For Holy Week a series of meditations written as if by some of the characters who would have been involved in the story even if not named.
Firstly one of the traders making a living in the Temple Courtyard….
Reading Mark 11: 15 – 17
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’[a]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’
OK, alright, yes I know at times like this you have got to laugh, but I can assure you the next person who says “It’s OK for you all your birds will be home before you” is going to be missing a couple of teeth ten seconds later. It’s not funny in any shape way or form.
For a start, although I sell the pigeons and doves, I don’t breed them at home, I buy them from all over, and all over is precisely where they are now. They will perhaps have flown back to their breeders and in all likelihood I will be buying the same birds again tomorrow if I’m to restock.
Look, it’s not easy being a trader here. For a start there is the price for a pitch, and believe me a prime spot in the Temple Courtyard does not come cheap. Then the stall not just any stall; Oh no, it has to be one made in the Temple workshop so it meets their standards and their craftwork does not come cheap either. Very keen on standards are the Temple authorities! Every day my stock is inspected to ensure it meets “requirements”, and any bird that doesn’t meet them, and there are a lot that “don’t”, is destined for the pot; have you any idea what it’s like to eat pigeon five times a week? Sometimes I think I should do what other traders do and buy direct from the Priests’ doo’cot, but even with the wastage I have its still cheaper to buy from outside, but it would save an awful lot of hassle – not to mention give a more varied diet!
This week should have been bonanza week, a whole lot more folk in Jerusalem for the upcoming Passover many of them wanting to complete their obligations for a new born who hadn’t been to the Temple before and wanting to make an offering, so of course this morning I had a lot more stock with me, had to pay next doors two kids to carry the extra boxes. Inspection took for ever but by the time I got there they were getting fed up and only rejected a token two or three. Trade was brisk lots of couples with their babies, some genuine quite a few as always kidding on they were too poor for the doves and trying to get away with the pigeons it’s at times like that that it’s almost worth having the Temple Inspectors as they make people come back and buy doves instead, bit more profit in doves.
I had just got to the point of thinking ‘well if this is Monday trade I am going to be quids in by Friday, might even take next week off, trades always well down the week after Passover’. When suddenly there’s an almighty racket over by the moneychangers tables. This bloke standing there bawling and shouting at the top of his voice, in the Temple Courtyard no less, calling them thieves robbers and vagabonds. Must admit I tended to agree with him, and then he turns over their tables money flying everywhere, people scrabbling to pick up as much as they could, kids running in from all over. Chief Cashier ups and challenges the man only to get his cord across his back, the chap then chased the cashier out of the Courtyard, boy did we laugh, serves him right and nice to see him getting the rough end for once.
We weren’t laughing a few moments later when the man came back, I have seen some angry men in my time but boy nothing like he was! By now all the lambs, rams, and goats were making a deafening racket, even my doves were flapping about scared stiff, but even over all that racket you could hear him. “This is a House of Prayer not a market” which I suppose is fair enough or “How dare you desecrate MY Father’s house” which might be taking things a bit far. That bit certainly got the Pharisees and their lot chattering away – at a safe distance of course, not that they actually did anything. Certainly nothing to help us poor traders.
He reached my pitch and like everyone else’s he pulled all my cages down and off flew the pigeons the doves and my profits for the year. I was going to protest to him tell him I’m just a poor trader trying to make a living by working morning noon and night so I grabbed his shoulder as he went past. Now given the rage he was in I admit that might not have been the smartest move I’ve ever made but it was strange….
He turned and looked right at me into my eyes, deep into my eyes and I of course looked into his. Now I have no idea what he thought when he looked into mine, but I did not see the anger I expected in his instead he almost seemed to be in despair and there was no hatred of me despite what he had been shouting. I think I detected something of pity, and I knew he knew I was only trying to make a living, but that I should find some other way to make ends meet.
When he left the place was in chaos, kids running after him chanting, the Pharisees have emerged from their hiding places muttering about desecration, the money changers demanding the Temple make good their losses and the Priests looking like thunder.
As for me I am still wondering about him he has a point the whole system in the Temple Courtyard is corrupt perhaps I don’t want to be part of it anymore. I’m a trader I can as easily sell olives in the market square as pigeons in the Courtyard, it might not be as cosy out there but at least it’s honest, and perhaps that is what the guy wanted us to be, although I would not like to be in his shoes when the authorities catch up with him…..
Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, sometimes you comfort us, sometimes you confront us and challenge us. Tell us, we pray, what we need to hear, so we may walk through the Holy Week with you.
We do not fear the challenge for we know you are with us.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,