[Based upon Chapters 1 – 6 of GLORY REVEALED; Sisters of Lazarus, Book 2]
From “GLORY REVEALED” Chapter 5
*Intro to the story: The Teacher, Jesus ben Joseph, had entered Jerusalem to the clamorous shouts of “Hosanna.” The scene picks up inside the Court of Gentiles in the Temple, where Lazarus and Simon are presenting their Passover lamb to Michael and Nicodemus for inspection.
A group of men were climbing the stairs in the tunnel that led to up to the Court of the Gentiles, with an even larger group of people following them.
“Look!” One of the people who had pointed out Lazarus said. “It’s Jesus ben Joseph!”
The crowd following Jesus and the twelve surged out of the tunnel and onto the marbled floor, waving palm branches and headcloths, startling the people and animals in the court. Over the bleats and cries, the crowd following Jesus called,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh!”
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
As if by a command, the crowd silenced. All watched as the Teacher walked around the marbled court, staring at the Temple built by Herod. It was common for visitors to Jerusalem to be awed by the beauty of the holy place. When the Teacher drew near, Lazarus opened his mouth to greet him, but was stopped by the touch of Nicodemus’ hand and slight shake of his head. The older priest studied the young prophet as he walked towards a nearby table of a moneychanger.
Jesus reached out, laid a hand on the edge of the table and closed his eyes.
“Hey!” said a moneychanger, “remove your hand from—Iiiieee!” he screamed and jumped backwards as Jesus, drawing in a deep breath, squatted slightly and, grabbing the wooden edge, stood, overturning the table. Sunlight flashed on gold coins as they pinged and spun and skittered over the stone floors.
Before the moneychanger could recover from his shock, the Teacher stepped to the next table and turned it over. He moved from table to table, upending them, scattering bags and stacks of coins. He opened the cages of doves and pigeons, releasing the birds. Shocked by the Teacher’s actions, the moneychangers scrambled around, trying to gather their coins or catch their birds.
As one, the crowd erupted into shouts as people dropped to their knees, grabbing coins from the marble floor and shoving them into the folds of their girdles. Fights broke out among people and moneychangers. The Temple Guard tried to intervene; however, the crowd outnumbered them and kept them from reaching the Teacher.
From the hall leading to the Court of Israel, black robed priest spilled out like ants whose hill had been disturbed. Joktan and Abel were among them, waving their arms, demanding silence, ordering the people to leave immediately and calling for the guards to do something. At the back of the group of priests, Caiaphas ben Joseph and his father-in-law, Annas ben Seth stepped out of the hall, wearing their dignity and authority as a robe.
Jesus, having upended the last table, crossed to the center of the court and stood, staring at the leaders of the Jewish people.
“Silence!” Caiaphas’ voice echoed off the stone walls.
The cacophony stopped. People froze as they were—some standing, some kneeling, hands clutching coins or spears. All eyes swung between the High Priest and young prophet from Nazareth.
Caiaphas lifted a hand to point at Jesus. “What are you doing, Jesus ben Joseph?” He demanded. “You are disturbing the peace of Yahweh’s Temple!”
Most people cringed when the gaze of High Priest rested on them and trembled if he spoke to them. Jesus did neither.
“It is written,” Jesus’ voice resounded around the marbled courtyard, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’” he lifted a hand to point at Caiaphas and Annas, ‘but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’”
A collective gasp rose. All Jews recognized that Jesus had quoted the prophet Isaiah:
“Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
He had also quoted the prophet Jeremiah:
“‘Has this house, which bears My Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching!’ declares Yahweh.”
As if dismissing the High Priest, Jesus turned and walked up to a man who was standing near the wall. His left foot, wrapped in dirty linen, was lifted up and he used a tall stick to support his weight. Jesus placed his hands on the man’s shoulders and closed his eyes. Then, opening his eyes, he knelt and, gently grasping the man’s left foot, lowered it.
The man looked at Jesus and then at his foot. He gingerly shifted his balance and put weight on his left foot. His eyes shot open. “It doesn’t hurt.” He moved his foot forward and put more weight on it. He dropped the stick and took a step. “I can walk.” He walked in a large circle, blinking away the sheen of tears that gathered in his eyes. “I can walk! I can walk!” Then turning to Jesus, he dropped to his knees and grabbed the edge of the Teacher’s tunic.
“You healed me! Thank you, Sir! Praise be to Yahweh!”
From the crowd, a woman hurried across the marble floor to Jesus, leading a man with a bandage wrapped around his eyes. “Sir,” she said. “My husband lost his sight last year. You have healed others,” she glanced towards Lazarus and Simon. “Please heal him.”
