(This is the first in a series of posts providing a short daily contemplation for Holy Week.)
On Holy Monday, the tradition in the church has been to read the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple. The story can be found in Luke 19:45-48. Many attempts have been made to recreate Jesus’ last week based on the gospel accounts, and some believe that the cleansing of the Temple took place on Monday of that week. Whether or not it happened on Monday, what is clear is that Jesus’ disruption of the Temple was a turning point. From this moment on, his enemies are looking for ways to have him killed.
So what was it about that prophetic action that was so dangerous? Jesus was calling into question not only the way the religion had been commoditized, but also the inequality and social problems that system exploited. Making ritual sacrifice was an important part of Judaism at that time. Jesus was an observant Jew who would not be opposed to sacrifice on its own. But, the money-changing and marketplace that had grown around the temple made it so that the poor were cut off from practicing their religion. It was a system that benefited the elite, the people whose positions and hold on power Jesus presented the most direct threat to. It is reminiscent of the proclamation of the prophet Amos, who says in chapter 5, “I take no delight in your solemn assemblies, I will not accept [your sacrifices]…but let justice roll down like waters.”
It is worth noting that yesterday, April 9, is also the day the church recognizes theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A pastor of the Lutheran church, Bonhoeffer lived in Germany during the rise of the Nazi party. His moral resistance to Hitler from the start led him to participate in the Confessing Church, those who would publicly oppose Nazism. Bonhoeffer would eventually be executed on April 9, 1945.
Taking a stand against social injustices is seldom popular and can be a dangerous act. Yet, in our baptismal calling, we are sent to bear God’s redeeming word to all the world. Today, on Holy Monday, let us be thankful that our God is a disruptive God, seeking justice for all people.
Prayer for Monday of Holy Week (ELW): O God, your Son chose the path that led to pain before joy and to the cross before glory. Plant his cross in our hearts, so that in its power and love we may come at last to joy and glory, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.