tell me about it. He went in and knocked over the tables and whipped people! Yes! "The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables." Now Jesus didn't go into the holy part of the Temple where only priests could go; he was in the outer court where people could come in to make their Passover offerings. If they came from far away they might have to change their money to pay a Temple tax and buy animals for sacrifice. Imagine cows peeing and pooping and farting in front of our church: smelly, noisy, and completely irreverent. "And he...said to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?" What's that mean? That people should be respectful? Yes. Then he says "But you have made it a den of thieves." Tell me about it. They shouldn't steal people's money? Yes, maybe the moneychangers were taking advantage of poor people who didn't know what a fair deal would be; defrauding them. That's how most of the people who heard Jesus would understand what he said. But the scribes and Pharisees and priests understood Jesus even more, which made them decide that they had to get rid of Jesus, and soon.

Let's see...who can read this [on the board]: NTHNG. Nothing? Yes, good! Keep going if you can...NTHNGBT. Nothing but? Yes again...this is harder...NTHNGBTCNSNNTS. Umm...nothing but consonants? Yes, genius! Very good. Sometimes grownups can't figure that out. In Jesus's day, the Scriptures were written in Hebrew. The Hebrew alphabet didn't have vowels, and there were no spaces between the words, or punctuation, or lower case letters, or paragraphs. A book in the Bible was one long stream of consonants on a scroll. What's a scroll? A rolled-up book? Yes, one long page rolled up. Reading was hard to do, and the only people who could read well were Pharisees, and scribes, who could also write. They made a living out of reading, studying, and memorizing the Scriptures. They knew them very well; all of the important parts from memory, much better than the average person, even the Apostles. So when they heard Jesus say "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations" they knew right away he was quoting Isaiah. And when he said "den of thieves" they remembered Jeremiah had said it first. We covered both of these quotes a couple months ago during our prophet classes; let's see what Jesus was telling the scribes, Pharisees, and other Temple staff.

First off, Jesus quotes Isaiah. But when the scribes hear "house of prayer," they don't just think about those words, but the whole passage. Isaiah prophesied that someday God's House would be for all people, not just Jews: "Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people." So Jesus reminds the scribes and Pharisees that being Chosen won't matter if God will accept all people into his Covenant.

Then Jesus quoted Jeremiah while standing in the Temple Court, where Jeremiah had stood when he chewed out the Temple staff centuries before; Jesus was showing he had the same authority as Jeremiah. When he said "den of thieves" the Pharisees recalled the whole passage, part of which is: "Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, "We are safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of thieves to you?" Now I don't think the Temple staff of Jesus's day were doing all the bad stuff Jeremiah's talking about, but Jesus's point is they were just as unfaithful in their own way. And then they'd remember the next thing Jeremiah said: "Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel." Tell me about Shiloh and the Ark. They took the Ark to a battle and everybody died, and they lost the Ark. Yes, and when they got the Ark back, did they return it to Shiloh? No? Right. God abandoned Shiloh; God and his Ark never dwelled there again.

Now these two prophecies together are completely insulting to the Temple staff. Jesus, speaking through Isaiah and Jeremiah, prophesies that being a Jew won't matter much, and that non-Jews may be dearer to God than Chosen People. Then he compares them to adulterers and worshipers of Baal, the baby-eating false god. And finally he says that this place, the beautiful Temple in Jerusalem, will be abandoned by God just as Shiloh was: that God won't live there anymore.

As fast as the scribes and priests figure all this out, they are livid! What's livid? Real mad? Yes, you might say killing mad.

Then "...the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them." Healing is how Jesus shows his authority to prophesy. "But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant; and they sought a way to destroy him; for they feared him, because all the multitude was astonished at his teaching." When people say "Hosanna to the Son of David!" to Jesus, who do they think he is? The Messiah? Yes, and a Son of David Messiah would be a...king? Yes. So how would Caesar like for the Jews to get themselves a new king like David? He wouldn't like it. So what would he do? Have a war?  Yes. And the Temple staff don't want a war: the Romans would go crazy and kill half the country. So they have both a political reason and a religious reason to get rid of Jesus.

Y'all remind me what Jesus did in Jerusalem when he was 12. He was teaching the grownups? Yes, at the camel store? Ha, no, at the Temple! Yes he was discussing the Scriptures with the teachers there (probably scribes and Levites), and they were impressed with his knowledge. I like to imagine that on the day that Jesus quoted Isaiah and Jeremiah, some of the older men at the Temple would have remembered Jesus when he was a smart kid 20 Passovers ago.

Class over!

[Much of the groundwork for this class is elaborated on here. Anyone teaching this would want to get a bigger picture than what I cover with the kids in this post,]

Res Ipsa Loquitur 2

This post is linked to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Here is a short (5 minute) recorded bit from the February 20 class: Barney & St. Augustine

I posted on the topic a couple of years ago: Barney & St. Augustine.

Interesting to see how the live version compares to the old written version.

For more live classes, click on the Res Ipsa Loquitur label at lower right.