Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jerusalem, Jupiter, Judas, and Jesus

Tradition tells us that Jesus entered Jerusalem in a highly meaningful way. [T]he whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice…, saying “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:37a, 38a, New Revised Standard Version, here and following). Let us imagine the day. A great number of Jesus' supporters publicly cheered for him as the long-awaited ruler sent by God to save his people from their enemies.

Then Jesus got even more provocative. [H]e entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers” (19:45-46).

At that time, Jerusalem was the political, social, and religious center of Judaism. At its heart stood the only temple in Olympia devoted to Yahweh. Jesus intentionally entered both Jerusalem and the temple in a way that directly challenged the political, social, and religious leaders of Judaism. And he didn’t go away: Every day he was teaching in the temple (19:47a).

Jesus confronted these leaders with a clear choice. They could, by the grace of God, recommit themselves to God. They could open their minds and hearts to the freedom, truth, love, and vitality of Yahweh being shared with them by Jesus. Or not.

Sadly these leaders, while thinking of themselves as people devoted to Yahweh, were in truth devoted to Jupiter the very conventional god of politics. Jupiter’s all about power. If one has power, and someone else comes along and challenges it, then one uses the power one has to neutralize the challenger. The chief priests, the scribes [theologians], and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him (19:47b).

The challenges posed by Jesus kept getting worse. We next hear that [e]very day he was teaching in the temple…And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple (21:37-38). Every day everyone is getting up early to hear Jesus. That’s a problem. People are that interested in him. This strikes fear in the hearts of the chief priests and the scribes [who were] looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people (22:2).

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and…temple police about how he might betray him to them (22:3-4). Remember we have six Olympian gods: Jupiter god of politics, Pluto god of money, and four others. But behind these gods stands Satan. Satan works through all six of them to work on all of us.

Satan definitely wants Jesus murdered. Jesus has been witnessing to the one true god of freedom, truth, love, and vitality. The strength of his witness has been liberating a growing number of people from Satan’s control. That Jesus has got to go!

So Satan entered into Judas. Jesus may speak to us through our thoughts. So may Satan. Jesus may enable us to affirm his words by the power of the Holy Spirit burning brightly in our hearts. So too Satan may strengthen the appeal of his words by the power of his very unholy spirit seething malevolently in our little hearts of darkness.

Perhaps Jesus had disappointed the expectations of Judas. Working through Jupiter god of politics, Satan would have had an easy time convincing Judas that Jesus was a false messiah deserving death. Working through Jupiter, Satan persuaded Judas to believe the lie that he would be doing good to hand Jesus over to the proper authorities.

Satan really wanted to rid himself of Jesus. He wasn’t going to leave anything to chance. In addition to working on Judas through Jupiter god of politics, he also involved Pluto god of money. The leaders Judas conspired with were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money (v. 5).

In the book of Acts, we read that these same leaders who wanted Jesus dead also want to execute his excited apostles (Acts 5:33). But Gamaliel, a very wise leader, shared these words of truth with them: “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men…[I]n the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!” (5:35, 38-39). That’s keeping minds and hearts open to Yahweh.

Because Jesus’ ways of thinking and living are very different from our own ways, his words will always seem surprising to us and to come to us at unexpected times. We may take today’s story as a cautionary tale. Let us pray that, as individuals, we might be willing to hear and affirm his words even though we will find them challenging.

Let us understand that leaders in the churches of Jesus now are just as conventional as leaders of the temple in Jerusalem were then. Our church leaders are just as unaware of their commitment to the six Olympian gods now as the leaders of God’s people were of theirs then. As Jesus sends us to share his freedom, truth, love, and vitality with them today, let us realize that we will most likely be rejected now just as Jesus was then. Let us pray that, even as we experience that rejection, we too will remain clear witnesses to him by responding to all evil with good.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.