Mark 11:27

They came to Jerusalem again. While Jesus was walking about in the Temple Courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the Law, and the elders came up to him.

again and yet again
Jesus enters a city of peace
in which there is no peace
a heart of forgiveness
in which there is no forgiveness

again and yet again
our first impression
lives far past its usefulness
our first nightmare
breaks its reality boundary

again and yet again
we walk through old patterns
noticing beauty and weakness
thoroughly mixed together
with suspicion quickly surfacing

Wherever and whenever direct action or guerilla theater occurs the first response by those in power is to ask what authority is claimed for these “illicit” acts. So it is here. The publicly authorized authorities come to re-exert their power.

This is an extension of Peter’s noticing the withered fig tree and, following James and John, is seeing a usable power. Think about the development and use of the first atomic weapons. What Peter may have seen as a wonderful extension of an appeal to power as the most efficient way to “fish for people”, other religious leaders see as a threat. And we are at the point of once again basing life on the power of death and destruction. The MAD doctrine (Mutual Assured Destruction, not “What me worry?”) of a zero-sum game surfaces again.

The Common English Bible chooses to translate “Jesus walked around the temple”. Most others say, “in the temple.” Whether “in” or “around”, this scene is not disconnected from the previous one

This entry to Jerusalem is not accompanied by signs of authority, withering and disruption. This is a softer symbol not unlike linking hands around the Pentagon. The scene might be seen through the eyes of a first entry into a “promised land” (a problematic image, as every example of exceptionalism is) and walking seven times around Jericho before its walls came tumbling down. What we don’t know is whether this encounter takes place in a first time around or if it took the current authorities until the sixth circling before they were able to come up with their puffed-up approach that is still the first line of response by religious leaders facing a larger change than they can manage to their benefit. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the setting is temple large or synagogue small. Authority is a perennial question.

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