Jesus smiled at her before stepping up to her husband. He found the edge of the cloth on the man’s face and unwrapped it; eyes, white and cloudy, did not flinch at the sunlight. Jesus placed his hands gently over the man’s eyes and leaned in to whisper in his ear. Then he stepped away.
The man lifted a hand against the sunlight. His hand began to tremble as he lowered it, to stare at his palm. He lifted his face to his wife…and smiled. He held out a hand to her.
She threw herself against his chest, crying and laughing. The man looked around at crowd; milky white eyes were now black as opal.
“I can see,” he said. “I can see.” The man looked at Jesus. “Thank you! Praise be to Yahweh! I can see!”
Pandemonium erupted as people cheered and danced. Young children jumped up and down, chanting, “Hosanna to the Son of David.”
Caiaphas tried silencing the crowd, but to no avail. Gathering their robes, the High Priest and his father-in-law crossed to Jesus. Pointing to a group of children dancing and chanting around the Teacher, Caiaphas said, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”
Jesus reached down to ruffle the hair of a young boy before looking at the High Priest. “I hear them,” he said. “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise?’”
When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, He went into the Temple area known as the Court of Gentiles. No Gentile was allowed beyond this outer court. It was in this court that the historic High Priest Caiaphas had authorized a market for the sale of ritually pure items necessary for Temple sacrifice: wine, oil, salt, and approved sacrificial animals and birds.
In that time, the money circulating in Palestine came from three sources: the Roman imperial coins; the provincial Greek coins, and the local Jewish coins. The Greek and Roman coins featured human portraits which were considered idolatrous to Jews. Money changers provided the required Tyrian (Jewish) coins needed to pay the annual half-shekel tax [Exodus 30:12-16] required of all male Jews two years of age and up.
“Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the LORD.” (Exodus 30:13)
It was an accepted practice for the moneychangers to add a surcharge for exchanging coins; however, these surcharges were not free from fraud and extortion. This was also true for animals brought for sacrifice; when a person presented a lamb for examination, it was not uncommon for the priest to ‘find a flaw’ in the animal and require the person to purchase one of their flawless animals, with the understanding that some of the profits would be shared among priests and moneychangers.
From the location of the Temple, the Court of Gentiles provided a convenient shortcut from one part of Jerusalem to another. In Mark’s account of the Cleansing of the Temple [Mark 11:16] Jesus prevented people from carrying merchandise through the Court.
Jesus was outraged that the Jewish leaders – who were fastidious about the areas set aside for their worship – blatantly disregarded the area set aside for Gentiles who wished to worship Yahweh, stating they used it as a “den of robbers.” Rather than answer Jesus’ accusation of their misuse of the Temple, the Jewish leaders point to the children.
“But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things He did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked Him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read, “From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise?’” (Matthew 21:15-16)
There is still an ongoing debate about the proper way to worship the Lord. There are those who believe that liturgical is the acceptable way, while others condemn liturgy as being boring and point to a seeker-friendly service as being the best. There are those who state hymns sung from hymnals are the only proper worship songs, while others claim scripture songs are better. Some churches tout their exuberant worship services, while others praise their quiet, contemplative services. The debate goes on to include frequency of services, how and when to serve communion, the size and decoration of the church buildings, and even organized churches verses home churches.
Sadly, many of us are just like the Temple Leaders, focusing on the wrong thing; the technical aspects of worship and not on the fact the Lord was being worshipped.
When my children were little, I tried to get up at least an hour before they woke, in order to have time for Bible reading and coffee.
Generally, one of my children would wake up during that time and would come and climb into my lap. I would wrap my arms around them and we would sit there, sharing a quiet and intimate moment. Later in the day, they would all be running around the house playing. It was not uncommon for one of them to stop, run over, hug me and say, “I love you, Mama,” before rejoining their siblings in play. Now that our children are grown, they no longer climb in my lap, but their expressions of love for me are no less precious.
God created everyone differently. For those of us who are believers, our worship of the Lord is as unique as our fingerprint. Jesus accepted Mary pouring spikenard over His feet as well as the adulation of the children’s “Hosannas.” If it is accepted by God, who are we to question how our brothers and sisters in Christ choose to worship their Heavenly Father?
Pray with me?
Father God, thank You for creating me uniquely. Please forgive me for the times I have looked down upon the way my brothers and sisters in Christ worship You. Let me instead rejoice in the fact You are being worshipped. Amen.