by John K. Stoner (April 2, 2015)
Have you ever heard it asserted that the reason Jesus upset the tables of the money changers in the temple was that he lost his temper?
People calling themselves Christians have made and continue to make assertions which defy common sense and plain evidence. It is quite embarrassing to others of us who also call ourselves Christians, or with more certainty, followers of Jesus.
Consider that temple scene during the last week of Jesus' life.
Should this climax of Jesus' three-year challenge to the oppressive practices of religious authorities be interpreted as an impulsive fit of anger? Should Martin Luther King's march on Selma be described as a momentary loss of direction?
This loss-of-temper description of Jesus is the sort of thing you would expect from detractors of Jesus, but from his friends?
So, getting serious about Jesus and what he did, the Holy Week that Christians are observing is a good time to think about why Jesus was executed.
Jesus did not live his relatively short life in the environs of Jerusalem, according to the records we have in the Synoptic gospels. So when he went there from his home area of Galilee, it was an event and occasion, no doubt reflecting a purpose and a plan.
And the first main event of the week that ended with Jesus' execution looks like it was carefully planned. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. It was staged public event that attracted a fair amount of publicity. But there was something totally upside-down about it. In the ancient world when kings and emperors entered capital cities, they rode on impressive, prancing horses or chariots, symbols of war and victory in warfare. But Jesus rode an animal that a king would have considered too lowly for his butler.
Was Jesus sending a message here about how he viewed kings and empires?
There are a lot of war scenes and stories in the holy writings on which Jesus was raised, and we cannot imagine that he was not well aware of them. He doesn't retell a single one of those stories. However, it does appear he had one of them in mind when he planned his entrance into Jerusalem. The story of David, most famous king of Israel, entering Jerusalem as a conquering king and making Jerusalem the capital of Israel, is told in II Samuel 5 and I Chronicles 11.
There is every reason to believe that Jesus had that story in mind when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, as far from a war horse as you could get. We discuss that on page 233 of If Not Empire, What?