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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER I. JESUS DRIVES OUT THE MONEY-CHANGERS.

King Of The Jews by William T. Stead

CHAPTER I. JESUS DRIVES OUT THE MONEY-CHANGERS.

Cast thyself down in adoring love,
Race bowed down by the curse of God!
Peace and grace out of Zion above!
He is not wroth forever,
Though his wrath be just -- though uplifted his rod.
Thus saith he, who changeth never:
|I will not the death of a sinner -- I will forgive -- Let him live!|
And he gave up his son the world from sin to free,
Praise and thanks we give, Eternal, to thee!

Suddenly there was heard a noise of singing. A great multitude came pouring down the narrow street that runs past Pilate's house, chanting as they came, |Hail to thee, O Son of David!| Little children, old men and maidens ran forward, some raising palm branches, but all ever looking backward to one who should come. More and ever more streamed down the street into the open space in front of the temple, but still the Hosanna song went on.

[Illustration: The entry into Jerusalem.]

At last, in the midst of the jubilant throng, Jesus appeared, clad in a long garment of gray, over which was cast a flowing robe. His face was composed and pensive. His long black hair and beard surrounded features somewhat swarthy from the rays of the hot sun, and he rode on the side of the ass's colt that seemed almost too small to support his weight.

John, the beloved disciple, dressed in green raiment with a red mantle, led the little ass, carrying in his hand a long pilgrim staff. The mob pressed tumultuously around, singing and crying: |Hosanna to the Son of David!| Jesus blessed them as he rode through their midst. After passing the house of Pilate he suddenly dismounted. Then Jesus advanced to the front of the temple. The hosannas died away as he contemplated the busy scene. There were the priests busily engaged with the money-changers. Nathanael, chief orator of the Sanhedrin, stood conspicuous among the chattering throng. There were baskets with pigeons for sale as sacrifices. There were the tables of the dealers. Buying and selling, haggling and bargaining were in full swing in the market-place.

For a moment Jesus, who was above the average height, and whose mien was dignified and commanding, stood as if amazed and indignant, then suddenly burst out upon the astonished throng of priests and merchants, with the following protest: |What see I here? Shall my Father's house be thus dishonored? Is this the house of God, or is it a market-place? How can the strangers who come from the land of the Gentiles to worship God perform their devotions in this tumult of usury? And you,| he continued, advancing a step toward the priests, who stared at him in amazement, |You priests, guardians of the temple, can you see this abomination and permit it to continue? Woe be unto you! He who searches the heart knows why you encourage such disorder.|

The crowd, silent now, watched with eager interest the money-changers and priests, who but imperfectly understanding what had been said to them, stared at the intruder.

|Who can this man be?| they asked.

And then from the lips of all the multitude there went up the simultaneous response, as if the whole throng had but one voice: |It is the great prophet from Nazareth, in Galilee!|

Jesus, then moving forward into the midst of the astonished merchants in the temple, exclaimed, in words of imperious authority: |Away with you from here, servants to Mammon! I command it. Take what belongs to you and quit the holy place!|

One of the traders exclaimed in terror: |Come, let us go, that his wrath destroy us not.|

Then the priests, recovering somewhat their self-possession, stepped forward to remonstrate. |Why troublest thou this people?| they asked. |Everything here is for sacrifice. How canst thou forbid that which the council has allowed?| And then the traders, led by one Dathan, chimed in, in eager chorus: |Must there then be no more sacrifices?|

For answer Jesus stood forth and exclaimed: |There is room enough outside the temple for your business. 'My house,' says the Lord, 'shall be called a house of prayer for all nations;' you have made it a den of thieves.|

And then crying, |Away with all this!| with one vigorous movement he overturned the tables of the money-changers.

