A house of prayer for everyone
At church it’s not uncommon to focus on certain parts of the Easter story more than others. We tend to centre on Palm Sunday, the last supper and the Easter garden, skipping over the bits in between. Indeed, if you only go to church on Sundays, you can go from turning up on Palm Sunday with Jesus coming into Jerusalem, and then jump to Easter Sunday to hear that Jesus has risen from the dead.
A whole lot happens in those days in between, and there’s a lot we can learn from it too.
There’s one part at the beginning of the week where Jesus gets properly mad. Coming into the temple in Jerusalem, he sees the moneylenders selling sacrificial doves and drives them out. When we hear this story, we often leave with the moral that we should keep money and prayer separate. But Jesus came from the Jewish tradition in which sacred and secular were not separated (what was most important was that both areas were done right) so why else might Jesus be mad?
Well, if you look into it, there’s an interesting reason the people were selling doves. If you were rich and wanted to be spiritually clean, you sacrificed a lamb to God, but if you were poor you sacrificed a dove. If you couldn’t afford one, then you couldn’t come into the temple. This was a huge barrier for the poor people who needed God’s help and a community of support the most.
Not only were the people in charge implicit in keeping people out, they were also profiting off people who were struggling financially. You can see then why Jesus would be mad and why the people in charge would be annoyed when he tipped over the tables.
A little later in the week, Jesus sees a widowed woman who gives away her last two coins. He says, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’ (Mark 12:43-44)
We admire the woman for her faith, but couldn’t we equally read what Jesus said with a sense of outrage in his voice? Wouldn’t you be upset to hear that a poor widow had nothing and was expected to give everything, and the more privileged gave so much less and didn’t do anything to change things?
Jesus didn’t get on well with the people in charge because he was presenting a whole new way to live. It was one of the reasons he was crucified. What’s important about these moments in the Easter story is that there’s so much we can learn about the way we treat one another, individually, as churches and as a society. For Jesus, it was essential that the poor, the sick and the marginalised were welcomed and helped above all else.
At CAP, we’re all about giving the very best to those with the very least. Our heart is to put those who are often left at the ‘bottom’ of society at the very top of our priority list. We work in and through the Church in order to create safe spaces where the poor can come to be welcomed and loved.
This Easter time, we can all be challenged by what Jesus did in the temple that crucial week: how do we make sure our churches (and we as individuals) model his bias towards the vulnerable and marginalised and avoid making the same mistakes as the temple authorities?