Do kids in school still read George Orwell’s “1984?” I read it in school at it wasn’t yet 1984. When I read it, I remember thinking 1984 was really far in the future. It was only about 5 years away but to me it was a look into a crystal ball of a possible future. How about the space program? When I was a kid, Skylab was a new thing. I was there watching Astronauts walk on the moon. I remember vividly the early Space Shuttle flights from the 747. It was so exciting to think of this “new” space vehicle that could go into orbit and come back and do it again. It was cool looking like some science fiction concept of a distant future pulled into my limited reality. There I was “living” George Orwell and Buck Rogers all in the same moment.
Today that is all history. The concept of a space shuttle will be history for all those who are in school today. That seems really strange to me but it is truth. I can’t make it come back by my will or wishful thinking or the power of suggestion. Those events, as exciting as they were, are in the past. To talk about a Space Shuttle program or Apollo lunar landings as a future event would be strange. There may be things we learned from those events that translate into the future but the events themselves and the emotion and the experience and the tradition and the excitement and the disappointments and so on are all past events.
For Jesus 70 AD was a future date. For the people of Jerusalem, 70 AD was a future encounter with a horrible outcome. For Jesus, Babylonian captivity was 600 years in the past. For Jeremiah, Babylonian captivity was just a few years away. It is easy for us to take our Bibles and read the book like reading George Orwell’s 1984 as a future event. We can pull some scripture about Apollo lunar landings and dream about some future moment when it has already come and gone…good and awesome but in the past. Sometimes our disappointments and circumstance and experiences make us “wish” for some things as a future. We want to “see” something as a potential outcome when it is really in the past. Computers have already been invented. Telephones with land lines are almost a thing of the past. The rotary phone is an antique. This doesn’t mean we are hopeless. We can instead dream about a future with some science fiction phone powered by thought or a cancer free society. We don’t have to re-interpret Bible passages that were intended as their future events as our future. It is OK. It doesn’t mean we are hopeless without a crystal ball of exegesis palm reading. We are actually hopeful because Jesus said it is finished. Oh yeah. Strange but true.
When Jesus “stormed the temple” and turned over some tables, He was prophesying a future based on a past in the present moment. He was “acting out” a well-known story. Since the people knew the story and were a part of the tradition, the enactment was powerful and disturbing. We miss the whole emotion of the event because we weren’t there. My kids can’t know the excitement of watching a Saturn Five lift off from the Cape. They may read about it or even watch videos, but they weren’t there living the event. In the same way we miss most of what Jesus was telling them because it was personal to them. When we try to take what Jesus was revealing prophetically and apply it to our future we are ignoring the past. Their future is our past. Our present is in Him. Our future is in Him. This is why the Bible brings us to Jesus. This is why the word points us to the Word. We are in a relationship not a classroom. We are not learning about the past to make it our future so we can pass a history test. We are living in a living relationship with the history maker. We are in His-Story.
OK, how about some verses to chew on?
Mat 21:12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money- changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘ My house shall be called a house of prayer, ’ but you make it a den of robbers.” 14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “ Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “ Yes; have you never read, “‘ Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise ’?” 17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. (ESVST)
Jeremiah did a similar thing 600 years prior. The Babylonians were coming and Jeremiah was trying to warn the people. Jesus was doing the same thing since the Romans were coming (in 70 AD). Check out what Jeremiah said and Jesus quoted above:
Jer 7:11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord. (ESV)
Can you see that Jesus was “on purpose” tying these two events together? OK, how about the “house of prayer” quote?
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
8 The Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
“I will gather yet others to him
besides those already gathered.”
Oops. See that phrase in bold? Do you know that all the religious leaders standing there in the Temple, watching Jesus wreck the place, would have known this passage? They wanted the Romans killed not included. They wanted the sinners excluded not accepted. They wanted the sick tossed out not healed. Can you see now that maybe they were a little upset? So what did Jesus do next as yet another prophetic act? He healed those outcasts, those miserable sinners, right there in the middle of the melee. Don’t miss the obvious. the blind and lame would be “known” sinners. Their blindness and lameness would have “been from God” according to their tradition. Now he just up and heals them right in front of the “judges.” Oh yeah, what was Jeremiah’s warning?
Jer 7:5 “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, 6 if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever (ESVST)
Can you see what God’s justice looks like? Can you see that inclusion is God’s plan? Can you see that the religious of Jesus’ day were trying to kick them all out when Jesus was brining them all in including their enemies? Can you see that our insistence on rightness and judicial jurisprudence is a huge misstep and contrary to what Jesus was doing?
So the best part of the story!!!!! The CHILDREN were crying Hosanna! The CHILDREN! Why oh why is that so important? The children of that day were the outcast, the lowest, the least. Still they were free of judgment. They were free from the power of the forbidden fruit. They were not trapped by religious ritual fallen-human judicial judgment. They were free to see God in Jesus and the goodness of God in Jesus and the kindness of God in Jesus and the Love of God in Jesus. They saw Jesus. They saw Hosanna!
What was the reaction by the First Assembly of the We Are Right Denomination? They were indignant. Don’t be confused by the pleasant sound of the word indignant. They were pissed. They were ready for some blood. They were ready for a lynching. Why? Jesus was declaring inclusion. Jesus was saying they are all mine and I accept them all.
2 Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. (NIV)
Ouch! Jesus just called them the bad guys.
So what could be learn from this past future event for our present? Have we become the exclusivist? Have we declared our dogma and doctrine to the exclusion of everyone who isn’t like us? Have we insisted on division and separation instead of inclusion? We are all His kids. We are all a new creation in Jesus. We were all born from above in the resurrection of Jesus:
1 Peter 1:3 So let us boast about it and bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with articulate acclaim! He has reconnected us with our original genesis through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! This new birth endorses and celebrates the hope of the ages; God’s eternal love dream concludes in life! (Mirror Bible)
Let’s not confuse a future-past with our present-future when it comes to scripture. Jesus wasn’t warning us about an impending doom. He was warning them. Still we can learn from His warning. We need to stop with the religious exclusion and condemnation. The good news is Jesus has included us all in His life, death and resurrection. We may not all know it or receive it or even believe it, but IT is certain. Jesus finished the work and is sitting down at the right hand of the Father with us in Him and Him in us. We might actually start feeling like we are saved if we agree with what has already been accomplished, everything. Unlike a past Apollo lunar landing which can only be learned about, in Jesus we are living our future past present right now.