Holy Week, Part 1: Monday

Artboard 8 copy 2-2.png

Matthew 21:12-16

Today is Monday.

Yesterday Jesus fulfilled what the prophet Zechariah had long ago promised, “Rejoice! … Your King comes to you, humble and riding upon a donkey.” His disciples are elated, the religious establishment is panicking, and Jerusalem is buzzing with the news of his arrival. The Nazarene is here! The One who speaks and acts as with the authority of God, the One who redefines the Kingdom of God, the One who is loved by many, hated by many, but ignored by nobody, Jesus of Nazareth has come to town.

But what is the purpose of His visitation? Nobody is entirely sure. Could it be as harmless as Jesus making his pilgrimage to the holy city to celebrate the Passover feast? Probably not … conventionality has never been his style. He’s up to something, and everyone’s waiting to see.

Jesus does not disappoint. Today He will be a spectacle. Today is His day of purging, and Jerusalem’s holy Temple will be His victim.

Jesus is righteously incensed at the sight. The once sacred Temple has become a spectacle of greed and pride, and this is most apparent during the Passover week. Vendors sell souvenirs and animals for the sacrifices, profiting on the pilgrims’ religious longings and need for atonement.  The religious elite parade about, basking in their celebrity status and the adoration of the onlookers. To Jesus, the scene is hideous and His zeal for the house of the Lord consumes Him.

He violently drives out the moneychangers, overturns their tables, spills their profits across the floor, and then in impudence He dares to call the Temple His own house shouting, “My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.” Jesus cleans His house.  He drives out all impurities and then reestablishes the heart of the Temple. It becomes a place of renewal and restoration. The desperate file in and Jesus heals them all. The children are euphoric with their excitement, praising Him with that Messianic cry they have learned since birth, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The desperate and childlike welcome the purging of Jesus. But others did not.

The prideful are furious. How dare He? This is an assault, not just on their beliefs and practices, but upon their very identity. Jesus has cost them their control, popularity, and religious assurance. He has confronted all their vain trusts, stripped them of what they know and hold dear, and instead of turning to Him in their now vulnerable estate, they harden their hearts toward Him and plot His destruction.

For Jesus, today is a death sentence. He has cost the greedy their profits, He has humiliated the proud, He has overturned the established order, and His fate is sealed.

So be it.

Jesus has come to Jerusalem to die. His actions on Monday have set the plan into motion, and He knows His cross is near. And it is for this cross that He has come—the true instrument of God’s purging in all our lives.

The Temple purification is a paradigm of what He has come to do to us. He has come to cleanse us of all evil and to take up residence inside us for the purposes of renewal and healing. The childlike and the desperate will welcome His purging. The self-reliant and prideful will be insulted. Monday was a day of cleansing. Some loved it and received Him. Others hated it and rejected Him.

What will be your response to the purging intentions of Jesus?