by Matt Cairns
The time between Palm Sunday to the crucifixion of Jesus was 5 days…
What is a working week for most of us was all it took for the crowds of Jerusalem to go from:
“Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matt. 21:9)
“Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:21)
It’s somewhat hard to get your head around the concept that, in the space of 5 days – only 120 hours – Jesus goes from ‘Messiah’ to ‘criminal’ who was hung on a cross. But what can this say to us about social justice?
Let us consider the first thing Jesus is recorded as doing after his triumphant entry in to Jerusalem. In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 21:1-11 records the entry into the city, and then verses 12 to 17 provide us with the story of Jesus’ cleansing the Temple. It says:
“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written”, he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.”
The Temple, a place of justice and restoration, had been turned into a place of religiously sanctioned injustice, and Jesus wasn’t having it. He immediately set about reordering the religious society of Jerusalem from one set up to reflect the world to one that would reflect the Kingdom of God. He stood up against injustice – and the people didn’t like it. When presented with a Messiah who called them to account in regards to how they treated each other – their neighbours – they soon (within a week!) decided that they preferred to just go on with the status quo. This wasn’t the Jesus they had been looking for…
Civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jr. once reflected from jail:
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” (Letter from a Birmingham Jail)
When Jesus overturned the tables in the Temple, he created a tension towards justice, but the ordinary religious folk of the time preferred order over justice. And so they turned on Jesus, hid their palm fronds, clenched their fists, and called out ‘Crucify Him!’
For some of us, we’re happy enough standing among the crowd to welcome Jesus into the city – we might even lay our jackets on the ground for him to walk across. But what happens when Jesus asks us to stop doing something or to give up something for the sake of his Kingdom? What happens when Jesus walks up to our table and starts to place his hands on it?
This Easter period – this Holy week – we are challenged to follow the lead of Jesus, to move out of our lives of comfortable order to ones that look to bring about acts of God’s justice, regardless of the cost. And may our cries be “Hosanna in the highest!”
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
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