Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Temple: A Great Place for Murder

They had a suspect. They dragged her into the temple courts where Jesus was teaching. She was accused; caught in the act of adultery; condemned by the law. They asked this young Rabbi's approval. He baffled them. They slunk away, all but her. After a few words with Jesus, she left too.

But He went right on teaching, and baffling - right there close to the place where the cash offerings were thrown in. He still had a crowd, including some Pharisees who said His testimony wasn't valid because He testified about Himself. He said He was testifying about His Father, whom they did not know. But nobody put a hand on Him, because it wasn't His time yet.

Yet even some who believed in Him were offended when He said His words would set them free. They countered that they were Abraham's children and had never been slaves. Pretty funny, when you think about it ... as close as the temple was to the Roman garrisons. It wasn't funny to them. They were ready to kill Him.

Instead of backing off for His own safety, He told them that God should be their Father; that before Abraham existed, He had been with the Father. For that blasphemy, they took up stones to kill Him ... but He slipped away. (John 8)

After that, He moved cautiously - but couldn't help having compassion on a man born blind, and couldn't help but heal him and teach His followers that physical handicaps aren't punishments for sin; they are opportunities to glorify God. After the poor man and his parents had been grilled about the healing, Jesus sought him out to leave a few words of teaching with him. But, overheard by some Pharisees, He replied to their retort that they were the blind ones. (John 9)

By the time He finished explaining His role as a shepherd, they were convinced He was possessed by a demon.

Then winter came, and He returned to the temple - to Solomon's Colonnade - to teach. When pressed to be the kind of Messiah that others wanted, He refused. And once again they picked up stones to throw at Him and kill Him. And once again He escaped their grasp. (John 10)

Right there in the temple. Just the place to kill someone. Not outside the city or camp, as commanded by God in Leviticus 24:14 or Numbers 15:35. No; right there in God's house ... right on the doorstep of God's sanctuary.

They had probably been incensed when Pilate had mixed the blood of some Galileeans with their sacrifices there (Luke 13:1). But this was different. This was a case of a blasphemer who healed on the Sabbath. The two wrongs made it right, right then and there.

I don't know how He got away; whether by divine intervention or miraculous transport or swift stealth and strength. I do know He escaped because it wasn't His time. And it was His place.

We would never think of doing such a thing. We'd never assassinate someone in our sanctuaries. Not literally; not figuratively. Those places are too holy to accuse and condemn another soul who claimed God as Father; to cast aspersions on their character; to consign them to hell and demand their penitence and apology before us. We wouldn't dare to do it in His place.

Would we?

10 comments:

David U said...

Ok, THAT's the Keith Brenton I'm talking about!!! Dude, you knocked a walk-off grand slam in the 7th game of the World Series on a 3-2 count! That was an AWESOME post! Not that they all aren't, but this one went to another level.

Thanks for blessing us with this start to our week!

I think you need to write a book...."Murder in the Sanctuary".

I know I would buy it!

DU

Keith Brenton said...

Don't make me get a court order restraining you from using superlatives on my site!

You make my head swell, bro. Seriously, you are a Barnabas of the blogs - an encourager to so many of us.

DJG said...

Ditto to DU and to you saying DU is a Barnabas...Both true.

And I would have commented earlier, I was just trying to decide how I felt about the "literal or figurative" sanctuary... We do have our "holy places" and our lack of "holy graces"...

I think that is what I like best about your writing. You MAKE me think, you make me question even when I agree with you, it is not enough...I have to think it through!

Keith Brenton said...

Donna, I almost added in my original draft last night a phrase that Paul uses twice in I Corinthians (3:16 and 6:19) to remind that our bodies are temples of God's Holy Spirit, and therefore a sanctuary ... I'm not sure why I decided not to, in retrospect.

When a church leader condemns others from a pulpit it's despicable, but it's no less so when any other Christian sinks to it in any public environment. Our hearts are where God lives. We have plenty of instruction about how to approach others for correction, and the first steps (as nearly as I can tell) are NEVER in public.

I'm not sure, but I think that may be the origin of the grand tradition of taking the spankee out to the woodshed ...

Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

Sure we'd do it, Keith!

I've even had it done to ME in the past in one particular "toxic" group I was in for a number of years. (I cannot bring myself to call them a fellowship, although some of them remained my good friends through it all and afterward.)

And "Murder in the Sanctuary" is an excellent name for the book! In fact, you could probably even search around a little and find a non-fiction story to tell! (Surely not, you say, but I'm not so sure, myself, knowing how these things sometimes go.)

Do you think me highly cynical here about all of this? Probably, but I'm hopeful for the future, anyway. I think . . .

Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

Keith - I just noticed you have my blog linked from yours. Thanks! I know we "read" a lot of the same ones and both comment on them.

Happy (belated) 50th birthday, by the way! And, may you have many more to come.

Keith Brenton said...

Hey, Dee, that's a great idea ... from now on I'll just have 50th birthdays!

Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

I stopped at 46, myself, which was one of my best years! That was the year I married Tom on my 46th birthday and up until then, it was the very best day of my entire life!

Every day since then has been better, but I haven't aged any. Funny how that works. The mind is a marvelous thing, don't you think? No matter how old our body may show that we are, our minds remind us we are still young and vibrant.

DJG said...

I get way too hung up on that "building" aspect of things.

Your comment made me think of Dallas Willard's chapter on confronting a brother in sin and how it should be done. I know your initial post is about attacking THE innocent person, but your comment mentions that public condemnation of a PERSON is never right, it is never good, it is never Godly.

I realize Jesus publicly condemned the Pharisees, but not ONE individual, rather the actions and mindset of a group. But I am not sure we deserve that right if we are not as innocent as he.

Chad said...

Wow! Cut to the heart on that. Thanks for such an incising thought, a thought that challenges the heart. I would like to say I appreciate the words, but I'm not sure that's the word to use. I needed those.

How many times have I been tempted to look on others with contempt even in the holiest of holy places where we are gathered in the very name of Jesus?