It's holy week. The pace of Jesus' life and ministry on earth moved something like a horse picking up speed. It begins with a word and a song--to a young girl, and bursting from her in response. And slows to wait--as life always does--through the nine months it takes to incubate within the safest place a person ever lives, protected on every side by his mother's body. There are a few bumps in his early life, if one can call having to flee a tyrant who wants to kill him (and successfully murders every other male child his age in town) and settling in the far-off (but history-mimicking) nation of Egypt a mere bump, but generally speaking, this God-man Incarnate's early life was so calm and smooth-sailing we know only one thing about it. Only that one 'look-in' in his twelfth year, when He stayed in the temple bewildering even scholars by what He understood/knew about His father. That look in only confirmed that He was growing in wisdom and stature, pleasing both God and man at exactly the pace of every human being. Years were simply years, no faster, no more miraculous than that.
Thirty years in, which is far later than we expect our sons and daughters to begin their lives and livelihood, but oddly, at exactly the age my daughter recently learned that a male's brain finally finishes maturing (a female's is earlier, but that has no bearing here), our hero (and indeed, isn't He the only ABSOLUTE hero who's every lived?) begins His work. To use our analogy, the horse begins to trot. Truth is expounded and miracles abound. Every action is purposeful, every word intentional. His movement geographically (or sometimes lack of) might confound His followers, but He knows what He's about. Profoundly, He knows! (Are you enjoying my word choices--expound, abound, confound? In our family, we like to play a game where we think of as many words we can with the same endings...and sometimes I just can't help myself, it tips over into my writing).
His face, the gospels remind us frequently, is set toward Jerusalem. Toward this week. This week, in the life of the Incarnate, reminds me a little like the Suicide Race held each year in the great northern middle-of-nowhere in this state where there's nothing much else to do but to climb on your horse and ride down the steep (33 degrees!!!) hill at a breakneck pace. Gee, sounds like fun.
But this is what Jesus' last week was a little like. It was a steep down-hill gallop toward that steep hill up to the cross. And more happened in that one week than had happened in the rest of his life on earth combined. What am I saying? Of course more happened then. It was the climax, after all. The place and event and moment toward which He was always moving, always.
So at the same breakneck speed, we move through these cataclysmic events, these seven days that change the world. After the first seven, no other week in history have held more, and meant more to all eternity.
With purpose in his stride, and some well-placed anger in His voice, He turns the wrath of Himself on His Father's house, the very place where folks, 20 years earlier, had first sat up and took notice of Him, first heard Him call it, "My Father's house." I'm sure, as He stood in that marketplace of a Temple He was remembering the sweetness of sitting with the older, learned men and talking with them about the mysteries of God. Remembering, too, the day when Solomon finished building that temple, and the ones when the place of worship was a tabernacle in the wilderness. All of those memories were present to Him when He blew up, as it were, at what that Holy place had become. Of course He blew up, and of course it was right. If we want to understand righteous anger, we must look at Jesus in the temple. And stand a moment in His shoes.
Oh, but wait. We can't. We can't stand in His shoes, can we? We weren't there before the world began, or even when God breathed life into humans and the air was pure and clean and no one had hit or hurt anyone yet. The one who slithered his way through the fresh, new grass of the garden and wound his lies around the tree of life came before we did...but not before He did. We have no memory before sin--our own or anyone else's--but He does. That gives Him the right footing, so to speak, from which to feel and express anger at what sin has done. And though we have that same right--the right to feel and express anger at sin--none of us have the same footing as Christ. There is none righteous, no, not one. At least not on Monday. Not if we're looking at life through the lens of this week, this most holy, but pain-filled week.
Yes, it's Monday. And He began the week with a righteous anger, overturning tables, upsetting the applecart that began the stampede that led to the cross. And He knew it would. He knew exactly what He was doing that day. It's Monday. But, to paraphrase Tony Compolo, Friday's coming.