On Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus teaches a lot [according to the Synoptic (“same vision”) Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke)]. As I went back to read Mark’s version of that day, I began to laugh out loud. I’d never noticed what the people of Jerusalem had been up to before! Remember as you read that Jesus isn’t staying in Jerusalem. He’s staying in Bethany (maybe with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus) each night, and coming into Jerusalem each day. Here’s Mark 11:27-33.
They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him.“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
When I was in college, one of my friends had a boyfriend I liked, but I wasn’t sure I liked him as her boyfriend. One night while watching them interact, I became uncomfortable that I hadn’t said anything to her. Before I talked to her, though, I shored up my resolve by talking to some mutual friends who had also observed them through the evening. They agreed. In fact, we had all noticed different things that we didn’t like! The more we talked, the more concerned we became.
The next morning, I called her to tell her that I was concerned, and she summoned me to her dorm room. When I got there, the other two women had already arrived. We had all been summoned, and it was clear from the look on her face that she was not happy with us. She wasn’t upset that we were concerned for her; she was upset that we had talked about it and compounded our concerns. It turned out all three of us had called her that morning with the exact same list of concerns. Busted!
While Jesus was in Bethany on Monday night, the people of Jerusalem were talking about Him.
“Did you hear what he did in the Temple yesterday? Those poor moneychangers lost their livelihood!”
“That Jesus is against good business!”
“And did you hear him? ‘My father’s house?’ What? Does he own God?”
“Yeah, and that procession on Sunday? I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!”
“Yup! He’s gonna get us into trouble with the Romans!”
“Oh, man… somebody needs to say something!”
“Yeah! Who the heck does he think He is?!?!”
“Well, I’m gonna ask him!”
So when he rolls into Jerusalem on Tuesday, they are waiting for him. Not just separate people with concerns, but a mob: the Chief Priests (Sadducees), the teachers of the Law (Pharisees), and the elders. For once, they were a united front, united against Jesus!
In Matthew 15, Jesus tells his followers that they should worry less about what goes in their mouths and more about what comes out of them. And maybe we should worry a little about how we get to the point of speaking about concerns. I find myself, too often, talking about a problem with someone before praying about it. And here’s the deal: when I talk to someone else about it, they often give me even more reasons to be upset! But when I talk to God about it, I calm down and get clarity. ALWAYS. If I still find I have something to say, it’s much easier to confront another person in love after praying for them.
The events of Holy Week might have been quite different if everyone had prayed about Jesus instead of talking about him. On this Holy Tuesday, let’s pause and consider who we run to when we are upset and how that changes our situations.
Holy God, you are always more ready to listen than we are to pray. We are thankful for the friends, family, and partners we have in our lives. Help us remember that you are one of them, the One that always “picks up” when we call, the One that is always ready for us to pour out our hearts, the One that is always ready to calm our storms. Amen.