Mark 11:18

Now the chief priests and the teachers of the Law heard this and began to look for some way of putting Jesus to death; for they were afraid of him, since all the people were greatly impressed by his teaching.

beyond uncertainty
lies entrenched response
when poked it swarms

roulette’s red and black
is much too iffy
for privilege’s comfort

here no odds are brokered
only sure things count
and death is surer than taxes

no balance of power here
if it is not for us
it sure as hell is not for you

this is no game
of mutual assured destruction
it is all for you

your pause for prayer
leaves plenty of room
for a legal lynching

The first line can be better understood with the translational addition of the small word, “of”—The chief priests and legal experts came to hear of this….”

It doesn’t take much for us to feel threatened and to respond in kind. Just a whisper, an overheard or misheard word, or a suspicious mind putting the worst possible interpretation on a phrase can set a preemptive strike in motion.

It is one thing to call for “thoughts and prayers” and another to identify the underlying problem that comes with establishing power and holding on to it—that the means of control require ever more violence. In identifying the priests and moneychangers in the Temple as having the same methodology as the bandits who lay in wait along the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, the enthralled and amazed crowd could begin to see the shape of authority without its trappings. When the emperor’s clothes can no longer hide the mechanisms of control, a milling crowd can be organized. Their yearning to reset the current inequities might actually be possible to implement.

Even without the upset in the Temple, Jesus is from Galilee and the rising tension there set leaders who relied on violence on edge. Galilee, both away from the religious center of Jerusalem and controlled by Rome from cities within such as Sepphoris and Tiberias, had a revolutionary fervor regarding both the Herodian royal priesthood and the colonizing power of Rome. Now that Jesus is here in Jerusalem, the vague threat he posed when in the hinterland needs to be addressed more immediately.

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