What would it be like to be in Jerusalem during the most pivotal week in human history—the week of Christ’s arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection? Here is your frontrow seat to all the action as seen through the eyes of a Roman centurion.
There were more of this prophet’s followers awaiting his arrival within the temple grounds. Our numbers may have swelled to well over a thousand at this point. Keeping him in view from within this multitude of craning necks was a challenge.
We poured into the Court of the Gentiles, with Jesus taking the lead. It quickly became clear that he did not like what he found there.
This whole area had been converted into a market for the duration of the Passover celebration. There were currency exchange tables, caged fowl available for sacrifice, and goods of various and sundry quality arranged for the pilgrims’ perusal.
I could well imagine the eager anticipation among the merchants with the arrival of such a large crowd. But this prophet had no intention of leading a shopping expedition.
With a loud, anger-edged voice, he declared for all to hear, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you”—his hand slashed through the air to encompass the assembled entrepreneurs—“have made it a ‘den of thieves’!”
Then seizing the nearest table, he sent it, and all that was upon it, clattering onto the paving stones. The prophet swung around, and without stopping to admire the havoc he had caused, he grabbed a money changer’s table, and with one quick move he sent a thousand coins rolling in every direction. The next banker’s hoard met with the same fate.
Pandemonium and panic now fully broke loose.
Benches stacked eight feet high with dove cages were next in line. Cages toppled. Birds flapped. Feathers flew. Within moments scores of birds had been released by the prophet’s followers.
Frightened merchants rushed for the exits, clutching all that their arms could hastily gather. Within short minutes the entire Gentile court had been cleared of both buyers and sellers.
The transformation was astonishing, the effect upon his followers electrifying. They were in his hands. They loved the sheer power of the moment. With single-handed raw courage he had swept aside the outward clutter of both wealth and religious tradition.
I was impressed. The man had convictions and would act on them.
Timid temple guards skittered about the perimeter of the courtyard, dumbfounded by what they had witnessed, yet fully knowing they were powerless to act before the prophet’s adoring throng. This was a coup. In just moments they had lost control—lost it to the leader of a Galilean mob. Explaining this would not be easy.
The crowd pressed in closer, sensing Jesus was about to speak. “My house,” he said, and he gestured to the marble floors and columns that surrounded him. “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. This is why there is a temple. This is why I have come . . . that we might draw near.”
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