Jesus’ Humanity – Monday in Holy Week

Audio of this evening’s sermon can be found on the Saint Paul’s Website.

Yesterday afternoon, I had to make a trip up Juniper Street.  I turned right out of my neighborhood and found myself behind a car travelling about 10 miles per hour below the speed limit.  As we approached the intersection with Michigan Avenue, the car began to slow even more, until we were creeping up to the stop sign, and then the driver just crept right on through.  I stopped, waited my turn, and continued north to find myself still behind that car driving 10 miles per hour below the speed limit.  We came to Azalea Avenue, and the same thing happened, they just rolled right on through.  The replayed the whole thing again at the stop sign at Orange Avenue, and by then my blood pressure was through the roof.  I’m all for obeying traffic laws, but the haphazard application of hyper-safety and lazy driving is one thing that really, really steams me.  I confessed my sin on Facebook later in the afternoon saying, “For Holy Week this year, I’m asking Jesus to help me not hate people who drive 10mph below the speed limit and yet roll through stop signs.”

I think this is specifically appropriate for Holy Week because of just how human Jesus seems to be on Monday in Mark’s Gospel.  You’ll recall that yesterday we heard of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.  He came in to town, riding on a Donkey, as the crowd shouted “Hosanna!” and laid palm branches along his path.  As he arrived in town, Jesus made a quick stop by the Temple where Mark tells us “he looked around at everything, [and] as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.”[1]  I imagine that night was a long one for Jesus.  The day rattled around in his head.  The crowds, their cry for salvation, and the things he saw in the Temple Court: money changers offering terrible exchange rates, turtle doves at ten-times the mark-up, and the Temple authorities lining their pockets; it all must have weighed heavily upon Jesus as he tossed and turned all night long.

As the sun rose Monday morning, a tired and hungry Jesus set out with his disciples for Jerusalem.  Along the way the happened upon a fig tree, and even though Jesus knew it wasn’t the season for figs, he really wanted one anyway.  When he found none, a very human, very tired, very hungry Jesus cursed the fig tree and his disciples heard it.  Monday in Holy Week presents us with a Jesus with whom I can very much relate.  In the heat of the moment, we’ve all done things that we later regretted.  We’ve all misplaced our anger over something upon someone or something else.  The fig tree wasn’t what Jesus was upset about.  He was upset about what he saw in the Temple the night before.  He was frustrated that it really was going to come down to him dying on a cross.  Fig trees are fig trees and human beings are going to be human beings, and Jesus was angry about it.

Mark goes on, and Jesus and his crew made their way to the Temple.  In an instant, all the fear, the anger, the frustration, the exhaustion – it all came pouring out as Jesus flipped the tables and ran everybody out.  What was supposed to be a house of prayer for all people had become a den of robbers; a place where people made money off the backs of the faithful.  The system was created to keep the poor, poor and to make the rich, richer.  Jesus’ anger at the fig tree may have been misplaced, but his anger in the Temple was right and righteous indignation.  His actions still seem very human, but his motivation was the very will of God.  God’s will was that all of humanity might come to know him through the Temple as a beacon on the hill.  Instead, it was just another symbol of human beings oppressing fellow human beings.  It had become a source of pain and frustration and it had to be stopped.  Jesus was right to do what he did and the chief priests and the scribes knew it, which is precisely why he had to be stopped.  The very human actions of Jesus will cause other human beings to act predictably.  There will be quarrels and bribes; treason and lies, but that is for later in the week.  In the meantime, I’m left to wonder about my motivations.  My frustrations with the world around me are, more often than not, the result of my own selfishness.  My very human reactions are part of what brought Jesus to the cross.  My own need for forgiveness is what led him to lash out on Holy Monday.  In due time, it’ll all be forgiven, but for now, we walk the way of the cross in search of the promise of life and peace for all people, even me.  Amen.

[1] Mark 11:11b

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