Cleansing the Temple

In the last blog, we had a good laugh at a most bizarre scene where Jesus curses a fig tree. We wondered if Mark was trying to set up a message, and if so, this next story would be what it’s aimed at. So let’s look at Mark 11:15-19 and see how it might connect with the cursing of a fig tree.

So, Jesus goes to the temple. The pretty standard behavior for a Jewish visitor to Jerusalem. However, Jesus began to, “drive out” people who were buying and selling in the temple courts. He flipped over tables and chairs of the stalls, and wouldn’t let anyone take their purchased goods through the temple. I would like to point out that in this early version, there is no whip, no mention of anger, and Jesus has time to gather and teach people, which doesn’t suggest rage or other out of control emotions.

From the sounds of it, the temple had basically become a marketplace. Jesus’ problem with this is his understanding of scripture. Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7, “I will make them happy in the temple where people pray to me… My temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray.”

Thus, Jesus, approaching the temple, anticipated a place of prayer and Godly devotion, but instead found a marketplace. Not only that, but the passage specifically mentions selling doves. Doves were the lowest possible offering and would have been primarily used by those people who couldn’t use anything else, as established in Torah. In this way, the temple was forcing people to pay for that which was meant for people who did not have anything else. It’s demanding something precisely where Scripture had intended for something to be free. It’s injustice.

This injustice is further supported by Jesus’ second OT reference, Jeremiah 7. “Do you think this temple I have claimed as my own is to be a hideout for robbers? You had better take note! I have seen for myself what you have done! says the LordSo, go to the place in Shiloh where I allowed myself to be worshiped in the early days. See what I did to it because of the wicked things my people Israel did.”

It’s a threat, that God knows the wrongs being committed in His temple, and if they do not repent, they will be destroyed.

Image result for Jesus teaches at temple

Shock of all shocks, those individuals who were profiting from the marketplace at the temple, the priests, and scribes, decided that Jesus should die because he was messing up their sweet operation. This was Jesus’ plan all along. He knew it was going to upset those in power, and what the result would be. He warned us many times.

As for the relation to the fig tree, I see the title of the next section also involves it so I will wait until next time to discuss it.

Grace and Peace to you all.

Nice Angry God… Good Angry God…

Angry GodThere are a few very important things that Bible students learn in their earlier Old Testament classes, very important from where I’m sitting anyway. It is this, Job’s first and last chapters were added at a later date than the center pieces. This means that everyone’s favorite sections about Satan and God having a betting contest, and God’s whirlwind episode, were pinned on after the initial content had been written. What does this mean? Well no one can be sure, but considering the conflicting messages contained within either section, I’d say it wasn’t a friendly addition.

In Old Testament class, my professor proposed a theory that Job was an anonymous rebellion against something that we still encounter today, prosperity gospel. Now, what Job is talking about is more like, anti-prosperity gospel. It discusses how the ancient Hebrew people viewed sickness, tragedy, and imprisonment. As you read the Old Testament, take note of what it says when Israel is exiled or in trouble, it’s because they did something wrong, worshiped wrong, committed idolatry, something. And when something goes right? Same story, it’s because Israel was faithful, prayed right, ate right, believed right. Job is a message to the Hebrew people, talking about situations in which those effects are clearly untrue! God doesn’t work that way! It seems to say.

So what is it trying to say? The same thing that your average logical Christian will tentatively point out to their friends. If God rewards the good, why do bad people continue to flourish? If God punishes the evil, why do so many good people have bad things happen to them? And you know what so often used against these questions? Job! The whirlwind of God at the end of Job proclaiming his unfitness to question God’s decisions. However, you know who else questioned God? Abraham. You know what God did? Bless him with a bajillion children and an entire nation. Anyone else? David. Who was David? The man of God’s own heart. Seems slightly contradictory wouldn’t you say? That’s because it is.

Job was intended to put a wrench in retributive theology, that is, what we do has a direct effect on how God treats us. How fickle is that, am I right? Now, stick with me as I’m about to throw something crazy in the sauce. What if we looked at the entire Old Testament before Job, all of God’s supposed actions and reasons for doing things, as if they were being interpreted through retributive theology? In other words, what if we take what Job reveals about the minds of ancient Hebrew people, and apply it to their understanding of God.

Alright, hard to grasp I know, here’s a famous example. God hardened the heart of pharaoh. Boy have scholars gone to town trying to explain how this is okay! However, if we apply a little bit of Jobian logic, we can deduce that the ancient Hebrew people believed God hardened pharaoh’s heart, because pharaoh said, “no” so many times! Think about it, if you believed God was in direct control of every word, wouldn’t someone saying “no” mean that God had also said, “no”? In which case, God told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let His people go, so that God could have the courtesy of replying “no”, so that God could then destroy the Egyptians. Well, if you believe in retributive theology, this is exactly what would happen, and it’s exactly what is described by God to Moses!

