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Holy Monday


Yesterday many of us gathered for Palm Sunday worship! It was a sacred time as we were set apart through the anointing of oil for our Holy Week journey. What did that first Palm Sunday look like? For Jews, it was the day after the Sabbath. After a day of quiet rest in their homes, people thronged the streets of Jerusalem, joining the usual rush, but with an added edge. From the east, Jesus came, riding not on a war stallion or in a chariot, but on a humble donkey.

Jesus, descending the Mt. of Olives into the Kidron Valley, then through the gates of the Holy City. Excitement mixed with confusion: Jesus had quite a reputation - would he be the one to lead the rebellion against the Romans? Jesus, as was often the case, disappointed, even before the cries of "Hosanna!" settled down. He seemed more likely to be killed than to kill. Jesus knew he was in for a rough week - and across the years he invites us to follow. This week “may we know Christ and the power of his resurrection and share in his sufferings by becoming like him in his death.”

On Monday Jesus walked two miles from Bethany into Jerusalem, a difficult, steep, rocky road. He went right to the temple, and in a frenzy and fury that startled onlookers, drove the moneychangers out of the temple. Was Jesus saying NO to Church fundraisers? Of course not!

He was acting out, symbolically, God's judgment on the temple. The priests, Annas and Caiaphas, had sold out to the Romans. Herod had expanded the temple into one of the wonders of the world - but he pledged his allegiance to Rome by placing a large golden eagle, symbol of Roman power, over its gate. He compromised the integrity of the temple as a ‘house of prayer for all nations’. The temple had become a pawn of the Romans. God’s judgment was inevitable. Within a generation of Jesus' Holy Monday, that seemingly indestructible temple was nothing but rubble.

Jesus was not the first to denounce the hypocrisy and religiosity among God's people. Through the centuries, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Micah, and John the Baptist had spoken God's words of warning to people whose spiritual lives were nothing more than going through the motions, assuming God would bless and protect them even though their lives did not exhibit the deep commitment God desired. God's prophets who spoke this way were not honored, but mocked, arrested, imprisoned, and even executed. Jesus was courting disaster.

On that Monday of the first Holy Week, Jesus shut down operations in the temple and forecast its destruction. No wonder the authorities wanted to kill Jesus! Jesus would himself become a kind of substitute temple. The temple was the place, the focal point of humanity's access to God. Jesus, like the temple itself, was destroyed, killed - and his death, and then his resurrection on Easter Sunday, became our access to God.

Let us be praying for one another!