One Week to Live: Monday
This week, as we think about the passion of Jesus, I'll be posting some excerpts from my last book, The 52 Greatest Stories of the Bible. It had been a busy week, and it wasn't over yet. Things had started off with a bang and a parade, with Jesus looking like some Bizarro World version of a conquering king -- riding into town on the back of a donkey with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of peasants throwing down their coats before Him and waving palm branches. It looked like the Messiah was coming to claim Jerusalem.
But all was not well.
The Pharisees complained about the level of excitement (Pharisees frequently do). Can't you get those kids to calm down and be quiet? Jesus went toe-to-toe with the religious establishment and refused to back down. And he won...for the moment. The Pharisees lacked both the popular appeal and the official power to enforce their demands and could do nothing but stand there red in the face.
Jesus, however, did not rejoice in His temporary victory. Instead, He wept over the city of Jerusalem. He knew this would be the last time He would see the city like this. In a few short decades, Jerusalem would be ripped to shreds by the Romans. On top of that, He knew what this passionate week was going to cost Him. So He wept with undignified, gut-wrenching sobs.
Bright and early Monday morning, Jesus and His disciples made their way to the Temple. On the way there, He cursed a fig tree. Once He got there, He turned over the tables and benches where business was being transacted. People and animals scrambled this way and that. He had done this once before (see John 2:13-25), but apparently His initial cleansing of the Temple had little or no lasting impact. So as a sort of bookend to his public ministry, He did it again.
The Sadducees must have joined the Pharisees now in their anger and hatred of this man. But He had the people on His side. If they tried to stop Him, they might have a real fight on their hands. And the ever-present Romans weren't too far away, hands on their swords, watching and waiting for their cue to quell a potential rebellion. And so they waited.
Tuesday was a day of conversation. Following two days of intense action, everyone wanted to have a word with Jesus. Some Greek people. Members of the Sanhedrin. Herodians. Sadducees. Pharisees. Regular folks. Everyone wanted to hear Jesus talk about who He was and what He intended to do. They questioned His identity, His authority, His politics, His eschatology, His ethics. The whole series of conversations built to a fever pitch, when Jesus launched into a tirade against the Jewish leaders (especially the Pharisees).
Afterward, He broke down in tears again. He had less than a week to live, and He knew it. Time was running out, and Jesus, meek and mild, seemed to have gone stark-raving mad!
If this is how the week begins, Lord only knows how it will end.