Continued from yesterday
The sharp crack of the whip caused a momentary silence as the people sought out the source of the sound. That silence after such a deafening roar and then the sharp crack made my ears ring. I never thought the court could get noisier. The women set up such a screeching that my bones rattled. I put my hands over my ears. My head pounded with the clamor and my breath stopped. I wanted out of there but I couldn’t move for fear of being trampled. People scattered like ants on a stomped on hill. I regret to say that was a fascinating pastime in my younger years.
He started in one corner and cracked the whip again. I was so jealous of how He made that sound. I was determined to learn how to do that. He cracked it over the heads of the cattle and they, startled, rearing up and backing away, trampling the feet of their owners, and breaking down the rickety walls of their cages. The sheep split and scurried in a half dozen streams bleating their terror. This sound magnified as it bounced around the stone walls of the court.
Then He drove all the animals from the Temple straight into the streets of Jerusalem. The whip was cracking over their heads like sharp bursts of thunder. The men grabbed at the hems of their garments, pulled them between their legs and tucked them in their girdles. Off they scrambled after their cattle and sheep. It was mayhem. The Man, then laid hold of the tables… one by one the tables were flipped into the air, money tinkled and jangled all about, but the people were too stunned to scrabble through the muck for the coins. Well, the ordinary people were too stunned. The priests and the scribes dropped to hands and knees and searched through the cracks and crevices and all the muck to find each coin. Their hands and clothes became fouled. The stench they stirred up moved me to leave the place, but not before I heard the man shout at the sellers of doves, “Take these things from here! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise.”
He’d said, “My Father’s house.” I knew the instant my gaze met his that this Man was someone so very special. I longed to follow him, to get to know him. Hush, a priest had screwed up courage to approach him.
“What sign do you give us that you have authority to do this?”
The Man turned to the priest, His fury softened a mite, but the priest backed away from him. “Destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will raise it up.”
Bravely, the priest scoffed, “It took forty and six years to build this and do you raise it in three days?”
Jesus. I heard his name whispered in the crowd. Jesus then tossed the whip in the muck and strode from the court. His shoulders wide and his stride firm, confident. I could not help myself. I ran after Him. I had to know this man.
For seven days of the Passover, I stayed close to Him. I drank in His words. I learned more from Him than from all that Rabbi ben Phenias taught. I was so thankful I had learned my scriptures for the Man quoted from them constantly. He spoke of things that I had wondered at and had questioned, and now they were explained. Those around me scoffed. They would throw questions at Him and were angry at His answers. Alas, I had to take mother home to our little hamlet, but I watched and listened for news of this Jesus. When ever He came near, I would hasten to where He was. One day, there was a vast crowd gathered on a hillside. I hurried with my chores that morning so I would not miss His teachings. Mother pressed a basket in my hand before I left, but I barely noticed until that evening.
When he looked down at my young face, his eyes thanked me and blessed me in greater terms than if he had handed me a bag of gold. He acted like I had handed him a gift of great value… like the basket was made of gold and the fish and bread were rubies and diamonds. Even my mother never acted with such gratitude as that when I gave her my few earned coins at the end of the day. Oh, he didn’t do anything except pat my shoulder and look at me. But, glory, this Man was great at saying things without speaking a word!
I watched his hands, big and gentle, break those fish and bread. Then his voice so sweetly blessed the food and God. Mother was completely undone when I brought several baskets of food home with me. I didn’t have to work for a whole week! I wanted to know more about this man. I heard everything he said. I went about gathering information like I was going to report it at school. In fact, I did. After I recited the sayings of Ezekiel, I reported on what I had seen and heard.
Rabbi ben Phenias scoffed, “How could such a small one see prophecy fulfilled in such a small bit of scripture?”
