It took Douglas Blanchard’s painting “Jesus Preaches in the Temple” and Kittredge Cherry’s reflections on his series of 24 paintings of Jesus’ life, The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision, to remind me that scripture says several times that Jesus taught in the temple in the midst of the Passion narrative. Of course, most of us remember that when Jesus was “handed over” (betrayed) to “the powers that be,” he mischievously asked why they had not arrested him in broad daylight while teaching in the temple.
But I always pictured Jesus teaching to those whose life circumstances would have prevented them from entering the temple, like the man unable to walk asking for alms from Peter and John at the temple gate, told in the third chapter of Acts. In the name of Jesus, it says, they lifted him up “and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”
I tended to imagine Jesus preaching to those outside the doors of the temple like this man, and his story serving as a metaphor for their welcome, their strengthened resolve to enter, and their resulting joy. That Matthew, Mark, and Luke place Jesus’ teaching in the temple just after his angry outburst clearing it of merchants who provided for worshipers’ ritual needs (temple coins and animal sacrifices) suggests he was indeed creating space for temple outsiders.
In an early book, I explained how the space he cleared would have been the space in which those of us who have been excluded and marginalized might have gathered: Gentiles, women, LGBT folk, people with disabilities. I didn’t think of the immediate accessibility he provided those then considered unclean by religious scruples. Matthew specifically claims that those with disabilities then joined him in the temple (21:14).
Jesus in Love blogger and a longtime friends Kitt Cherry points out, however, the artist has not placed Jesus in the Jerusalem temple, but in a Christian cathedral, made clear by the procession of crosses being carried by robed liturgists behind the immediate scene. A variety of people are drawn to Jesus “spellbound” by his teachings while seeming to ignore the formal worship behind them. Kitt asks, “what would Christians do if Jesus entered their churches today?” And I wonder, would they prefer to rest in peace in their traditions?
Some Christians are fond of asking, “What would Jesus do?” Yet the Passion narrative asks us, “What would we do?”
How often do we hand Jesus over to “the powers that be”—those who use Jesus to promote political or religious agendas anathema to what he taught? And how often do we pretend we’re not with Jesus, fearful that others might think we’re “one of them.”
And how often do we hang on Jesus’ words, reading and reflecting on what he taught?
My house shall be called a house of prayer for ALL people. (Isaiah 56:7)
Originally posted on Progressive Christian Reflections; Image Source: “Jesus Preaches in the Temple” from artist Douglas Blanchard’s series, The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision. Copyright © by Douglas Blanchard.