High drama in the temple- Friday, 8th Week in ordinary time – Mk 11:11-26
Sandwiched between the triumphant entry into Jerusalem (chapter 11) and the last supper, (chapter 14) the passages of chapter 12 and 13 contain the last of Jesus’ interactions before His passion and death. The stage is the temple of Jerusalem, the protagonist is Jesus and the villains are played by the Jewish authorities. Up to the second week of June we will continue with reading from this section and then switch to the Gospel of Matthew.
After Jesus enters Jerusalem and the temple (11:11) He makes his way to the village of Bethany; where Martha and Mary lived. We are told that the next day (Monday of Holy Week) he heads back to the temple. The text of today encompasses the narratives spanning two days; Monday and Tuesday of Holy week. On Monday he curses the fig tree and cleanses the temple after which He departs from the city. On Tuesday he passes the fig tree on his way back to the temple of Jerusalem.
It is the third day of Passion Week which will feature sayings controversies, parables and an eschatological discourse of Jesus. The game plan of the Jewish leaders, seen in the readings of this week and next, is the same. Get Jesus by hook or by crook even if one has to play ‘good cop and bad cop’. That is exactly what they did. First they sent in the big guns (11:27) the chief priests, scribes and the elders. When that failed, they sent to Him the legal eagles in the guise of the Pharisees and Herodians (12:13), who ironically could never get along for they hated each other.
Then came the Sadducees, keepers of the law (12:18) who were sent scurrying to their legal holes with the words of Jesus, “is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures not the power of God?” Finally a scribe, (12:28) who saw goodness in Jesus’ answers, but in praising him Jesus also attacks his fraternity.
Jesus’ response is a bit alarming for those who have cultivated the image of ‘Jesus humble, meek and mild’, which He was, when He needed to be. But Chapter twelve did not call for such a response and Jesus holds back no punches. He accuses the Jewish leaders of murdering the prophets and exposes their desire to kill Him, the Son of God. These words unsuccessfully prompted the Jewish authorities to arrest Jesus.
He recognizes that they are testing Him (12:15) to trap Him (12:13) and leaves them utterly amazed at His response (12:17 b). Jesus attacks their very teaching authority and knowledge of scriptures (12:24), and silenced them for ‘no one dared to ask Him any questions (12: 34)’. And if that was not enough, He hammered the last nail in the coffin when He calls out the scribes who wear long robes, sit in the seats of honour in the synagogue and banquets but who ‘devour widow’s houses yet for the sake of appearance say long prayers.’ It is little wonder that Jesus stood alone before Pilate for speaking the truth. He found himself isolated.
So ‘Mark’ this week and the next; a week of high drama in the temple!
Fr Warner D’souza
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