I wavered. I had been so excited to remember what I had seen this man Jesus do with that little bit of food and then to recite the saying, “And I will raise up over them one Shepherd. And He shall feed them. My servant David, He shall feed them, and He shall be their Shepherd.” And especially after I had looked into His eyes; surely this Man was sent by God. I heard Him say so and the miracle could not be done by anyone but from God. But, my mind was young, then. Who was I to question the Rabbi, who had studied the sayings and the scriptures all his life? So, I tucked the thoughts and memory away to be considered one day when I was older, more learned, and more versed in Scripture and the Sayings.
I stored up the things I studied. I did not just recite by rote, I tried to understand what I was learning, then reciting. This God that we worshiped, this God of my father and his father and his father and all the fathers before was magnificent. He was power and might. He fed the children of Israel for forty years. He parted the sea and made the bottom dry ground. He struck down great armies. He made the sun reverse its course for a day so the children of Israel could win a battle. He walked in the fire with the three friends of Daniel. His hand holds the earth and He sits on the circle of the earth. He put each star in place. He lets loose the rain and holds back the waters of the sea. His word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. He answers the prayers of the lowly. He promised a Shepherd that would feed His flock, who would heal the sick, and make the lame walk and the blind see and the dead walk. His power and might knows no bounds.
I drank in His words like a thirsty man collapsed on the desert floor. I believed Him. He healed the sick, made the lame walk and the blind to see again. I believed Him, but I was too young to follow Him.
Three years passed… more than three. I gathered in all I could hear about this Man. I searched for Him every Passover and was never disappointed. I noted that the priests and scribes grew more agitated at His presence and teaching than a mother bird is agitated at an egg-stealing snake. One time, they fluttered and fussed and picked up stones, and Jesus just melted away right in front of my eyes. He was there and then He was not. I was astounded.
Brothers, today we are talking about what our Brother Paul discusses in his letter to the Galatians. Paul tells us about the fruit of the Spirit. I stand before you, a man of great conviction that Jesus is the Son of God and that He lives today. When you believe Him, He comes to indwell your heart and you, too, can exhibit this fruit. I wanted to give you an eyewitness account of Self-control. On the thirteenth of Nisan, in the year our Lord was crucified, I witnessed such self-control that has never been exhibited to this day. Pardon me… it is difficult for me to contain my grief at the thought of our precious Jesus on the cross… Ah-hemm.
As I was saying, it was the thirteenth of Nisan. I had just poured my drink offering into the silver basin. I saw the poor, dressed in ragged homespun, laboriously counting out their kolbon to pay their Temple taxes to priests dressed in fine linen, dripping in gold chains. I saw the money changers dressed in purples and fine linen miscounting in their exchanging Temple coin for foreign coin. I saw doves wiggle and flutter out of poor women’s hands, flying back into their cages. I saw exorbitant prices paid for lambs that could be bought at home for a few coins. Bullocks brought fortunes to their sellers while the waste from these animals fouled the Temple floor and air. I was sickened at the noise and at the evil that had again pervaded the Lord’s Temple.
The crowd parted for an instant and I looked directly into those eyes again. The white marks of anger were back around his lips, his shoulders were set and his jaw worked his beard. The Man was holding back white, hot fury… again.
I had learned over the past few years that this Man, the Son of God, had the power in his finger tips to consume the whole of the mountain, not just the Temple or the people in it. It was going to be a huge uproar and I wasn’t about to miss one second of it.
I scampered to a corner and settled on a keg to watch.
His feet never once stopped in hesitation. He strode to the corrals and tossed down the rickety walls, driving out the cattle, shooing the sheep and overturning the tables of the money changers. All the while He was shouting, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer.’” He tossed another table into the air, “But you,” He growled the word, “have turned it into den of thieves. You have defiled the Sabbath and this House.”
With one breath from His mouth, He could have consumed them with fire, yet… He did not. He scattered the cattle, He did not kill it. He scattered the people, He did not kill them. Our brother Peter teaches that God does not pour out His wrath upon this people who deserve His wrath because His desire is that all come to Him and to not perish. Our God is holding back His white hot fury so that all those who desire to become His can have that opportunity. Make no mistake, His wrath will be poured out and the earth will melt, make sure you are not one of those caught in the flames.