The carpenter goes south

Signposts 5th Sunday of Easter: Acts 11:1-18; Rev. 21:1-6; John 13:31 35

If you didn’t read Brye’s Signpost a fortnight ago, or have forgotten what he wrote, this one will be hard to pick up. Just scroll down the page and you’ll find it.

Our carpenter-come-preacher-teacher became very popular in his little isolated corner of what in historic times had been a single country. It became embarrassing when he wanted to find a quiet place to do some deep training of his team of special helpers. Someone guessed correctly where they were off to, and enormous crowds would get there first, wanting feeding metaphorically as well as physically.

Word of these exciting happenings had got to the capital, where the chief ecclesiastical leaders in Jerusalem sent officers to find out what the liveliness was about. They were afraid that there was another revolt against the Roman Occupation was being prepared, because they were comfortable with collaborating with the invaders. When they found it was a religious movement, they sent others to ask difficult questions. They had to go back with even harder questions, any answer to which would put the answerer in the wrong.

All this negative stuff put our carpenter under stress, and he decided the only way to get peace and quiet in which to do some serious teaching to his lieutenants was to go foreign. So he took the team in secrecy to the first town in Syro-Phoenicia, but his reputation had travelled faster than he could.

The team hadn’t settled into the house they’d rented, when a local woman (gentile of course) came to the boss to ask him to drive the devil out of her daughter. Tired and disappointed, he replied sharply that the children must be fed before the puppies. (What did that make her, a bitch?). Her instant reply about the crumbs under the table changed the direction of history (Wow!). If you can find a map of the east Mediterranean with the place-names used at that time, you will see (with help from Mark 7:31 to 8:10) that he had taken notice of the logical consequences of sparing some crumbs for the puppies. And because “the twelve” hadn’t noticed the importance of what had he just done, he gave them a right old ear-bashing (Mk.8:17b-21).

In the course of time a movement becoming so attractive to ordinary working people got the Jerusalem wallahs really nervous, and they sent people with more skill at barracking at out-door meetings. They also returned with no success.

The big celebration of Passover was getting near, and our carpenter agreed to join a party going to Jerusalem. Lots more people heard what was up, and a really big crowd was going and getting excited. Putting the boss on a donkey and making a demonstration up the last hill to Jerusalem was just to show these snooty folk of the southern tribes that country bumpkins could put up a show worthy of the occasion.

The first thing that Jehoshua (Jesus for short, I can’t go on just calling him the carpenter) noticed was that the money-changers and animal sellers in the outer courts of the Temple were swindling the crowds who came from all corners of the empire, using Passover as a useful opportunity to line their pockets. (And of course the rent of their space was useful to higher officers.) He was just FURIOUS, borrowed a whip from a carter, set at the money-changers, and spilled heaps of coins, which rolled all over the ground. It would have been a hilarious scene if it wasn’t so serious. The police sergeant on duty wants to arrest him, but his captain says no, fearing the big group of his friends from Galilee could be more trouble than they could manage.

Jesus wasn’t stopped from preaching and teaching in one of the Temple courts for the same reason. The Sanhedrin arranged for him to be taken into custody in darkness, which would be safer. And it worked.

Now, you know the rest of the story, and this is getting a bit long, but there are two important points to note.

One. The Sanhedrin members were put into a panic, because Pontius Pilate wanted to let Jesus free. Our Bible writers had either been misinformed, or had some reason to portray him as gentle, but weak. In fact he was exactly the opposite. Later on it became so bad that the Government in Rome had to give him the sack, and send him and one of the three Herod brothers to be out of the way in an unimportant colony in southern France. (Three different Roman historians picked up that, writing in Latin of course.)

Two. After dying on the cross Jesus went to his father in heaven, but he didn’t need to take his worn-out and smelly body with him. We hope to do the same.

I wish all my readers a happy and fruitful Easter. You still have one Sunday and four more days to go.


P. S. My sister in England lives in a cottage she inherited from our mother. She emailed to say she still has the pussy-cat blanket.


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