BUT! What if you didn’t believe in retributive theology? What if Pharaoh saying “no” was the act of a free man, beloved by God? A normal, arrogant, and selfish absolute ruler of a people? We certainly don’t have any of those around these days. What if we extrapolate this idea, this theological belief held by the Hebrew people to all of the times in the Old Testament when God acted? Might it allow us to believe that the God of the OT and the God of the NT are actually, possibly, the same entity? If the Old Testament is a record of the ancient Hebrew perspective on God, and the New testament is the record of the ancient Christian perspective on God, isn’t in possible that they are slightly different? However, we believe that God doesn’t change, and as Christians we believe in Jesus, so how might we reconcile the two? By realizing the theology of the ancient Hebrew people, and reading scripture through the lens of retributive theology.

Think about it this way, how different is your perspective on God from people just 60 years ago when truth had a capital “T” and the best thing for every man was to get himself a woman to stay home and cook for him? Now imagine that multiplied by centuries! It’s different! Wouldn’t their God act differently from your own? Yet you both believe He is the same person? Exactly!

Now, I want to state right now that I trust 2 Timothy 3:16, but I think it can be just as applicable if the scripture was written by inspired men. Scripture is a true at heart, inspiring, amazing, miracle of a record of human interaction with God over thousands of years. However, let us not forget, God is alive. Speak to Him with your heart, ask Him of those times recorded in scripture that you are uncomfortable with, see if you find a whirlwind, or a loving embrace.

In the beginning…

“‘I love you.’

“It was all I knew then. But, it was more than mere knowledge. It was me, before I knew there was a me, there was only this overwhelming love. As I live on, the memories of it are fading, but just before I wake up in the morning, if I’ve been sleeping well, I will feel it again. It’s feels kind of like being forever enveloped in the satisfaction of scratching an itch. Everything in the world feels right, and there are no responsibilities. You are free to simply, be. I’ve labeled it, ‘being’.

“You see my sons, that was the world before me, and before your mother. What you see now, these plants and animals, they were in the ‘being’ too.”

Able listens attentively, quietly pensive, then the more restless and curious Cane asks, “But that sounds really nice. How could things have been really nice all the time then, but now there are animals who eat each other, and plants that die? Why do I feel sadness now?”

“That, is a good question. The story goes like this:

“Your mother and I, after having found each other in the ‘being’, (that’s a whole other story), were being when we both felt a push. Not having any bodies at that time, it was very hard to understand what was happening, but I think I can label it a push now. We felt a push, and then we were here, in this place, just lying on the ground, completely naked! It was so confusing, one second your ‘being’ the next you’re alive.

“The most fascinating thing about being alive, is that when you’re separated from ‘being’, you begin to understand that ‘being’ isn’t just a place, it’s a whole realm, a dimension that thinks and feels, that is more great and complex than you and I could ever comprehend. It was from ‘being’ that all that we know and all that we are was created. So when you have a question like, ‘why?’ you have to ask ‘being’.”

Cane leaps up with arms outstretched and says,”Okay! ‘Being’, why is there sadness!?”

“Ha, ha, ha! I love your passion my son! However, ‘being’ does not speak the way that you and I do now, that’s part of what I was trying to tell you. ‘Being’ is so complex, there is no way for it to express itself here.”

Looking flummoxed, Cane responds, “Then how can I ask my question?”

“Easily, you already have. You see, ‘being’ created this world, and ‘being’ permeates this world. The minute you had a question, the moment it occurred to you to ask, ‘being’ heard it. Before then, even. It was simply waiting for you to realize that you had the question.”

Cane sat down to process this, but Abel, having heard this particular explanation before, had a second question, “Father, if that is true, how do we know what the answer to our question is?”

“Again! A good question! What brilliant sons I have!

“This is one of the most difficult things about existing outside of ‘being’. Before, we were within it, and so we were what it was. We were still separate in awareness, but most things like feelings simply flowed through us, and we understood them. Now, we have to try harder to be in contact with it. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean it’s farther away! It is simply a matter of simplicity. ‘Being’ created this world for us to exist in, which is for that purpose, simple. And the simple, cannot easily comprehend the complex!

“What I do to speak with ‘being’, is I sit very still, and very quiet. And I try my hardest to thing of all of the love and gratitude I have for ‘being’, for creating me, for loving me. Eventually, I get to the end of my ability to express my love, and in that space, after love and thanksgiving have been fully spent, that I can ‘be’ again. Not exactly the same way I was, but enough that I know it’s desires, and it’s feelings again. It is there that we can gain answers little one.”

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One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn in my exploration of God, and spirituality, is that there is almost never an answer that doesn’t bring more questions. Every argument that seems to support a thesis, seems to have an exception that must be handled with it’s own argument, and it’s own thesis, which may have an exception. I do think there is a bottom to this pit of arguments and theses, but I cannot get there in one sitting.

The foundation for the tale that I have begun above is simply love. God is unconditional love. Now I know there are questions and arguments, and I could address them now, but I prefer to address them as the story continues. Just know that I have considered the questions, and I have sought that answers, and what I have discovered will be revealed in time. For now, settle into the atmosphere above, and allow yourself to love until you can’t anymore. For it is in that place that God dwells, the God which is, “I AM”, the God which simply is, is simply “being”.

Before anything else can be understood, there must a foundation be laid. That foundation is unconditional love. From here there are many possibilities, but only one which seems to fit with all that has been revealed to us, to humans, from God. There will be many turns, bumps, bruises, and scrapes. However, while there will be some you wish to heal and never see again, there may also be some which you hope will scar, so you can show others what you have discovered, and have a story of your own to tell.