Daily Reflection
May 28th, 1999
Eileen Wirth
Sirach 44:1, 9-13
Mark 11:11-26
When I was a child, most of the pictures of Jesus that I saw depicted a sweet, mild, almost syrupy man.  Whose great aunt didn't have at least one china plate showing a Jesus with a pious look on his face, usually with a crumbling palm left over from Palm Sunday mounted behind it?

These pictures were terrible art and even worse theology.  Today's reading from Mark recounting Jesus driving the money changers from the Temple presents a righteous Jesus who is a radical contrast to the images we so commonly grew up with.

This Jesus is angry - a powerful leader who outrages the local religious establishment.  They're afraid he could use his appeal to the masses to undermine business as usual.

Mild?  Syrupy?  Otherworldly?  Hardly.

This Jesus may make us uncomfortable too because in parts of the passage, he doesn't even seem very reasonable.  What did the poor fig tree do to deserve being made barren?

Later in the reading, we see the lesson Jesus is teaching through the fig tree.  We learn that prayer is powerful.  We learn that if we have faith and petition God, we will be heard.  We also learn another very tough lesson, however, and that is the need to forgive before we ask God to grant our petitions.

All in all this rather difficult passage seems to be teaching us a lot of lessons that don't jibe with the sappy pictures of Jesus on the china plates.

This Jesus demands that we take stands on behalf of justice even when that causes controversy.  Who knows?  We might even have to do something that would cost us some friends or make our boss mad or cost us a customer.  Like Jesus, we might have to pay a price for being righteous.

This Jesus tells us to make outrageous requests of God and have confidence we will be answered.  However this tough Jesus also warns us not to expect much from God if we haven't cleansed ourselves first by forgiving others.

In a lot of ways, the syrupy Jesus of the awful pictures is a lot easier to deal with than this Jesus because he'd be a nice guy and let us slide by.  This Jesus unsettles us because we're probably a lot more comfortable with a more accommodationist Jesus.

Can we cope with Jesus like this?

It's a question we answer everyday with the decisions we make about acting righteously and forgiving others.

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