A Stir in the Temple

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We suggest that you begin reading the Centurion series from the beginning.  

Matthew 21:12-17

Monday night I was in the barracks, drinking away the stress of another day of ‘keeping the Pax Romana.’ A friend of mine, another centurion, was talking about something he’d witnessed in the temple. Now, we’re not allowed in the temple, but we have the Antonia Fortress right next door so we can look down and keep an eye on what’s going on. That doesn’t go down too well with the temple leaders, let me tell you! Anyway, seems there was quite the disturbance in the moneychangers’ area today.

You see, all these pilgrims come in from the villages and bring animals to sacrifice. Or they bring money to buy an animal – or birds if they’re really hard up. And of course, where there’s money involved, everyone wants their cut. So these peasants bring in the best of their flocks, but they’re not always up to “temple standard”. They look white enough to me, but then again, I’m not a priest. So they have to buy one of the officially licensed lambs. And, since it is the holy days, there’s always a little bit of price-gouging. If you bring money to buy an animal, you have to exchange it for the temple-sanctioned currency. Apparently the Denarius – coin of the empire, mind you – is no good in their temple. So there are all these booths where you can change your money. With interest, needless to say. I sometimes wonder if I’m in the wrong business.

Well someone took offense to the marketplace today and created quite the stir. And wouldn’t you know who it was? That guy on the donkey. He may be scrawny, but apparently that didn’t stop him from throwing their tables around, and sending them scrambling for their coins. Or trying to catch the doves he was letting loose, while he yelled at the merchants. Very entertaining I’m sure! My centurion friend decided it wasn’t Rome’s problem, so he just watched. Some of the chief priests came to investigate, but by the time they got there, things had settled down and the scrawny guy was sitting on some steps, surrounded by kids and cripples. My friend said the chief priests looked none too pleased. I’m sure they didn’t! When he finished describing the action, I asked him if he thought the man was a threat. He laughed. “What, him? No.” Then he said, “But you can’t be too careful at Passover. So I’ve got one of my little urchins keeping an eye on him – he can go where we can’t. He’s going to let me know what this guy is up to.” One of my men asked him, “Do we know who this man is?” and I heard his name for the first time.

“Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth.”

Continue reading…

This is part of an ongoing historical fiction series leading up to Easter. It features the story of Jesus’ path to the cross from the perspective of a Roman Centurion. It was written by Sean Gladding, the author of The Story of God, The Story of Us. This series will be posted as a daily devotional. We hope this narrative stirs deeper reflection on the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ final days. 

The Beginning

Palm Sunday

A Stir in the Temple

Making Powerful Enemies

An Anointing for a Coming Burial

The Calm Before the Storm

The King Crucified

A Stolen or Resurrected Body?

A Risen Messiah Changes Everything

Visit our Worship Design Collective for more resources like this one.

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Sean is a longtime pastor and author of The Story of God, the Story of Us and TEN: Words of Life for an Addicted, Compulsive, Cynical, Divided, and Worn-Out Culture. His work has been driven by a passion for missional and incarnational ministry, with a focus on being all-together present in our neighborhoods.

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