Jerusalem

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes . . .”          Luke 19:41-42

“The place that I shall choose,”

City of David, the anointed shepherd-boy, who madly danced before the ark,

Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, city of the great king.

Jerusalem: Every true Israelite’s heart leapt to see it, the crown of the rock set with the gleaming jewel of a gold and marble temple.

A cry comes—from the donkey?  His startled disciples look up; it’s from the Master.  He’s weeping—actually sobbing, there among the tossing palms and fluttering hands.  The throng can’t see it, surrounded as he is by his inner circle, but the twelve are disturbed, to say the least.  Simon-called-Peter glances at his brother Andrew with eyebrows raised; John reaches a hand toward the Master’s shoulder.  Judas feels uneasiness stirring in his gut: is this how a king behaves?  Heaving shoulders, streaming tears—is this mien of a conqueror?

“Oh Jerusalem,” he sobs.  “City of peace.  If you only knew what real peace is . . . but it’s hidden from you.  All that’s left for you is destruction, because you did not recognize your salvation when it came.”

cleansing the temple

They will wonder about that shortly afterwards, when he’s turning over the money changers’ tables in the temple courtyard and driving out the dealers—with a whip, no less!  No one dares to ask him if this is what he means by “peace.”  But at least he’s taking charge, not sobbing in a corner.

“My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!”

Amid the mayhem someone sends a message to the high priest, Caiaphas, who comes to check out the situation with his entourage.  Caiaphas is no fool—before charging in with an air of outrage he takes a moment to look on silently, assessing the situation.

He has heard of this man, of course—of signs and wonders and claiming to be something great, perhaps even Messiah.  Caiaphas intended to have him thrown out—a simple order to the temple guard would do it—but the sheer presumptuousness of the man makes him pause.  This Jesus truly acts as if he owns the place, like the master of a household returning from a long trip to find his servants misusing the property.

Caiaphas remembers something . . .

Yes, that boy—that country boy who wandered into the temple school some twenty years ago.  He had amazed the elders the teachers, even the great Shammai himself, with the maturity and insight of his questions.  Just a peasant, or a tradesman’s son.  With no education beyond the village synagogue school he had eminent scholars tied in knots trying to agree on their answers.

His parents had found him at last—frazzled they were, wild with worry.  The boy met them at the portal and his quiet answer, picked up and repeated for days afterword, echoed now in Caiaphas’s memory:  “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Everyone expected to hear from that boy again.

Well, here he is.  And apparently he’s inherited the family estate: Not “my Father’s house.” My house.

Caiaphas does not give the order, even though his fellow priests are eyeing him expectantly.  This man will have to be dealt with, of course; he’s trouble.  But not now; not at the height of mass hysteria.  As carelessly as he throws words around (“My house,” indeed!) he’s bound to trip himself up if he hasn’t already.

“Not now,” the High Priest says irritably, in reply to a tentative tap on his shoulder.  “Brute force won’t answer; we need a strategy.  Before Passover, I daresay we can trap him.”

As they turn to slip away, a crowd is already gathered around the teacher, who has cleared a space in the courtyard.

As though he owns the place . . .

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