The Corridor: Mark 11:12-33

The Corridor

We are a church community committed to having an incarnational presence in the Washington/Baltimore Corridor.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Mark 11:12-33

Today is the day after Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, as we have been following along in this story in the book of Mark. Chapter 11:12-33, tells the story of Jesus returning the next day to Jerusalem to visit the temple. On his way he finds a fig tree, and after finding no fruit on that tree he curses it. Arriving at the temple Jesus proceeds to cast out the money changers.

If Jesus entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey was meant to contrast his Way of peace with that of one who would enter on a warhorse, Jesus entrance into the temple the next day would contrast the activity of the religious elite with Isaiah’s vision for Israel.

Yesterday the crowds who shouted “Hosanna” in desperation for a savior, even if they misunderstood the kind of messiah Jesus would be, were rural peasants, and not the religious elite that lived a different life in the city of Jerusalem. These peasants are those who had cut palms “from the fields”, and acclaimed Jesus as king and messiah knowing that they are on the bottom and they need a savior. By contrast, Jesus’ first interaction with the city’s inhabitants of the religious elite is to drive the moneychangers from the temple in the immediate aftermath of his symbolically cursing the “fruitlessness” of the fig tree.

The moneychangers exchanged Roman money for the local shekels, required as a temple gift based on the OT law. They were not merely conducting business, but they were also extorting the captive crowds. The doves were for offerings for the poor, and the merchants charged excessive prices. This took place in the area known as the "Court of the Gentiles" or "Nations", the only place where foreigners were allowed. This adds even more meaning to what Jesus quoted in Isaiah when he referred to the temple as meant for a "house of prayer for all nations."

While the Jewish peasants may have misunderstood the way of the messiah, the religious elite had sold out this dream of the Prophets for their own benefit. They had made an unholy alliance with Caesar, exchanging their responsibility to that guide others in the Way and the Prayer of the Prophets for an agreement that they would help subdue and control the crowds for Caesar. These religious elite benefited from an evil system that oppressed their own poor, and milked whatever was left by charging excessive prices in order to participate in religious practices.

Leaving the scene on their way back, the disciples noticed that the fig tree had dried up and died. This represented how the religious leadership in Israel had no fruit and dried up and died in its ability to produce any. The religious leaders and systems in Jerusalem were not going to bring about God’s dream as expressed through the Prophets for a Way and Prayer so big it could house all the nations and reconcile us all to one another and to God.

All seemed lost at this pronouncement, yet Jesus reminded them that with God all things are possible. Mountains can indeed be moved; the dream for such a large global reconciliation is not dead. But we only begin to enter that dream and make it a reality when we believe enough ourselves to forgive others as God forgives us.

This all leads directly into the conflict with the temple with the chief priests, scribes and elders, who demand to know by what authority Jesus is doing these things. Those on the margins recognize God’s presence in Jesus (”Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”); those at the center of power with only an interest in controlling others for their own benefits can only see Jesus as godless.


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