The Christian tradition of waving palm branches in churches this upcoming Palm Sunday obscures the actual point- the message of the visit to the Jerusalem Temple by Jesus and a few of his disciples. Christians are all caught up in the ‘triumph’ of the scene wherein the writers of the Gospels portray throngs of people adoring him as he trots in on two donkeys.
Why did Jesus trek to Jerusalem? To be ‘recognized as the long-awaited messiah’ as we are led to believe? This is the fantasy of the writers, yet we can be fairly certain of his actions in and around the Temple. What was his fascination and anger with the Temple?
Jesus was angry with how it was being corrupted by the Herodian Dynasty and the equally corrupt high priests they appointed in the Temple. He wanted to clean up the mess that existed in the Jerusalem Temple.
It seems quite clear that the so-called cleansing of the Temple scene was the highlight of his last days. Each of the four evangelists intensely focus on this event; it, in fact, is why he was executed. I often wonder why Christians do not see the clarity of this central episode in his life.
I am not certain who Jesus despised more: the Romans or the high priests in the Jerusalem temple. The collusion of both parties had a double devastating impact on the Jewish people. Their worship in the sacred temple had become an enormously profitable enterprise of the high priests. The peasants and the poor would give nearly all of their meger savings to buy a bird to be sacrificed. Those with a bit more means might purchase a goat or sheep. The entire scheme irritated Jesus’s sense of what an offering in the Temple ought to be about.
These peasants and subsistence farmers were already strapped by high taxes imposed by the Romans and their cohorts in the Herodian Dynasty. Thus, what little was left went to the shyster high priests and their money changers.
I am irritated just typing these words! I cannot imagine living under these rotten conditions. Neither could Jesus. Yet many Christians focus on the ‘triumph’ of the ride into Jerusalem as if the entry was more important than the actions he performed at the Temple. This is why he was killed! Not his claim as messiah.