The Temple Tantrum - Jesus Was A Whistle Blower
Matthew 21: 12-13 March 18, 2012
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Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son”
He was no fortunate one. No Senator’s son. No military son. He was never fed with a silver spoon. He came from neither privilege nor power. There were no Palm Beach addresses in the Bethlehem zip codes. When he later relocated to Galilee his zip code was still from the other side of the tracks. Does anything good ever come out of Galilee? In was not a location known for producing Nobel Prize winners in physics, chemistry, or literature. He was no fortunate one. No Senator’s son. No military son. He was never fed with a silver spoon.
Andrew Breitbart (pronounced /braɪtbɑrt/ (February 1, 1969 – March 1, 2012) was an American publisher, commentator for the Washington Times, author, and occasional guest commentator on various news programs, who served as an editor for the Drudge Report web site. He was a researcher for Arianna Huffington, and helped launch her web publication The Huffington Post. He was involved in the release of the videos that effectively brought down the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now as well as releasing the sexting tweets of former NY congressman Anthony Weiner.
Julian Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks was launched in 2006 by the Australian activist. WikiLeaks has published material about extrajudicial killings in Kenya, Church of Scientology manuals, Guantanamo Bay procedures, and Iraq and Afghan War documents some of which was classified material. He has received numerous awards and nominations, including the 2009 Amnesty International Media Award, Readers' Choice for TIME magazine's 2010 Person of the Year, and he was nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2010, a European Arrest Warrant was issued for Assange in response to a Swedish police request for questioning in relation to a sexual assault investigation. He is still in England awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision if he will be extradited and sent back to Sweden. Assange voluntarily attended a police station in England on December 7 2010, and was arrested and taken into custody.
Both Breitbart and Assange are known as whistleblowers. By definition whistleblowers are truth tellers who tend to upset the equilibrium of the status quo. They call into question issues of integrity and expose duplicity. Regardless of your political persuasion from right to left or left to right, whistleblowers ignite oppositional energy. These dynamics are right/wrong, good/bad, smart/stupid, winner/loser, and eventually it de-evolves to love/hate. When this sequence fires it stirs up all of the toxic emotions: hate, rage, disgust, shame, and humiliation.
Jesus was a whistleblower. If you have to break a few eggs in order to make an omelet Jesus could have easily worked the breakfast rush at Peach Valley. Jesus wasn’t very good at mincing words or mitigated speech. He may have taken a lesson or two from his first cousin John the Baptist. “You brood of vipers.” If he was trying to be politically correct he might have said, “Have you considered you share some of the common characteristics and traits of certain reptilian creatures who congregate in mass?” “You are like whitewashed tombstones, all pretty and white on the outside but inside you are rotten to the core.” The politically correct version of this might be: “The metaphor that comes to mind is the similarity shared between the external appearance of stones that mark the location of persons who are deceased and the contents of the caskets contained if they were exhumed and examined in the various stages of decomposition. Matthew 5:27, “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jimmy Carter is just as guilty as Bill Clinton.
Can you tone that down a notch or two? Jesus wasn’t very good at mincing words or mitigated speech. However, truth is for the telling and hearing not the yelling and fearing. The janitor was cleaning the sanctuary after the morning services and he found the pastor’s notes up on the pulpit. He began to scan the manuscript. A yellow marker highlighted a few of the points. Hand written notes were scribbled on either side of the margins. One note was written in all caps and circled: “Point is weak. Yell here!” I was once working with a good old boy and his wife. They were both from southern Mississippi. She was giving him a royal reaming out. He had heard all he could hear and he finally stopped her and said in an even tone: “Woman, don’t harsh me.” I don’t imagine Jesus was much of a yeller or that he harshed many folks but the one time he did it set in motion the chain of events that railroaded him through 5 trials in less than eighteen hours. It was when he threw a Temple Tantrum.
On this occasion Jesus broke more than a few eggs. He was attempting to break the system. Philosopher Eric Hoeffer once said that the three forms of power are economic, political, and spiritual and those who follow the pathway to spiritual power do so because they do not have access to political or economic power. When he had his temple tantrum he stood squarely in the tradition of spiritual power and he was speaking truth to power, economic, political, and spiritual. When he spoke, he spoke “not as the scribes and the Pharisees, but as one who had authority.” This is the authority that rings with the tuning fork of truth. You know it when you hear it because you can also feel it.