A rabbi exclaimed: |This must not be -- thou darest not do this!| but his voice passed unheeded in the tumult. The earthenware vessels fell crashing to the ground, the money was scattered over the floor. Some of the dismayed merchants crying, |My money, oh! my money,| scrambled for the glittering coins. Others stared in fury at the unceremonious intruder. Half a dozen doves, released from their wicker baskets, took to flight amid the despairing lamentation of their owners: |Oh, my doves; who will compensate me for this loss?|

Their lamentations were rudely cut short. A small rope was hanging near by. Seizing it in the middle and twisting it once or twice round his hand, Jesus converted it into a whip of cords, with which he drove out the traders. |Away! get you hence. I will that this desecrated place be restored to the worship of the Father!|

The traders fled, but the priests remained, and, after muttering together, they asked in angry tones: |By what miraculous sign dost thou prove that thou hast the power to act in this wise?|

Jesus answered them: |You seek after a sign; yea, a sign shall be given unto you. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will have built it up again.|

The priests replied, contempt mingling with indignation in their tones: |What a boastful declaration! Six and forty years was this temple in building, and thou wilt build it up again in three days!|

At this point the children who had been standing around watching the altercation with the dealers, cried out in unison with their elders: |Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord!|

The priests, shocked at their homage, were sorely displeased, and appealed to Jesus, saying: |Hearest thou what they say? Forbid them!|

They paused for his reply.

Then Jesus answered and said unto them: |I say unto you, if they were silent the very stones would cry out.|

Encouraged by this emphatic approval, the children cried out once more, louder than ever, the sound of their childish voices filling the temple: |Hosanna to the Son of David!|

Then the Pharisees, who stood by the overthrown tables of the money-changers, spoke up and said angrily to the little ones: |Silence, you silly children!|

Jesus turned to them and said: |Have you never read 'Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise.' That which is hidden from the proud is revealed unto babes?| And as the priests and Pharisees muttered in indignation among themselves, he continued: |For the Scripture must be fulfilled. The stone which the builders rejected is become the headstone of the corner. The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you and it shall be given to a people which shall bring forth the fruits thereof. But that stone, whosoever shall fall upon it shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall it shall grind him to powder. Come, my disciples, I have done what the Father has commanded me, I have vindicated the honor of his house. The darkness remains darkness, but in many hearts it will soon be day. Let us go into the inner court of the temple that we may there pray unto the Father.| Thereupon Jesus, followed by his disciples, disappeared in the interior of the temple, while the people cried aloud as with one voice: |Praise be to the anointed one!| and the priests said angrily: |Silence, rabble!| The Pharisees adding: |Ye shall all be overthrown with your leader.| To which the crowd responded by crying louder than ever: |Blessed be the Kingdom of David which again appears!|

Then Nathanael, a leading man in the Sanhedrin, tall and well favored, wearing a horned mitre, and possessing the tongue of an orator, stood forth, and seeing Jesus had departed and that there was now no one to withstand him in the hearing of the people, lifted up his voice and cried: |Whosoever holds with our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, let him stand by us! The curse of Moses upon all the rest!|

Then a rabbi in blue velvet apparel, sprang forward and declared with a loud voice: |He is a deceiver of the people, an enemy of Moses, an enemy of the Holy Law!| The people answered mockingly: |Then, if so, why did you not arrest him? Is he not a prophet?|

Several of the multitude followed Jesus into the temple, but the rest remained listening to the priests, who cried more vehemently than ever: |Away with the prophet! He is a false teacher.|

But Nathanael, seizing the opportunity, thus addressed the remainder of the multitude: |Oh, thou blinded people, wilt thou run after the innovator, and forsake Moses, the prophets, and thy priests? Fearest thou not that the curse which the law denounces against the apostate will crush thee? Would you cease to be the chosen people?|

The crowd shaken by this appeal, responded sullenly: |That would we not.|

Nathanael pressed his advantage. |Who,| he asked, |has to watch over the purity of the law? Is it not the holy Sanhedrin of the people of Israel? To whom will you listen; to us or to him? To us or to him who has proclaimed himself the expounder of a new law?|

Then the multitude cried all together: |We hear you! we follow you!| Nathanael continued: |Down with him, then, this man full of deceit and error!|

The people replied: |Yes, we stand side by side with you! Yes, we are Moses' disciples!| and the priests answered, speaking all together: |The God of your fathers will bless you for that.|

At this moment loud and angry voices were heard approaching down the narrow street that led to the house of Annas, the high priest. The priests and Pharisees listened eagerly. As they caught the word |revenge| they turned to each other with exultant looks. Meanwhile Dathan, a merchant, the chief of the traders who had been driven from the temple, was seen to be leading on his fellow merchants, who were lifting up their hands and weeping as they recounted their losses. They shouted confusedly as they came: |This insult must be punished! Revenge! Revenge! He shall pay dearly for his insolence. Money, oil, salt; doves -- he must pay for all. Where is he, that he may experience our vengeance?|

The priests replied: |He has conveyed himself away.|

|Then,| cried the traders, |we will pursue him.|

But Nathanael, seeing what advantage might result from the discontent of the merchants, arrested their pursuit. |Stay friends,| he said; |the faction that follows this man is at present too large. If you attacked them it might cause a dangerous fight, which the Roman sword would finish. Trust to us. He shall not escape punishment.|

And the priests who stood around Nathanael cried: |With us and for us: that is your salvation!| Then Dathan and his friends exclaimed triumphantly: |Our victory is near.|

Nathanael assured of the control of the multitude, continued: |We are now going to inform the council of the Sanhedrin of today's events.|

The traders impatiently exclaimed: |We will go with you. We must have satisfaction.|

But Nathanael dissuaded them, saying: |Come in an hour's time to the forecourt of the high priest. I will plead your cause in the council, and bring forward your complaint.|

And as Nathanael and the priests and the Pharisees went out, the traders and the people cheered them, crying aloud: |We have Moses! Down with every other! We are for Moses' law to the death! Praise be to our fathers! Praise to our father's God!|

* * * * * *

Then the high priests and the rulers and the elders gathered together late in the night in the council of the Sanhedrin. In the highest place sat Caiaphas with his jewelled breast-plate, in robes of white embroidered with gold. A vestment of green and gold covered his shoulders, and on his head he wore a white-horned mitre adorned with golden bells, which added to the majesty of his aspect. Annas, the aged high priest, sat on his left. Nathanael, also on the raised dais, was on the right. Below him sat the rabbis in blue velvet, while seated around were Pharisees, scribes and doctors of the law.

Caiaphas, whose white hair and beard showed that he was well stricken in years, was still in the full vigor of life. As president of the Sanhedrin, he briefly opened the session:

|Honored brothers, fathers and teachers of the people, an extraordinary occurrence is the occasion of the present extraordinary assembly. Listen to it from the mouth of our worthy brother.|

Then Nathanael arose, and standing on the right hand of Caiaphas, said: |Is it allowed; O, fathers, to say a word?|

All answered: |Yes, speak! speak!|

Then said Nathanael: |Marvel not, O fathers, that you should be called together at so late an hour for the transaction of business. It must be only too well known to you what we have with shame been compelled to see today with our own eyes. You have seen the triumphal progress of the Galilean through the Holy City. You have heard the Hosannas of the befooled populace. You have perceived how this ambitious man arrogates to himself the office of the high priest. What now lacks for the destruction of all civil and ecclesiastical order? Only a few steps further, and the law of Moses is upset by the innovations of this misleader. The sayings of our forefathers are despised, the fasts and purifications abolished, the Sabbath desecrated, the priests of God deprived of their office, and the holy sacrifices are at an end.|

As Nathanael concluded, all the fathers of the council exclaimed with one voice: |True -- most true.| As he had been speaking they had been interchanging notes of appreciative and sympathetic comment. But it was not until Caiaphas spoke that the Sanhedrin was roused to the highest pitch of excitement. Caiaphas, who spoke with great fire and fervor, thus addressed the rulers of Israel: |And more than all this. Encouraged by the success of his efforts, he will proclaim himself King of Israel (murmurs of alarm and indignation), then the land will be distracted with civil war and revolt, and the Romans will come with their armies and bring destruction upon our land and our people. Woe is me for the children of Israel, for the Holy City, and for the temple of the Lord, if no barrier is opposed to the evil while there is yet time! It is indeed high time. We must be the saviors of Israel. Today must a resolution be passed, and whatever is resolved upon must be carried out without regard to any other consideration. Do we all agree to this?|

And all the Sanhedrin as one man cried out: |We do.|

Up sprang a priest to emphasize his vote:

|A stop must be put to the course of this misleader.|

Caiaphas then said: |Give your opinion without reserve as to what should be done.|

And then a rabbi arose and said: |If I may be permitted to declare my opinion unreservedly, I must assert that we ourselves are to blame that things have come to such a pass. Against this onrushing ruin much too mild measures have been employed. Of what avail have been our disputations with him, or what has it profited that we have by our questionings, put him in a dilemma; that we have pointed, out the errors in his teaching and his violations of the law? Nay, of what use has been even the excommunication pronounced on all who acknowledged him as the Messiah? All this was labor in vain. Men turn their backs on us, and all the world runs after him. To restore peace to Israel, that must be done which ought to have been done long ago -- we must arrest him and throw him into prison. That is the only way to put an end to his evil influence.|

The suggestion was hailed with enthusiasm, and springing to their feet they cried: |Yea, that must be done!|

Then a third priest stood up and said: |Once he is in prison, the credulous people will no longer be attracted by the fascination of his manner or the charm of his discourse. When they have no more miracles to gape at; he will soon be forgotten.|

And a fourth priest exulted as he added: |In the darkness of his dungeon let him make his light shine and proclaim his Messiahship to the walls of the jail.|

Then it was the turn of the Pharisees. The first said: |He has been allowed long enough to lead the people astray and to denounce as hypocrisy the strict virtue of the Holy Order of the Pharisees. Let him suffer in fetters for his contempt.|

A second Pharisee added complacently: |The enthusiasm of his hangers-on will soon cool down when he who has promised them freedom is himself in chains.|

By this time it was evident all the council was of one mind. Then Annas, the venerable high priest, arose and addressed the Sanhedrin with much emotion: |Now, venerable priests, a ray of confidence and joy penetrates to my breast when I see your unanimous resolution. Alas! an unspeakable grief has weighed down my soul at the sight of the onward progress of the false teachings of this Galilean. It seemed as if I had lived to old age but in order to have the misfortune of seeing the downfall of our holy law. But now I will not despair. The God of our fathers still lives, and he is with us. If you have the courage to act boldly, and to stand firmly and faithfully together, there is safety at hand. Take courage, steadfastly pursue the aim in view, and be the deliverer of Israel, and undying fame will be your reward.|

With one accord all answered and said: |We are of one mind,| while the priests added, shouting eagerly, |Israel must be saved!|

Then Caiaphas began: |All honor to your unanimous resolution, worthy brethren, but now let me have the benefit of your wise counsels how we can most safely bring this deceiver into our power.|

|It might be dangerous,| remarked the first Pharisee, |to seize him now at the time of the feast. In the streets or in the temple he is everywhere surrounded by a mob of infatuated followers. It could easily lead to an uproar.|

Then cried all the priests together with a loud voice, as if impatient that one should speak at a time: |But something must be done at once. The matter brooks no delay. Perhaps at the feast he might raise a commotion, and then it might come to pass that we should be consigned to the place which we have destined for him.|

|No delay;| cried some other priests, |no delay!|

Then the second Pharisee stood up and said: |We cannot now seize him openly with the strong hand. We must carry out our scheme cunningly and in secret. Let us find out where he usually spends the night; then we could fall upon him unobserved and take him into custody.|

Nathanael sprang to his feet, for the auspicious moment had come, -- the furious merchants from the temple were without in the courtyard. |To track the fox to his lair will not be difficult. We could then soon find someone to help, if it should please the high council to offer a large reward.|

Caiaphas at once put the resolution to the Sanhedrin. Rising from his seat he said, |If you, assembled fathers, agree, then in the name of the high council I will issue notice that whoever knows of his nightly resort, and will inform us of the same, will be rewarded for his pains.|

With one voice the rulers and chief priests and scribes cried out, rising from their seats, |We are all agreed.|

Then said Nathanael, |Without doubt we could secure the services, as informers, of those men whom the Galilean today has injured so deeply in the sight of all the people, driving them with a scourge out of the temple. From of old they were zealous of the law, but now they are thirsting for revenge against him who has made so unheard-of an attack upon their privileges.|

|But where,| said Caiaphas, |are these traders to be found?|

|They are waiting,| said Nathanael, |in readiness in the outer court. I have promised them to be the advocate of their cause before the holy Sanhedrin, and they await our decision.|

|Worthy priest,| said Caiaphas, |inform them that the high council is disposed to listen to their grievance, and bring them in.|

Nathanael as he went said, |This will be a joy to them and of great use to us.|

When Nathanael left the hall, Caiaphas addressed the council with words of cheer: |The God of our fathers has not withdrawn his hand from us. Moses still watches over us. If only we can succeed in gathering around us a nucleus of men out of the people then I no longer dread the result. Friends and brethren, let us be of good courage, our fathers look down upon us from Abraham's bosom.|

|God bless our high priest!| rang through the hall as Nathanael, followed by Dathan and the other traders, returned to his place. He introduced them thus: |High priests and chosen teachers! These men, worthy of our blessing, appear before this assembly in order to lodge a complaint against the notorious Jesus of Nazareth, who has today insulted them in the temple in an unheard-of fashion and brought them to grief.|

Then with one voice the traders, led by Dathan, cried out, |We beseech the council to procure us satisfaction. The council ought to support our righteous demands.|

The priests and Pharisees responded eagerly, |You shall have satisfaction, we will answer for that.|

Then ensued the following dialogue between the traders and the Sanhedrin:

The Traders: |Has not the council authorized us to display openly in the court of the temple all things useful for the sacrifice?|

A Priest: |Yes, that has been sanctioned. Woe be to those who disturb you in the exercise of this right!|

The Traders: |And the Galilean has driven us out with a scourge. And the tables of the money changers has he overturned, and released the doves. We demand satisfaction.|

Caiaphas: |That you should have satisfaction the law decrees. Your losses will be made good in the meantime out of the temple treasury| (joy among the traders). |But that the offender himself may be duly punished it is necessary for us to have your help. What can we do so long as he is not in our power?|

The Traders: |He goes daily to the temple; there he can easily be arrested and carried off.|

Caiaphas: |That will not do. You know that as he has a multitude of excited followers such a course might lead to a dangerous uproar. The thing must be done quietly.|

The Traders: |That could be done best at night-time.|

Caiaphas: |If you could find out where he retires at night he would soon be without tumult in our hands. Then would you not only have the delight of seeing him chastised, but also a considerable reward would fall to your lot.|

Nathanael: |And you would also have rendered good service to the law of Moses if you assist in this.|

Then all the traders cried out together: |You can depend upon us, we will spare no trouble.|

And all the priests and Pharisees congratulated themselves that the business was going well. Dathan, conspicuous by his apparel, then volunteered a statement. He said: |I know one of his followers from whom I could easily gain some information if I could offer him a sufficient reward.|

Caiaphas at once authorized him, |If thou findest such a one make all necessary promises in our name. Only don't loiter; we must attain our end before the feast.|

Annas enjoined the strictest silence, to which with one voice the traders responded, |We swear it,| and then Caiaphas proceeded to urge upon them the need of creating a party on their side among the people. |If, my good fellows, you really desire fully to glut your longing for revenge, then take care and use every means to kindle in others the same holy zeal which glows in you.|

They answered that they had not waited for his prompting, but had already brought several others over to their side. |We will not rest until the whole populace is roused against him.|

Annas and Caiaphas applauded their zeal. |You will thereby merit the greatest gratitude from the council,| said Annas, and Caiaphas chimed in, |Openly will ye then be honored before all the people as you have been today put to shame before them by this presumptuous man.|

|Our life for the law of Moses and the holy Sanhedrin,| then cried the traders. |The God of Abraham guide you,| said Caiaphas dismissing them, and they left the hall crying aloud, |Long live Moses! long live the high priests and the Sanhedrin! Even today may the role of the Galilean be played out!|

Then Caiaphas addressed these parting words to the council: |As though refreshed by sweet slumbers, I live once more. With such men as these we can put everything through. Now we shall see who will triumph, -- he with his followers to whom he is always preaching love, -- a love which is to include publicans and sinners and even the Gentiles also, -- or we with this troop inspired by hate and revenge which we are sending against him. There can be no doubt to which side the victory will incline.|

|The God of our fathers give us the victory!| said Annas; |joy in my old age will renew my youth!|

Then said Caiaphas, |Let us now break up, looking forward with confidence to the joy of victory. Praised be our fathers!|

And all the assembly with a deep, sonorous voice exclaimed, |Praised be the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob!|

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