Scripture: Matthew 21:12-17; Matthew 21:1-11
During the season of Lent we are doing a sermon series called, The Footsteps of Jesus. Last week, we talked about Jesus’ miracles. We discussed how the point of these miracle stories is to help you understand that when you become a disciple of Jesus, you are going to be placed in positions where you have to do things that feel impossible. You’re going to be pushed to do things that cannot be done, but God helps us to find a way because that’s what it takes to create God’s kingdom.
This concept leads very nicely into the seventh step in Jesus’ ministry, his journey to the Temple, what we in the church call Palm Sunday. Perhaps the greatest symbol of the corruption among the Jewish people was the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was where members of the Jewish faith would come to offer animal sacrifices to God. Almost all the priests who were responsible for running the operations of the Temple were members of the aristocracy. They were often very wealthy and they were able to remain wealthy because they took a cut of every transaction that took place on Temple property.
It’s also important to realize that all of the priests who worked in the Temple were very pro-Roman. Every priest was vetted by the Roman government and was expected to be loyal to Rome’s interests. This conflict of interest is likely what inspired Jesus’ famous line, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mt. 22:21) In other words, these two things should be separated from one another. Politics should not control religion.
So Jesus set out to do the impossible. On Palm Sunday, Jesus marched into Jerusalem with his followers to take down the political power that controlled the Jewish people. This is why Jesus ran into the Temple courtyard and overturned the tables of the money changers and the sellers of the sacrifices. Jesus wanted to make a statement—this is wrong, and until this ends, until Rome removes itself from the affairs of the Jewish people, the Jewish people will continue to be oppressed.
This Sunday we’re going to talk about how Jesus calls on us to stand up to political systems of oppression. Although it may be hard, our Christian ancestors stood up to these political systems and so must we. We have a lot of wonderful services for Holy Week. Palm Sunday is just the beginning. I hope to see you Sunday!