Before I say anything about “Jesus” in this context, let me draw your mind’s eye back to that moment when Elijah, having just decimated the prophets of Baal in the showdown on Mr. Carmel, sees a storm coming. Do you remember that moment? That most unlikely of moments? The humble prophet of God with the uppity message that just stubbornly irritates the king and frustrates him to no end has just publically shamed the king’s court. So when he warns of a tiny cloud on the horizon and claims it’s a drought buster, the king takes heed and races home! Go look it up and refresh your memory (I Kings 18).
Yeah, Elijah sends his servant to look for the rain seven times before he sees even the smallest cloud. God is coming! But for six attempts to see his approach, there was no sign. On the seventh, there was only a small cloud. But by the time the prophet, the king, and the entourage make it back to the house, the storm is whipping the drought!
Do you see that with Jesus? Have you looked at him seven times? What did you see? Did you see a peasant from Galilee – even Nazareth from which it is said “nothing good comes”? (John 1:46). Do you see him leading a band of fishermen, tax collectors, sinners, and sick people in a Holy War against demons, authorities, and an empire? Do you see an execution at Golgotha or a coronation? Which is it?
The One who is greater than Moses (Heb. 3:3), greater than Jonah or Solomon (Matt. 12:41-42), in fact, one who is greater than David (Matt. 22:46) is standing in a grain field in Galilee looking like a peasant messiah wanna-be leading a ragtag bunch of criminals who even break the Sabbath and defends himself by asking the Faith Police if they have ever heard of David (Mark 2:25-26).
Please visualize this carefully. This peasant in the grain field defends the law breaking actions of his gang of ruffians by asking if these critics ever heard of King David and what he and his criminal friends did. This peasant who, I assume, smells like fish while wearing old garments patched with un-shrunk cloth (made a great sermon illustration back in 2:21, (just a few verses back)), deigns to ask these Bible scholars if they remember the Great King David – the king of the Jews back in the only period of world history when it was truly good to be a Jew! Yes, this little contemptuous punk is pistol-whipping these “authorities” with their own gun, and then goes on to declare that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath! (Mark 2:28).
I cannot stress enough how impotent a little cloud this is brewing on the horizon. But that tongue of his keeps picking the fight! Jesus looks, smells, feels, and tastes like a small fish in the big ocean, but he sounds like a bouncer at Heaven’s Gate. Anyone with pride ain’t getting behind that velvet rope! But pride finds itself prickled like a burr under the saddle. A pesky bee sting hardly seems deadly, but you sure do want to kill the beast that threatens it. And sure enough, it wont be long before these self-appointed “authorities” will seek to put this contemptuous prophet out of their misery.
But first Jesus rides into town on the colt of a donkey amid the waving palm branches and cheers of all the little people who never get a say. Yes, it makes a stir. Yes, it gets noticed. But again, consider that tiny cloud on the horizon when Elijah’s servant finally noticed it on the seventh look. Neither the first impression, nor a second glance comes close to the heavenly vision of those who have eyes to see and ears to hear (Isa. 6:10; Jer. 5:21; Ezek. 12:2). These “authorities” are not fearing God, they are perturbed with contempt!
But then God comes back into his temple! Ezekiel has long dreamed of this moment! (Ezekiel 43), and surely all God’s people envisioned something like Solomon’s witness (II Chron. 5:13-14). But it would seem that Jesus, the uppity, fight-picking peasant beneath Israel’s contempt, would stride into the court where the money was changed and start tossing tables – guaranteeing himself a CORONATION as King of the Jews by week’s end.
Yes, I invite you to go look at the horizon again and again. What do you see? Nothing? Good. Study on that and look again.
If you think dragging a flag in a church house is just a smart-ass stunt, what do you think turning tables in the temple is?
Why are the people of God enraged? God just entered the House! Is that not what they wanted? God can be sooooooo tricky that way. I mean, he can stop the priests performing their duties in worship because the cloud is so thick (II Chron. 5:14), or he can bring all the sacrifices of the temple to a stop for a minimum of half an hour while the money changers scramble to gather their coins from all over the floors and put it back in order so they can proceed. But Israel will not have a king LIKE THE NATIONS (I Sam. 8:5), not in the end they won’t. No. They will have a KING of the JEWS who shows us what it looks like when God returns to his own House and to be crowned King of his own people. And that is beneath their contempt. It will always surprise them like a small cloud on the horizon.
Now, church, how about those bums in the street? Want to invite them in while there is still time?