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Mark’s Gospel: Temple ‘cleansing’ points to Jesus’ mercy

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Jesus, the Merciful

{thots from the ‘cleansing’ of the Temple by Jesus} Mark 11:11-22

Mark's Gospel header

{entered the Monday after Easter 2013}

Yesterday, at the end of a very blessed Sunday, I sat down to read my copy of the Quran. I turned to Surah (chapter) number two and read a few verses. I flipped through several other chapters. My eyes settled on this line:

 ‘In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful.’

 This line is deeply ingrained in Islamic culture. It’s repeated over and over throughout the Quran. This is the opening line to nearly every chapter of the Quran, a reminder to its adherents that Allah is beneficent, that Allah is merciful. In my translation it’s in caps – Beneficient…Merciful – a reminder that Allah is the embodiment of goodness and mercy.

 

Yesterday was not any Sunday, but a high day of worship. It was Easter. Seems like an odd thing to do at the close of a day for Christian worship – to read the central text of another religion.

 But there is beauty in contrast. There’s capacity of thought in seeing the starkness of a thing.

Recent in my thots,  almost alive, is Jesus cleansing the Temple. I could see Jesus rushing through the Temple the week before he was crucified. I see him slinging a whip. I see him upturning tables. I see him welcoming the blind and lame, unclean horde, into the Temple courts (see Matt 21). The vividness this “cleansing” the Temple washed the quranic text into the background.

 How do I know, I mean really know, that Jesus is merciful, that he is beneficent? 

Firstly, I know this temple cleansing, so called, is not really about cleaning the Temple. Jesus did not come into the Temple courts with a bucket and mop…or a shovel and broom as if to clean up after the animals. This event doesn’t look like a house call from Merry Maids (or Messiah Maids).

This is among other things a show of mercy. Yes, there’s bit of grand standing by Jesus, but it’s not surprising. Why not? The offenders had it long time in coming.

We know Jesus is mercy filled because he shows it. From the depths of his sincerity he doesn’t clean the Temple. He ransacks it. He intervenes. He brings its operations to halt even if only for a short while (“he forbid the vessels from passing through”). He displays the interruptive power of mercy. The greed and abuses by the Temple leadership were a stench on this holy place, but who would confront this? One man. Often mercy walks and runs and stoops alone. 

 Secondly, when Jesus ransacked the Temple he came into that space as a Defender. Yes, he was defending his Father’s expectations for covenant faithfulness in the one place on earth where it should not have faltered. And he was defending the weak, the outcast, the Gentile, the widow, the poor who wanted access to God. Jesus, an army of one whose weapon is mercy.

 I found it helpful to compare accounts from one gospel to another. When reading Mark’s account I also went over to Matthew’s.

So cool was it to notice that Matthew adds into his telling of that event that just after Jesus ransacked the Temple “the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them” (Mt 21:14).

“No way Jesus! You can’t do that!! Those…those people have to go through the process just like the rest of us. What in the world are you doing? Haven’t you read our laws?”

I conclude that Jesus was not only upset about the bilking of the money changers. He was upset that those hordes of people considered to be “unclean” were being excluded from worship except for their having to go through an intense – even expensive – process to be made ceremonially clean.

Jesus by his actions effectively says forget all the “red tape” ya’ll. Come on in! Just as you are. I’m going to heal you right here and now so you can immediately dispense with the frivolous gangway of man-made rules.

 Instead of being a place that breathed grace it had become a place tarnished by financial oppression and graft, a place where the outcasts felt very much like outcasts, where Gentiles seekers were threatened with capital punishment if they went past a certain point.

 You see, I know that Jesus is merciful, even if he were to say it over and over (but he didn’t), because he showed mercy. He lived it right in front of our eyes. I know for sure that Yahweh is merciful because I see Yahweh in the flesh being merciful, defending mercy.

 The one whose name means “Yahweh saves” comes defending and initiating his long storied intentions to make access to God free, open, without strings attached and priceless in its simplicity.

 I know Jesus is indeed the embodiment of mercy because he shows it. He charges solo into a Den of Thieves (see Jer 7:11 with Mark 11:17) for the sake of mercy. Then about a week later he hangs on a common cross for the sake of mercy, for the sake of bringing it to the world.

 

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One thought on “Mark’s Gospel: Temple ‘cleansing’ points to Jesus’ mercy

  1. Pingback: Mark’s Gospel: the Temple “cleansing” and Jesus’ sovereignty | butter light

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