I hear the story of Jesus “cleansing the Temple” very differently AA (After Alabama) than I did BA (Before Alabama).
Veteran Civil Rights workers in Alabama taught me that they carefully prepared for non-violent actions. The first big example of this for me was the story of Rosa Parks. Often presented as the story of a Black woman who just got so tired and fed up with oppression that she decided, on the spot, not to get out of her seat on the bus, the truth was anything but that: she had carefully prepared, taking training, and was also part of a network that planned with her.
When you see the movie, Selma take note of how we are given the background of famous actions – the careful thought and strategy hammered out among the core leaders. Dr. King even outlined the steps to a non-violent action in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, including the all-important, “Purify your motives” guideline.
But why would we see Jesus of Nazareth through the lens of community organizing? Wasn’t he just outraged by what he saw in the Temple, and reacted? In their absorbing book about the last week of Jesus’ life as presented in Mark’s Gospel, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan argue that another famous story of Jesus, the Entry into Jerusalem (we celebrate as Palm Sunday) was not just a flash mob experience, but was a carefully planned counterpoint to the entry, on the same day , of the Roman governor.
If we allow ourselves to see Jesus in this light, as one who cared so deeply about his path that he thought it out, planned it, prayed about it, studied the scriptures around it, consulted with his community about it, it helps us see the need for this spiritual discipline in our own lives. Spiritual discipline for confronting the evil and violence in our communities is part of what Lent is about. In Lent we model ourselves after Jesus of Nazareth who, pushed by the Spirit, went into the wilderness to fast and pray in preparation for his active ministry. Let’s remember his model, which non-violent activists have faithfully followed, in our own lives.