Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Occupy the Temple – The Triumphal Entry – Luke 19 – Jesus' Last Week Part 1

(Click here to read Luke 19)

Luke 19:37-40 (ESV)
37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives— the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39  And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

All of Luke has led up to this point, the final week of Jesus' life. Since chapter 9, Jesus and his disciples have been making their way to Jerusalem from their hometown of Galilee. Along the way, they have been announcing the arrival of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of the Great Reversal, where the humble are exalted and the exalted are humbled. Jesus teaches a change of the heart of persons, exchanging their greed and selfishness for generosity and radical love. He teaches a change of action, those same individuals exchanging their lives of striving for active participation in a new way of being, a way that lives for others, for the poor and marginalized, for justice in resistance to the patterns of the world. And he teaches and demonstrates a different order to the entire way the world operates, an exchange of power and privilege from the controlling elite to the poor and dispossessed.

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Jesus has been identified by his disciples and the crowds as the Messiah, the promised one they have been expecting to come and set them free from their oppression. Three times Jesus has warned his disciples that his path will not be toward a violent overthrow of the occupying Roman empire, but that their road to Jerusalem is one that will lead to his death as an insurrectionist by the empire's hand. Many have shown their misunderstanding along the way, their desire for justice by the hand of this Saviour so acute that their hope for immediate change often clouds their ability to understand Jesus path of nonviolent resistance and change through love. Still, Jesus continues to patiently teach and demonstrate this third way, this other path, as he makes his way toward the religious and cultural centre of his people's world, and his own death.

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It is through his followers active in the world, by the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives that the Great Reversal will be accomplished. This will be a change from within to without, from the bottom to the top, from the least to the greatest. It will begin from the grave and extend to the sky. Jesus gives his entire being to the world, and the seed broken and buried gives life to the garden of the new Kingdom.

The roots of the living Kingdom wedge wider the cracks of the concrete and barbed wire until the entire dead structure comes crumbling down, revealing a living, verdant garden of True Community in Holy Spirit Kingdom life. - from "Overgrow the Government"

As he approaches Jerusalem, he passes through the neighbouring Jericho, and is given one more opportunity to teach and demonstrate this new way. A tax collector, one of the most despised people of his day for their reputation for betraying family and friends to the empire, has been waiting to see him. This man would represent the opposite of everything Jesus teaches. He submits his life wholly to the powers of this world, oppressing the poor for the sake of personal wealth. But Jesus enters his home, and upon receiving the unconditional love of Jesus, the tax collector repents of his selfishness and treachery, promising to change everything about how he lives.

Luke 19:8-10 (ESV)
8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
This man could not have been more far gone. It is here, in the hearts of individual persons like Zaccheus, love by love, heart by heart, that the Kingdom will come.

Jesus goes on to teach and explain that the Kingdom will come in this way, in the lives and actions of his followers, by telling the story of a business owner giving his workers the job to steward his business while he is gone (vv11-27). Some translations have the business owner say “Occupy until I come”, bringing to mind a not-entirely-untrue image of active peaceful resisters seeking to create counter-cultural communities in resistance to the powers of this world. Jesus' parable describes the workers investing the gifts given them by their supervisor to good affect, getting more for their efforts in his absence, bearing fruit by their growth until he returns.

Luke 19:11 (ESV)
11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.

Anticipation of his arrival has been building for his entire journey. His disciples talk on the road about which of them will be greatest in the new kingdom after the revolution that Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem is bound to initiate. The religious and political leaders increase their pressure and surveillance as he comes closer to their centre of power and influence. Even the puppet-king of the region, Herod, has been looking into this strange man's following and reputation, and hopes for an audience with him.

And the crowds around him have grown, creating a folk-hero of him. These are the crowds that welcome him as he enters the gates of Jerusalem. He rides a colt, a symbol of the house of David, and fulfilling the prophesy of the coming Messiah-King. The donkey is also a satire. This is a king that doesn't need a cavalcade or announcements by superior authorities. These crowds are his people. There is no authority higher than his. He needs no affirmation by the kings or the priests to truly be the king he is. His kingdom is a different one, and the donkey and the common folk are enough.

Jesus and his Followers 
Occupy the Temple

Luke 19:45-46 (ESV)
45  And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

As he enters the city, he demonstrates a passion mixed with deep love, sorrow, and fury. He weeps for the city he loves as he prophesies its destruction, to be fulfilled within a generation when Jerusalem will be torn apart in 70AD, the result of a violent revolution contrary to the peaceful resistance that Jesus has been preaching. Jesus makes his first visit in Jerusalem to the temple, the very heart of the powers of the world that his kingdom will see reversed. In the courts are moneychangers, charging the people who journey to worship for an exchange of their Roman money for other denominations. Since the symbols of the empire were stamped with idols, these coins were not allowed in the temple. Pilgrims who had traveled with money to buy or give sacrifices in the temple would be forced to change their money, and these people took advantage of the religious faithful. 

Jesus is enraged. He forcefully drives the bankers and businessmen out of the place of worship.

And after cleaning house, the backwoods, rural, low-income Jesus and the undereducated and hungry crowds that follow him remain in the temple courts, taking the place of the corrupt bankers and businesses that had previously occupied the space. They remain there to hear Jesus teach and demonstrate the coming Kingdom.

They've set up camp in the centre of the scene of the corruption of the previous order. They've reclaimed the space for true worship and loving community.

Luke 19:47-48 (ESV)
47  And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.

The line has been drawn, and the powers that be are rattled. The critical mass of the poor and the oppressed around their Messiah interrupt the desires of the elite to remove him. For now.

Check back here tomorrow at 8am for more on the Temple Demonstration as it continues in Luke 20.


v8 – A rich and corrupt tax collector becomes a Jesus follower. It appears as though he remains a tax collector, but an honest one. This is different than Matthew, who left his old life behind. Jesus honours both.
Another parable about business.
v22 – Judged by his own words, not necessarily as he would have acted otherwise.
v38 – (Triumphal entry on a borrowed colt) “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
This is a strange way for a king to make an entrance. Maybe today it would have been like a king arriving on public transit instead of a limo.

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