He threatened the economic base. "It is written, 'My house shall be a houseof prayer'; but you have made it a den of robbers." He called them on their duplicity. He said he’d destroy the temple and rebuild it again in three days. He called them out on their abuse of power. He shook the foundations. He was charged with blasphemy. The real reason had to do with money. He shamed the system. He treated them with disdain and disgust. What he got back was hate, rage, and humiliation.
It was the perfect storm that connected all of the dots of toxic emotions. It ultimately was the tipping point that cost him his life. In baseball there are those moments when the batter swings and you can feel the bat hitting the ball on the sweet spot. At times the bat strikes the ball and the bat shatters and travels further than the ball. At other times the ball hits the bat and the batter absorbs the shock and the entire body feels the shock of the blow. Your body feels like one huge funny bone. I wonder if this is how Jesus felt after he had swung the bat in the temple. Jesus was swinging the axe in an attempt to fell the tree that was political, economic, and spiritual power. He soon learned the tree was petrified.
Whistleblowers call those who are in power to accountability when power is being abused. The most compelling sermon speaking truth to power was a sermon spoken without words at Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-nXT8lSnPQ History has never been kind to whistleblowers. John the Baptist ended up having his head served on a silver platter. Eventually the tanks will roll again and nothing will get in their way. Dr. Harrell Beck, former Professor of Old Testament at Boston University, once said the prophets were usually stoned twice. The first stoning was, of course, with stones. The second was a memorial stone erected 100 years later that said, “you were right.”
It was a miscarriage of justice that has not been replicated before or since. William Dillon was convicted of beating a Brevard County man to death on the beach in 1981. DNA evidence proved his innocence and he was released from prison in November 2008. The March 4th News-Journal reported that Gov. Scott signed a $1.35 million payout for Dillon. “It doesn’t give me back what was taken from me, but, at the same time, it’s such a joy to be here because my life was gone. I can’t do anything but look forward, I just want to say thank you.” He sounds a bit like he feels he won the lottery. He got his life back and he doesn’t have to worry about his next meal. His story has a happy ending.
Jesus wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last innocent man to be condemned to death. It cuts to the core. It violates an innate sense of justice. We all know that life isn’t fair. Your Momma and your Daddy already told you this. If you have raised teenagers you’ve told them the same thing, probably, with a slight smirk on your face. Just because you know this, it doesn’t make it an easier pill to swallow. How we think and what we feel are often two very distinct issues. The longest journey we will often take is the eighteen inches between the head and the heart. To phrase this with a slightly different twist, if O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony could be found not guilty by a jury of their peers and Jesus was condemned to death there is no such thing as justice.
We worship a God who was thrown off the train and under the bus. We worship a God who was beaten down by “the man.” We worship a God who was betrayed by one of his closest friends. “No longer do I call you my disciples, but you are my friends.” We worship a God who was spat upon, striped naked, beaten, shamed, and ridiculed with a purple robe and a crown of thorns. We worship a God who would never consent to playing the role of a victim. He boldly stood in the face of a superpower and when he was told, “Don’t you know I have the power of life and death over you?,” he replied, “You have no power except that which my Father in heaven has given to you.” He never let anyone take his power from him when you and I would be releasing our bowels and bladders.
So where is the good news in all of this? We follow a Lord who has cried the same agonizing prayers you and I have pleaded in our own Gethsemanies. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” If you have marched into hell for a heavenly cause and were hosed down with water cannons or police dogs were released on you, If you have ever stood up to the Kingdoms of this world, the rulers and principalities of this age, if you have spoken the truth and been shown the door, if you have been betrayed by those closest to you, if you have been on the receiving end of hate, rage, disgust, shame, or humiliation, in the workplace, the marketplace, or even in the privacy of your own home, Jesus is saying, “There are no silver spoons in my place setting. I am no fortunate one or Senator’s son. My power doesn’t come from wealth, position, place or military might. My power comes from this: I get it. I’ve been there.”
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