This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news
USA to arm Syrian Rebels
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
The sight of the city moves him to tears
41-44 And as he came still nearer to the city, he caught sight of it and wept over it, saying, “Ah, if you only knew, even at this eleventh hour, on what your peace depends—but you cannot see it. The time is coming when your enemies will encircle you with ramparts, surrounding you and hemming you in on every side. And they will hurl you and all your children to the ground—yes, they will not leave you one stone standing upon another—all because you did not know when God Himself was visiting you!”
45 Then he went into the Temple, and proceeded to throw out the traders there.
46 “It is written,” he told them, “‘My house is a house of prayer’, but you have turned it into a ‘den of thieves!’”
Jesus teaches daily in the Temple
47-48 Then day after day he was teaching inside the Temple. The chief priests, the scribes and the national leaders were all the time trying to get rid of him, but they could not find any way to do it since all the people hung upon his words.
By the time the gospels were written the city of Jerusalem had been sacked by the Romans in 70 CE, after an abortive rebellion against their rule. The Gospels agree, although they differ on much else, that a crucial accusation against Jesus was his prophecy of the destruction of the temple. Matthew, Mark and Luke agree that Jesus prophesied also the destruction of Jerusalem and the catastrophic end of the Jewish nation. Luke especially shows Jesus as grieved by forthcoming disaster, which will come about because the people don’t know “the things that make for peace/ health/ welfare”. (Hebrew: shalom).
This seems a harsh judgment on what was after all, a capital city occupied by foreign troops. How would this criticism have sounded to a patriotic Frenchman in 1943? He would have pointed out that a treacherous, puppet government thought it was bringing peace by collaboration, but that more courageous people knew better.
Was Jesus Messiah urging his people to accept foreign rule for the sake of peace? I think Luke depicts him as doing so, but the “peace” he advocates is very comprehensive. The era of a separate, unique people of God was finished according to Luke’s theology, and a new era in which God would gather a people of all nationalities was beginning in Jesus, who died for that new kingdom of God, not for Israel. For Luke, Jesus had called Israel to lead this new gathering of God’s people, as indeed he shows the Christian believers doing, in his second volume, “The Acts of the Apostles”. But Jesus’ call was rejected, and Israel, in Luke’s opinion, set on the path to destruction.
Worldly wisdom tells us that the freedom of our own land is a sacred duty that only a coward would neglect. Surely, there are times when it is a duty. But the gospels will not allow us to accept our own nation as a supreme value; only God’s kingdom deserves that allegiance. Building transnational communities that recognise God’s rule in the world is a higher calling that leads to true peace. In this sense, every Christian is a non-violent jihadist.
Jesus, according to Luke saw Israel’s refusal of her divine calling mirrored in her temple: the house of God, to which all nations were destined to flow, had become a mere national monument, a tourist rip-off. Jesus’ scattering of the traders was a prophetic mime of the more dreadful scattering to come.
Jesus was dealing with a society whose holy place was defiled by commercial interests. How would he deal with a society in which commercial interests are so revered that they have become the holy temple of that society, requiring worship from rich and poor? Now a society like that would make him weep.