Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jesus clears the Temple

I remember when I was at college and we were studying Mark's gospel, in Greek no less! One of the things that becomes apparent in Mark's gospel is the way that the narrative is often illustrated by another event. We called them sandwiches! Take for example the clearing of the Temple in Mark 11. The story progresses something like this:

Jesus makes his royal entrance into the city. He visits the Temple and looks around, but it's late so he leaves and stays overnight nearby. In the morning he decided to gather a few figs, but the tree is bare. He curses it (how odd is that?) and then moves on to Jerusalem where he proceeds to drive out the traders who had taken over the outer courts, declaring it to be prayer-house not a warehouse.

The following morning they pass the fig tree which has now withered and died, Jesus talks to them about faith.

Most of us might have expected Jesus to talk about empty religion, about how the fig tree, full of leaves but no fruit, parallels the Temple where there were all the forms of religion but no fruit of faith. But he makes no mention of the Temple or the events that had occurred the previous day. But maybe that's the point.

Maybe the whole problem is faith. You can have all the structure you like, but if there's no faith, there's no power. In fact the very structures you think are helping might just be hindering. The forms and structures, the rites and rituals, might just be working against discovering real faith.

I'm not about to suggest that we drop everything and go out and experiment on a few mountains, but it does seem to me that way too often we restrict ourselves by trying to fit God into our box, to tame him or control him, when in truth he can be neither tamed nor controlled.

And more importantly than anything, it challenges us to pray.

No comments: