Monday, March 19, 2018

Without a Sword

Without a Sword
A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
March 18, 2018
at Bethany Presbyterian Church, Zuni, Virginia
Matthew 26: 47-56
Ezekiel 33: 23-29
Let us pray,
Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives
For your eyes show the way
Your mind knows the truth
Your being is the life.

In our journey from the Colt to the Cross, we have gotten to the part where time starts to move very quickly
Because the events of the Holy Week has now turned into merely a few jam packed hours,
 at least the last three weeks have only been the story of a few hours. . .
Lord’s Supper, Gethsemane, now Betrayal and Arrest,
Just a few days after Jesus entered into Jerusalem on that Colt, and headed to the temple,
Now the trial and crucifixion are fast approaching, and Easter draws nearer,
we wonder could we face such darkness, without Easter’s glory rising securely in the future
So let’s look at this betrayal and arrest
Here Matthew’s rendering, this is Matthew 26: 47-56

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”[d]
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Look at the details of this. . .

Judas comes with the mob of men with clubs and swords,
the mob is from the Chief Priests and Elders
Then the betrayal kiss. . . saying “Greetings Teacher”
Jesus, says “Do what you came for”
They seize him. . .
One draws sword and cuts off the ear of one of the servants of the high priests
I always remembered that being Peter. . .
Jesus says put your sword back
Twelve legions of angels. . . . but scripture must be fulfilled
Am I leading rebellion? You could have taken me any time. . . but now because scriptures are being fulfilled.
Then disciples, desert and fled. . . .
We are familiar with the scene, I think
Today I want to take a look at Judas and Peter, especially, but really the last line,
All the disciples deserted him and fled
So all the disciples go away, let’s think about maybe why for each. . .
let’s look at Judas first, he may be the easiest to look at why he deserts. . .
Guilt right? Enough to lead him to suicide. . .
But what about why he betrays?
Is it just about greed and the thirty pieces?
Is it somehow that he was chosen to bear all infamy to fulfill the plan?
Or is it just somewhere in the middle. . .
Not what I ordered?
Disillusioned – Heaven on their minds
Iscariot - - from there, or is it sword carrier
The shame is we won’t know because he kills himself
No one ever got the exclusive interview. . .
But Jesus does say. . .
Put down your sword. . . . and they all deserted
Let’s take a minute on this
I had thought that the disciple who pulled the sword was Peter,
but that is not Biblical, probably something I picked up at the movies
And they all deserted. . .
But we do get to watch Peter’ desertion
Three times he denies
Peter. . . could you?
Fight or Flight, right?
Could you do it?
Think of what it means. . . because you don’t get a sword
So you don’t get to fight. . .
Have you ever tried to build something without the right tools?
It makes a mess, and eventually you just quit. . .
That’s like fighting without a sword especially when everyone else has a sword. . .
Bringing a knife to a gun fight
Taking a test when you read the wrong book
Me teaching a science class

Having a church dinner when you can’t bring a casserole. . .
That dog won’t hunt
Can you fight without fighting? No so run away. . . quit. . .
Hoosiers. . .


23 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 24 “Son of man, the people living in those ruins in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the land. But we are many; surely the land has been given to us as our possession.’ 25 Therefore say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Since you eat meat with the blood still in it and look to your idols and shed blood, should you then possess the land? 26 You rely on your sword, you do detestable things, and each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife. Should you then possess the land?’
27 “Say this to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: As surely as I live, those who are left in the ruins will fall by the sword, those out in the country I will give to the wild animals to be devoured, and those in strongholds and caves will die of a plague. 28 I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end, and the mountains of Israel will become desolate so that no one will cross them.29 Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all the detestable things they have done.’

Of all the sins and reasons they list for the destruction, it is only the sword, that is repeated
Depending on the sword
Surrounded by Egypt, Assyria, Babylon
No win situation, with sword, but with God?
Fully Rely on God, isn’t just a slogan for Frozen Yogurt, ie Sweet FROG F(ully) R(ely) O(n) G(od)
Wouldn’t the disciples be in the same situation if they fought back
The Romans have more Swords, always
It seems that the only way for Peter not to deny was to wield a different kind of sword, and lay himself at the feet of God’ Will
They all couldn’t, it was much to scary, can we?
What armor have we, what sword?
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.       
–Ephesians 6: 14-17
Is it enough?
It certainly is, but do we have enough faith to put it on. . .

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Garden

A Garden
A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
March 11, 2018
at Bethany Presbyterian Church, Zuni, Virginia
Matthew 26:36-42
Genesis 2: 8-15

Continuing with Jesus’s walk from the triumphant Palm laden entrance to Jerusalem
He headed for the temple
Broke bread with his disciples,
And then headed out into a garden to pray. . .

Matthew 26: 36-42
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

The setting matters
I’d like to juxtapose three different stories and places this morning
And so I want to put them in your head to before I begin. . .
Picture the place of this prayer, Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane
Picture the place of the temptation – 40 days and nights in the wilderness
And picture the place of the fall of Adam and Eve. . . another garden
I do think the setting of these three is significant,
So having taken a minute to think of the three. . . let’s look at the first in the Bible
Our Old Testament Lesson
 God creates the world in 6 days, according to Genesis 1,
and then there is the day of rest
And then we are put in a garden
Here is is for this morning Genesis 2: 8-15
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin[d] and onyx are also there.)13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush.[e] 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 

What is it about gardens?
Jesus prays in the garden, let this cup pass, thy will be done. . .
God puts Adam and Eve into the Garden
To work it and to take care of it. . .
Have you ever worked a garden?
When I was younger I use to hate it
Dad would take me out with him, the sun was always hot,
the ground too was hot and dry, or the other extreme too muddy
the work took forever, and there were no winners and losers, no score, nothing to keep my attention
And it seemed at least to me like Dad always gave me the jobs he didn’t want to do,
The ones that had low skill level, the boring ones. . .
The garden took too long, and I just didn’t like it.
I remember Dad though walking in during the summer hours,
with the latest huge piece of lettuce,
With great Pride, Hey yall look at this one!
Yeah great, Dad. . .  I didn’t get it.
I didn’t get it then, but now I do
Now I get it, I love my hands in the dirt, I love planting seeds, I love the wait and anticipation of growth
I love that I get to share it with my kids, I love that we can grow our own food, that I can show that to the girls
I love that what we grow in our garden would potentially be more healthy for us to eat,
I love that we can save a little money, at least hypothetically speaking. . . we’re not there yet
I love that I’m connected to the rest of humanity, who has done this for thousands of years. . .
But most of all I love it now because it is my land, and my garden. . .
It’s mine
I get to plan it
I get to make the decisions,
I get to decide where things will go,
what they will look like while they grow
I get the satisfaction of going to the hardware store if I need to, to get whatever it is I need for it
When problems arise I get to be the one who solves them, and if I don’t it don’t
I don’t need winners and losers and a score anymore because I understand the reality of the battle
And if you’ve owned land, as most of you have probably, you know the battle
Against weeds, and vines, and time, and varmints, wascally wabbits, and flower sucking deer
Root eating moles, bugs, slugs, grubs, mites and blights
And digging in the ground and finding the unexpected snake in your peripherals
It’s a battle, but you have a vision
You can see it in your mind, exactly what it could be like, and that vision may not be attainable, and maybe it’s better that it isn’t, because it keeps you fighting.
It keeps you out there, digging, and planting, and weeding, and clearing, and cutting turf, and taking more trips to the hardware store,
And it does begin to take shape
And you want to show it off, that huge piece of lettuce, that picturesque vista,
that shaded flower bedecked oasis, where the hammock fits so perfectly,
and the lemonade is fresh and inviting, or any other cold beverage of choice,
God did mandate rest of course, didn’t he, to take it all in and truly appreciate a job well done,
But then the battle looms again,
And it is all a cycle, cultivate, plant, weed, wait, weed, wait, weed, wait, harvest. . . and again.
And when someone comes to visit and compliments you on your work it feels good.
There is the Old Joke, when the missionary comes by says
What a beautiful garden that you and God have here. . .
And the guy doesn’t miss a beat and says, “yeah you should have seen it when God had it by himself!”
And it makes you wonder whether God has a different thing in mind entirely when he sees garden
Because look at a forest, look at the edge of your yard, when you let things go. . .
Look at a field of nothing but wild flowers,
I once described a field of wild flowers like this. . .
I object to its disorder, its tangles, its lack of lines,
Its disunity, and patently patternless being;
I wonder  how it can produce the fruit
Of such multiplying color free from
Any bound. . .

What is God’s garden like? Is it like our own or not?
Would he consider our gardens gardens, would we consider his?
But it is true that a garden is the picture of the partnership between God and Man at balance. . .
Both are needed to at least fit the human definition. . .
It is as if Human’s add the lines, the details, the order. . .
And God supplies the life. . .
That’s interesting to think about for a moment before we go on. . .
            Because that is what the weeds are, and the encroaching woods, the disorder of the wildflowers
            Life without bound. . .
The Girls have been watching The Lorax Movie non stop this week
The movie based on the Dr. Seuss book about the Trufula trees,
and the little orange dude that speaks for the trees, and the guy cuts’em all down to make Thneeds
You know the thing that all people need. . .
The movie, reimagines the old story, that there is no a world after all the trees are gone, Thneedville,
And everything is a man made, artificial copy of what it used to naturally be like,
So they have fake, trees, and sky, and sun, and the bad guys even sells fake clean air for everyone
It’s total propaganda, but a pretty cute movie all in all. . .
But I wonder if that is the man version of the garden
Without God anymore. . . everything is neat tidy and perfect, but lifeless, messless, and in a sense: awful,
That is the Utopic picture of human beings without limitation, without God,
and the rules a real gardener knows. . .
which may be the cause or divide between rural and urban areas. . .
people who garden retain that humility that comes from fighting the battle,
but not winning it by breaking the rules. . . by disrespecting life. . .
Because experience teaches that if you let something grow itself,
rather than forcing it the results are better. . .
The poem on the back of your bulletin, is about such a time.
I had planted some sweet peas, but planted them where the rain beat them down a bit,
So they were a tangled mess on the ground, I tried to raise one up to meat the trellis that would save them,
But they wouldn’t go, they had too much spine,
so they were beaten down, and they wouldn’t let me save them
They wouldn’t let me do what I knew was best for them, no matter how much I pulled and pulled,
But then I just left the trellis there, and they grew up it on their own. . .
I called the poem experience, and closed it like this. . .
True gardeners, having seen
Before, remembering
July’s flowerng harvest,
Move to other meddling

Gardening experience teaches to let things go, to let them happen, and God does. . . Life does

Whereas pulling, forcing, just destroys that life. . . breaks the spine of the plant
Look at what Jesus is wrestling with here in the garden
Let this cup pass. . . thy will be done
He knows what he faces. . . he knows the pain, the cross, all of it,
But he accepts God’s will, knowing that it is the way of life, even if it leads through death
Think about Adam and Eve. . . God lies, his way is not better, we will not surely die
No but God’s way is life, and the way they chose was its opposite. . .
Think about our other setting of the three in the Wilderness
Jesus is there, the devil too, the devil promises him escapes from suffering
Food to a hungry man, power and control over all things, and a test for God,
I had said that defeating the devil is not difficult for Jesus, he simply says no, the devil says, Ok
It is easy to choose Good over Evil I think if you know the difference
It’s just sometimes we don’t know that difference, things that are evil seem good,
And vice versa, its that place of the serpent in the garden, the lie, you will not surely die,
That seed, planting that seed of doubt is enough to make us question, to make us lose surety
But look at the prayer of confession,
easy to say, “His will is perfect” difficult to say “His will be done
It is easy to say His will is perfect, but difficult to know and accept his Will for us
But Jesus does both. . . He knows his will and submits to it, and though it leads through death
It leads to life, he must let go, he must allow for the garden to be that partnership,
He must remember what the garden is about. . .
Man being put in the garden to work it and to take care of it
We are put in the garden to work it, and to take care of it, because that is who we are, who we are made to be, not for our own glory but for His. . .
And it can because mixed up right, who am I doing this for, who’s will is being done?
Remember I didn’t like helping dad in his garden, I didn’t feel that right sense
It wasn’t mine. . . and this isn’t mine either, if we think about it being God’s,
But there is a sense that it must be the garden God gives us directly, right
And it may not just be a garden. . .
Maybe it’s our job, maybe its art, maybe it is relationships, our families. . . work it, take care of it
Maybe it is our church
Look at the main parts of this sermon with the garden as a metaphor for church
It must be our own, we must have a personal call to it, ownership, our church, not our fathers
But it is connected completely to our humanity—we are connected to our forebearers
Vision, constant battle, but a battle that must never be won, can’t cheat it
God’s way is messy – our way is order,
God’s way leads to life – ours to artificiality, slow cheap death
Remember the Wildflowers
Would God consider our church, church? Would we consider his?
Remember the sweet peas and the lattice
Experience teaches we shouldn’t force things to fit, but allow God to work them
We mustn’t break the spines of others to force them to our will
Humility, partnership, all important for a garden to flourish
At all points of life, in every step of life we find ourselves in the garden with God, or rejecting God and standing tempted in the wilderness. . .
blown by the wind of our viewpoint
The garden flourishes and life abounds when we say as Jesus does, Thy Will be done
And that means being open to letting go, letting God, and picking up the cross, allowing the mess of the beauty of an occasional wildflower, while still holding onto a vision and fighting the battles continuously. . . tall order, and a conflicting order, but then again, there is order beyond our imaginings in the beauty which passes our understanding in the mind of God. . .
His will is perfect, despite our eyes. . .
Let it be done, and may life abound. . .

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

In the Temple

In the Temple
A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
February 25, 2018
at Bethany Presbyterian Church, Zuni, Virginia
Mark 11: 15-19
1 Chronicles 28: 1-19

Let us pray,
Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives
For your eyes show the way
Your mind knows the truth
Your being is the life.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple
(Mt 21:12–17; Lk 19:45–48; Jn 2:13–22)
15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; 16 and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of thieves.”
18 And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. 19 And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

I've had trouble wrestling with this text this week. This scene is an important one because it represents a definitive action of Jesus ministry. In many ways it is the high water mark. He has just entered Jerusalem in triumph, and it seems that he goes straight for the temple. When he gets to the temple, instead of praying, he empties the place out. He over turns tables, and sends out all of the people, proclaiming this house to be a house of prayer for all nations, and instead they have made it a den of thieves. It is this that is the last straw for the chief priests and scribes, because they are now looking for a way to kill him. What is interesting though, is that it seems here that his message is popular with the people, I mean it "spellbound" them. That seems good right? Here are the questions I have been struggling with. 1. (is basic) What is the statement Jesus is making by going into the temple and cleaning house? and 2. Why if it is popular with the people do they follow the Chief Priests and the Scribes at the end of the week?
To get to a place where it would be possible to answer these questions let's look at the history of the Temple,. What it is; what it means; what it has been; and what it has become by the time Jesus enters it and turns the tables. Let's begin by looking at Temples in general. Temples throughout the ancient world were places where gods lived, places where people and gods came together, places where heaven and earth were joined as one. The temples were the turf of the priests. Priests dominated the temple, controlled the worship, and set up the rituals. Temples were also places of great wealth. The best of what was produced in the land would be placed in the temple as a kind of a sacrifice to the gods. It would be hoarded by the priests, and plundered from time to time by kings and emperors, when resources became short, or when one group of people invaded another. This being the case, temples were very much the central identifying body of a city or a state.
The first temple of sorts, that is found in the biblical narrative is the Tower of Babel. Human beings were attempting to build a bridge to God, and it seems that at least in the Biblical Hebrew tradition this is very bad. Why? Apollo has no problem with the Greeks building him a temple, in fact he seems to relish it. Zeus, too, and Baal, Ashtarte, all of the ancient gods are thought to like their temples, why not this Hebrew God? Worship of this Hebrew God begins with God having no name and no temple. Why? The answer, I believe, comes down to confinement and control. One of the main components of ancient religions, chiefly paganism, is the idea that the gods are human creations, and are therefore made in the image of human beings and animals. . . images of what we would consider created things.
The Hebrew God on the other hand cannot be confined to such things because God was not made, but instead made all things. . . is not made in the image of creation, but rather is the chief agent of creation, making human beings in his own image. This is a major and important distinction. Look at it this way, if you make a temple, you are confining God, and controlling the place in which God becomes manifest. I'll use a crude analogy, but yet effective in getting to the point: it is in a sense that the priests are the zookeepers and God is the caged attraction you pay to go see. The priests determine where God lives, the priests determine who gets to see God, the priests are in a sense in Control, and God, though powerful certainly, exists within very confined human set parameters. The Hebrew God does not fit into these parameters, cannot be confined within a temple, or a box, or an idea, not even a name. The name of God simply means God is, that God is being, try if you will to capture the present, you try and it is gone, already past, such it is with God. So what changes between here and the construction of the temple?
After God had led the Israelites out of bondage, the ark of the covenant, resided in a Tabernacle, a movable tent. The Levite Priests had constructed this movable tabernacle based on direct specifications given to Moses. Since those times, this tabernacle had been with the Israelites as they built with God's help and direction a great kingdom. David became king, consolidating a kingdom and building for himself a fine palace. David did not think it right for himself to live in palace and for God to live in a tent, so he says so, quoted in 2 Samuel 7:2, " the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan tells David to go ahead, but that night God comes to Nathan, the prophet, telling him to tell David,
Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; 9and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

In this passage from 2 Samuel we get the description for the commissioning for the construction of a temple. It will not be David to build it but instead for Solomon, David's son. It seems as if the purpose of the temple is not as a house for God, but instead for God's name, and in the name it seems to mark the covenant between God and David's family. There is a major distinction here suggesting again that God is in control of the situation, rather than the king or the priest. God sets the parameters for the building of the temple, not David. Our Old Testament lesson goes into it further. . .
28 David summoned all the officials of Israel to assemble at Jerusalem: the officers over the tribes, the commanders of the divisions in the service of the king, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of all the property and livestock belonging to the king and his sons, together with the palace officials, the warriors and all the brave fighting men.
King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’
“Yet the Lord, the God of Israel, chose me from my whole family to be king over Israel forever. He chose Judah as leader, and from the tribe of Judah he chose my family, and from my father’s sons he was pleased to make me king over all Israel. Of all my sons—and the Lord has given me many—he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. He said to me: ‘Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. I will establish his kingdom forever if he is unswerving in carrying out my commands and laws, as is being done at this time.’
“So now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever.
“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsakehim, he will reject you forever. 10 Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.”
11 Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. 12 He gave him the plans of all that the Spirithad put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the Lord and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things. 13 He gave him instructions for the divisions of the priests and Levites, and for all the work of serving in the temple of the Lord, as well as for all the articles to be used in its service. 14 He designated the weight of gold for all the gold articles to be used in various kinds of service, and the weight of silver for all the silver articles to be used in various kinds of service: 15 the weight of gold for the gold lampstands and their lamps, with the weight for each lampstand and its lamps; and the weight of silver for each silver lampstand and its lamps, according to the use of each lampstand; 16 the weight of gold for each table for consecrated bread; the weight of silver for the silver tables; 17 the weight of pure gold for the forks, sprinkling bowls and pitchers; the weight of gold for each gold dish; the weight of silver for each silver dish; 18 and the weight of the refined gold for the altar of incense. He also gave him the plan for the chariot, that is, the cherubim of gold that spread their wings and overshadow the ark of the covenant of the Lord

So this is the beginning of the temple in Jerusalem. No blood, set plans, limits placed on this temple, so that it will not become a corruption, and not become like the other temples of other ancient gods, and not a place where treasures are hoarded, and raided, and captured, but instead it becomes just that. The temple becomes a symbol of the nation of Israel, and when that nation crumbles so too does the temple. . . The following is taken from the book of Lamentations. . . the Jeremiah's lament for the fall of the temple.
Enemies have stretched out their hands
over all her precious things;
she has even seen the nations
invade her sanctuary,
those whom you forbade
to enter your congregation.
11     All her people groan
as they search for bread;
they trade their treasures for food
to revive their strength.
Look, O Lord, and see
how worthless I have become. (Lamentations 1: 10-11)

     He has broken down his booth like a garden,
he has destroyed his tabernacle;
the Lord has abolished in Zion
festival and sabbath,
and in his fierce indignation has spurned
king and priest.
7     The Lord has scorned his altar,
disowned his sanctuary;
he has delivered into the hand of the enemy
the walls of her palaces;
a clamor was raised in the house of the Lord
as on a day of festival.  (Lamentations 2: 6-7)

And the Jews fall into exile. . . If the temple was connected to the covenant, does this mean that God has abandoned them, or that God has been defeated? What are they to think? But the exile ends and they rebuild the temple. That account is found in the book of Ezra. And in there it says that this new temple was commissioned by the Persian Emperor. It makes you wonder as to whether the Persian Emperor did not have blood on his hands, or if the standard had somehow been changed. . . This temple stood for 500 years, and had 500 years of weathering and assaults on it. Then 18 years before the birth of Christ, Herod set to work rebuilding the temple. Herod did so to gain favor of the Jews he wished to rule. You can see that throughout this long history this Temple had existed on shaky footing. And by shaky, I mean, whose job is it to build a dwelling place for God? And what should such a dwelling place's purpose be? Is it to house God? Is it to claim God? Is it to appeal to God? What is the purpose of the temple?
Jesus upon riding into Jerusalem goes straight for the temple, this building that is supposed to be his dwelling place. He finds within a very different purpose from what he imagines, at least it appears: the exchange of money. . . the wielding of power. Exactly what a temple has always been, but exactly what this temple was not supposed to be. He says, "My house was to be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves."
So now that I've given some background let's return to our two questions: 1. What is the statement Jesus is making by going into the temple and cleaning house? and 2. Why if it is popular with the people do they follow the Chief Priests and the Scribes at the end of the week?
It seems obvious to me that the statement Jesus is making is that things need to change because the temple has become exactly like the other pagan temples, places where power is brokered over people, and where God is wielded rather than worshiped, where God is confined, boxed, and sold. You can see how threatening this setup would make the chief priests and the scribes upset. Their power is tied to the temple, just like the ancient pagan priests. They are in league with the Roman occupiers. Money changers is a concept that we may not completely understand, but what they are doing is changing money from the unusable Jewish money to the Roman Money. You can imagine the types of corruption that would occur during this process. People are being swindled by those people who should protect them, in a place that is supposed to be sacred. Jesus seeks to end this, restoring the only model that can be for the temple. . . one that does not confine God, or wield, God, or use God, but one that is a mark of the covenant, a sign on Earth of God's steadfast love for  his people.
But this would be good for the people, you would think. It is my second question that is so much more difficult to answer. Why, if Jesus' message is popular with the people, do the people decide by the end of the week to follow the Chief Priests and the Scribes instead and demand that Jesus be crucified?
Let's expand the Jesus message. One of the things that Jesus represents is the new covenant, the new revelation of God's steadfast love. In the Matthew and Luke gospel accounts of this scene, the idea that Jesus claims that he will tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days is conveyed along with this story. Look at this claim. There will be a new temple, and if we look at the rest of the story that new temple, the new symbol of the covenant of God's steadfast love would be Jesus himself. I think we are almost there. What makes this message so hard is what it means. . . God is with us. . . not in some temple under the control of priests, but really with us, and even more than that also God is in us. Jeremiah and Paul both testify to the count. Jeremiah 31
31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,  says the Lord33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says theLord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Paul writes in his first letter to the church in Corinth. . .
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

If God's spirit dwells within us, and we are his temple, take another look at this passage. Jesus comes into your town on a donkey, you wave palms, you sing hosanna, and shout praises. Then though Jesus enters into your heart, the temple of you. What does he find? Does he find a house of prayer, or does he find a den of thieves? Do we prefer the temple the way it is because it doesn't challenge us the way we are? It seems to me that this is the answer to the second question, and the reason why the cheers changed. The status quo was safer because it did not force the people to look at themselves. Is that still the case? Are we content with the way that we are and the way that the world is? Is there no room anymore for a God let loose from the temple to run free in the world, freeing people, healing people, and changing lives? Would we rather seek to control God? The rest of the story shows us that our desire to control God is futile, misguided, and destined to always fail because God cannot in the end be nailed to a cross, nor sealed in a tomb, and oh the wonders that He can do let loose within the temple of our hearts. Amen.