The man from Nazareth arrived in the big city and received a big welcome from his fans as they lined the streets and shouted hosannas and laid their cloaks on the ground like a red carpet and everyone was asking, “Who is this, a prophet from Nazareth?” “Yes,” others answered, “a great prophet from Galilee.”
The day after he arrived he went up to the temple. That was the most important and sacred place in the whole city and the world. He saw it as the holy house of God. It had been taken over by the vendors, merchants and the foreign currency traders. This is not unlike some churches and shrines today.
The Man from Nazareth was not pleased. In fact, he was very angry at what he saw going on there. Pandemonium broke out when he started turning over tables and chairs and driving out the traders and merchants. The money was scattered all over the place. Most likely the poor people went rushing about scrambling to pick it up. The pigeons for sale went flying away and animals were herded out. When the traders grabbed their stuff to carry it out, or thieves tried to get it, he stood in the way. He wouldn’t allow anyone to carry anything through the temple courtyards. Imagine the shouting and hullabaloo that resulted. The market was closed down, game over.
The security guards rushed over led by the authorities demanding an explanation. He quoted the Bible, “God said My temple will be called house of prayer for people of all nations but you have turned it into a hideout of thieves.” That is pretty strong language calling the thieves and those authorities, lawyers and leaders wanted to kill him there and then. They were likely getting big kickbacks from the traders for letting them set up shop in that holy place.
But they didn’t dare kill him because he was hugely popular as seen the day he arrived to waving palms and cheering crowds. They feared him. If they did kill him it would cause a demonstration and the Roman administration would call out the riot troops and kill everyone on the streets.
So the crowds flocked to hear him and the curing of the blind and the disabled continued. He was phenomenal! His teaching about children’s rights was two thousand years before its time. When his disciples asked him to state who was the greatest and most important in the Kingdom of Heaven, “None of you,” he said and put a child in front of them and told them “Unless you change and become as innocent as a child you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child, and whoever welcomes one such child as this in my name welcome me.” (Matt.18: 1-5)
Most leaders and authorities and many parents have never heard of that teaching. It’s time they did. But the people heard it and brought their children to be blessed and the disciples scolded them and blocked them. Jesus was angry when he saw this and told them, “Whoever does not receive the Kingdom like a child will never enter into it.” Then he lifted up the children in his arms, placed his hands and blessed them.” (Mk. 10: 13-16)
Children in the temple heard all about this and were whooping it. They ran around the temple shouting “Praise to David’s son!” This infuriated the chief priests and teachers of the law. They considered children and women as lesser human persons without position, rights or status and calling Jesus Son of David had the implication that he was the long awaited Messiah and should be respected and revered.
The temple authorities were angry about this and challenged him. “Do you hear what they are saying?” “Indeed I do,” Jesus answered. “Haven’t you read the Scripture? You have trained children and babies to offer perfect praise.” The son of a carpenter out-quoted the scripture scholars. But he was and is much more than that.
The chief priests and elders and Pharisees continued to look for a way to get rid of him. His fate was sealed when they heard his criticism of them. “You hypocrites!” “deserving of hell,” “blind guides,” “You neglect justice, mercy and honesty,” “inside you is what you have got by violence and selfishness.” “You are like whitewashed tombs, looking nice on the outside but inside are full of bones and decaying corpse.” “You snakes and sons of snakes,” he said of them. No doubt they were out kill him.
Today we have some church people who abuse children, others who have covered it up in the past and still do and continue to serve as pious priests. They destroy the lives of children and must be brought to justice. The dignity and rights of children was the top priority for Jesus of Nazareth and we must never tolerate or fail to act to help an abused child. Holy Week is a time for repentance and change and to strengthen our commitment to follow the example of Jesus.
Fr. Shay Cullen is a co-founder of PREDA.org - a nonprofit dedicated to ending the exploitation of children.