A King at Christmas Part 2

A King at Christmas Part 2

*By Mary Salamon, Church Liaison, Conservative Ladies of America

In part one of this series, we learned that during the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was ruled by the Sanhedrin. According to Bill O’Reilly, in Killing Jesus, “The Sanhedrin was a court comprised of seventy-one judges with absolute authority to enforce Jewish religious law, except for in the case of a death sentence. In that case, they must get the approval of the Roman governor. The Sanhedrin is the ultimate Jewish religious court, a body of men even more powerful than the tetrarch Antipas. And within this chamber, Caiaphas the High Priest born into a centuries-long lineage of wealthy Temple priests holds the ultimate authority.”

Why is this information important?

It’s important to know how the government ruled during Jesus’s time and if Jesus himself engaged or confronted governmental rulers in this age. In other words, was Jesus a political activist? At birth, he was called a king. Kings are rulers. He is the King of all kings and the ruler of all rulers. He didn’t raise an army and he didn’t establish a new government before his death, but was he a political activist?

There was only one group of people that Jesus confronted with his anger and rebuke.                                 

Matthew 23 (ESV)

 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So, you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus, you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

These rebukes were for the governing body in his day. He didn’t only rebuke with words. He also became physically violent in the Temple with the money changers.

John 2 (ESV)

In the temple, he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

Jesus was so enraged at what was happening at the Temple, he came in with a whip of cords and drove them out. That’s confrontation. That’s not hiding corruption. Why did Jesus hate the money changers? According to Bill O’Reilly, in Killing Jesus, “The money changers exchanged the Roman coins that are adorned with images of living things such as gods or with portraits of the emperor into shekels, the standard currency of Jerusalem. Also, known as the “Temple tax coin,” the shekel is disparaged by many pilgrims because it is the only form of money acceptable for paying the annual tax (notice the word tax again) for purchasing animals for ritual slaughter. The money changers demand unfair exchange rates for the privilege of turning local money into shekels. The temple high priest also profits from this scam. When the Temple loans money to peasants who need help paying their taxes, the interest rates are exorbitant. Ledger sheets within the Temple’s grand vaults keep a tally of all debts, and those who cannot repay suffer severe indignities: the loss of a home, loss of land and livestock, and eventually life as a debt slave or membership in the “unclean” class. The slums of lower Jerusalem are packed with families who were driven from their land because they could not repay the money they borrowed from the Temple. During Passover, as many as four million Jews make their way to Jerusalem each year. This means more income for the local shop owners and innkeepers, but the Temple priest and their Roman master get most of the profit through taxation and money changing. Even more money is made when the poor must buy a lamb or dove for the mandatory Passover sacrifice. If a priest should inspect the animal or bird and find even a single blemish, the sacrifice will be deemed unclean and the peasant will be forced to buy another.”

The Temple leaders were profiting through mandatory taxation and people were losing their livelihood. Jesus didn’t ignore the injustice. Today, Christians are ignoring the injustice in our communities and cities by saying that Jesus wasn’t interested in civil government and the church is to focus on the kingdom of God. When Jesus overturned the tables, he was focusing on the kingdom of God. He was addressing the corruption of his day. Why aren’t we?

In part 3 of this series, we’ll take a deeper look at our King and His kingdom.