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Housekeeping (Mark 11)

Housekeeping (Mark 11)
Monday of Holy Week

Let us walk with to the Cross with Jesus. After all, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, … let him take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

So let us take that journey with him. Yesterday (Sunday) he rode into the city on the back of a colt. The crowd shouted “Hosanna!” as they spread their cloaks across the dusty road. At long last, it appeared that the kingdom of God would come, just as Jesus had predicted.

Well … the kingdom arrived, but not at all in the way they expected. For, to be sure, by week’s end Jesus was crowned — but with thorns, not jewels. And it wasn’t James and John who sat at his right and left hand (they lobbied for the job); instead, it was two condemned criminals.

How did it come to this? How did the chorus of adulation turn so quickly into cries of condemnation? In large part, it was because of what happened on Monday.

Let’s pick up the story as it unfolds in Mark 11. As Jesus completed his historic ride, Mark tells us he “went into the temple. And when he had looked around… he went out to Bethany.”

Why this odd conclusion to Palm Sunday? What was Jesus looking at, or for? What is the relationship (and this is the key issue) between the King of Israel and the temple of Israel?

We shall soon see, for the very next day, what does Jesus do? He returns to Jerusalem, enters the temple, and immediately starts to act like he owns the place.

On this side of history, we see the truth: Jesus does own the place. The temple is where God lives among his people. Jesus has every right to clean house. It is his house, after all.

But the religious leaders did not see it that way. They determined on the spot to find a way to “destroy him.” Within days, they arrested him on charges of plotting to destroy the temple (Mark 14:58).

It is tempting to be critical of these shortsighted religious people. They were blinded to the reality of Jesus’ true authority. Their self-serving theology made him a threat to their cherished traditions, so they rejected him.

But let us not be too harsh on them. After all, the New Testament makes is clear that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor 3, 6 and 2 Cor 6). Jesus has every right to assert his authority over us.

If we are honest, we confess that we sometimes balk at Jesus’ authority. Sometimes we’d rather he would just mind his own business. But then we remember the truth: we are his business.

As we walk to the Cross with Jesus this week then, perhaps it would be well for us to take a “fearless moral inventory” of our lives. For example:

Do we submit to Jesus’ authority as it relates to our marriages and our sexuality (Mark 10:1-12)?

Do we surrender to Jesus’ authority over our money and resources (Mark 10:17-31)?

Do we repent of the ethnic pride which causes us to reject people who are different than ourselves? (This was part of what was going on in the temple that day: they no longer cared about preserving the outer courts as a “house of prayer for all the nations” [i.e., the Gentiles, see Mark 11:17]).

Do we obey Jesus command to “forgive, if you have anything against anyone” (Mark 11:25)?

These texts, taken from the immediate context of today’s reading, are merely samples of the things to ask ourselves in preparation for Good Friday. There are many more examples in scripture, as we seek to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).

In time, we find that to do so is not a drudgery; it is a delight. After all, left to our own resources, we tend to make a mess of things anyway. Far better to surrender the keys to him. He owns the place, anyway.

“Lord Jesus, I give you the keys of my house. Clear away all the clutter. Throw away all the trash. Cleanse me within and without, and help me to be a living witness of new creation for your sake. Amen.”