When Jesus bowled a spin ball – Monday, 3rd Week in Advent/Numbers 24:2-7,15-17a/Matthew21:23-27
In cricketing terms, we call Jesus’ question to the religious establishment, a spin ball. For those not familiar with this sport, a spin ball is a bowling technique in cricket, in which the ball is delivered slowly but with the potential to deviate sharply after bouncing.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus had just cleansed the temple, having triumphantly entered Jerusalem. The blind and the lame came to him in the temple and he cured them. (21:14). What happened next is just a matter of sour grapes. Scripture tells us that the chief priest and the scribes saw the amazing things he had done and now they hear the children crying out “Hosanna to the son of David;” this in the temple itself! Now indifference turned to anger. (21:16)
The anger on the part of the religious leaders was two-fold. Approaching this from a historical perspective, we know that Jerusalem was a tinder box; one tiny spark that even remotely suggested the start of an insurrection was enough to bring the brute force of the Roman occupiers upon the city. The nominal power that the religious authorities wielded was subject to them keeping the peace.
The very fact that children were now hailing Jesus by a Messianic title was enough to stir thoughts and passions that could range from hope to revolution. But clearly the scriptures also tell us that the religious establishment could not handle the sensation that Jesus had become among the masses. Repeatedly, scripture notes that Jesus spoke with authority unlike the Jewish religious leader. We know from Matthew’s Gospel that the call of one disciple snowballed into thousands following Jesus .
It is in this context that the Chief priests and elders demand to know his human authority by which he has been exercising his ministry and his teaching. Jesus does not need a certificate of identity. He is God. Jesus was not going to turn this into some verbal dual and so he confronts the evil in their hearts with a spin ball. He will answer them if they answer him. We know that the religious leaders understood the implications of his question which exposed their hypocrisy. This was the last ball of the match and they would rather have a no ball than be hit for a six. They chose not to answer him, leaving Jesus with no other option but to give them a dose of their own medicine; a dose of silent indifference to their authority.
At the heart of today’s Gospel is the ruin that jealousy brings into our life. Each one of us is gifted differently. Each one of us is blessed differently. Yet we seem to forget the blessings and gifts in our life and rather focus negatively on the apparent blessing we think someone else has.
Ask yourself, do I feel jealous when someone celebrates an occasion better that I could have afforded? Does a Facebook post prompt me to rejoice in the vacation of another or do I feel compelled to comment negatively on the apparent weight they seem to have put on? A jealous heart is a ticking time bomb; in time you will explode. The sad part is that you destroy yourself.
This advent, give the devil one more reason not to rejoice. Praise people generously and lavishly but do it genuinely. Train your eye to appreciate the good that is being done in your Church. Write notes of appreciation. Share your Christmas sweet recipes and do not take it to the grave. Remember that when people imitate and ‘copy’ what you have done its because you are talented and that you are capable of setting amazing benchmarks. This advent, do good, cease to do evil.