He sat in silence at the head of the Jerusalem table. He was not agitated but those standing around him buzzed like angry bees. To read his face was impossible. Was he bored? Inattentive? Completely beaten down? Or simply too self-possessed to have interest in the noise of other's nonsense? For a person without insight it was impossible to discern. Most who saw him at this moment settled for painting him with a brush of their own making.
These men who'd come to chastise him - to correct him - were assured in their concrete arguments of the illiberal left, desperate with their gambled lives to convince and cajole. They considered the seated man at the table as one of their flock and to have even one lost sheep was unbearable to them - and they'd fight to bring him into the fold with the utmost powers of their persuasion. In unspoken coordination, each approached the man at the table to make his plea.
"First, let me say - and I think everyone would agree - we certainly appreciate your passion and convictions!" Nodding heads and murmurs confirmed this. "But there has to be a line. Passions without limits leads to ruin."
"I for one say it's good to stir things up. We need your voice. But if people turn against us - if we are too radical - what hope is there of reform? Who would support us then?"
"Not everyone has your understanding, my good man. People see that sort of violent display you did today with confusion and, ultimately, rejection. It's the calm voice that persuades. People hear a calm voice and they listen. But they hear scolding and they turn away - no matter how righteous the cause."
"Frankly, sir, I'm not as inclined as my fellow brethren to be so forgiving of a man who makes a corded whip sowing chaos and disorder for those simply trying to earn a living. Be reasonable! Have a heart and show some understanding. None of us like the corrupt society in which we live. But anarchy is not the solution."
"Yes, it's implementing solutions we have to think about, not indulging one's passions. Pragmatism, realism, compromise - those are the tenets that lead to real change. One must respectfully disagree. That leads to dialog between reasonable men: we work out an arrangement, a compromise bringing us closer to where we want to be. We can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."
"Couldn't have said it better myself. I hope you understand what we're saying. This is about making real progress, not chasing after ideals that can never be. Idealism has its time and place, and we love to hear you talk, but to act on it like you did today, well, frankly, it sets us back. Hearts become inflamed and hardened in their positions. Then it becomes impossible to bring them to enlightenment as you and we have been."
"Yes, that's all we're saying. Be reasonable. Those weren't bad people in the temple today. Business is not a dirty word. If you have a problem with their placement inside the temple, one lodges a complaint and it goes through channels with no hard feelings. Your sort of fanaticism cannot be tolerated in civilized society."
"We're not saying we don't need you. We most certainly need your voice! We very much want you for our worthy cause. That's why it's important you get on the same page as us. Together we can change the world! With God anything is possible!"
Carrot and stick, seduction and rejection, capitulation and judgment - the elders threw all their wiles against the impractical, unreasonable radical. If he remained unswayed and firm in his stance, they were doomed men, frauds under the sun, losing their high positions and most of all the certitude of their righteousness. They used their sense of morality as clubs wrapped in words of honey. Rare was the soul who could withstand their withering attacks coupled with baseless appeasements. The tiniest of stains would do, a man who clings to keeps his linen white their greatest enemy.
The man at the table remained within himself, motionless. Had he heard nothing? Impossible to believe not one of their arguments had reached him! Just tell us you heard us and victory is ours! If we fail to deceive him then we'll marginalize him like we've had to do in the past. But we've caught him red-handed. His violence today cannot be politically defended. We've somehow got to knock him off that perch of his. Then we can safely resume our mastery over the people as the holy ones.
Without acknowledgment or regard, the man stood up heading for the door. This caused great consternation among the elders who protested in growing fury until finally barring the exit. The men demanded an answer and would not let him pass until satisfied. Finally, the man spoke to the stone faces planted before him.
"Whom must answer to you?"
Would rather kill than ever turn over a table.
How radical is that??
How radical is that??
The question caused to happen that which they'd hoped to do to him. They were momentarily thrown off-balance, without conviction or certainty; stained and exposed. Their minds scrambled for plausible new rationalizations on why they should morally rule, but in that time of confusion the man was able to pass through, though they be an army they were powerless without their spirit. As they watched him make his way back to the temple, to speak of the joy and promise of life, they called out in wailing last attempts, refusing to repent or relinquish their altar thrones.
"Many people answer to us! They come seeking knowledge and advice! Elders are to be respected! We are the way! We are the only way! Nothing gets done outside of us! You're a hopeless loser if you don't join us. Your words will go unheard, lost to history, your folly exposed for the ages! Repent and we will forgive you!"
The elders raged with undeniable murder in their hearts. That scared them at first to know they were capable of killing. Though claiming to be on an opposing side to the bankers and businessmen, it was the money men who gave the elders purpose, frenemies whom they could lord over in staged morality. But this man today was of a different sort. He must be stopped or their self-deemed "good works" would come to end. Yes! Yes! That's it! Say anything! We can claim we're killing him for the greater good just as the Hebrews were forced to kill the thieves among them who threatened survival of the whole.
Thus the die was cast. Perfidious priests and poisoning politicians, bailed banksters and bribed businessmen, evil rulers and those who speak well of evil conspired to murder the one who dare expose them and lead them to salvation. This, they hoped, would save them from ruin - even as it guaranteed it. "He must die to protect our sins."
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the Wall Street money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, "It is written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER'; but you are making it a robber's den."
When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death. And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.