After his Transfiguration, Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he did so mounted on a donkey as peasants proudly proclaimed “Hosanna!” This bit of street theater was a mockery of the Roman triumphus—a civil and religious ceremony wherein the conqueror parades through the conquered city.
Then Jesus enters the Temple. The Temple had become the center for economic and religious bondage. It was a place where people at their most vulnerable were exploited by those in positions of power.
He accused the moneychangers and sellers (and, implicitly, the temple authorities) of being abusers and thieves. While Jesus certainly cared about the sanctity of the temple, he cared about the sanctity of the poor more. Jesus didn’t get mad because the Temple was being desecrated; he got mad because the poor were being desecrated.
Folks were profiting off of the poor…and benefiting from their continued poverty. So Jesus responded. He turned over tables. He cast out the money changers. And he proceeded to meet all week in the Temple courts to preach sermons of subversive spirituality. And Jesus was killed for his actions.
In more recent times, Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered after launching the Poor People’s Campaign. After focusing exclusively on civil rights, King began to denounce the war and the capitalist machine. He boldly and provocatively named the giant triplets of evil in his day—racism, militarism, and extreme materialism.
The Poor People’s Campaign wasn’t a march for jobs; King was gathering an army of interracial nonviolent poor folks to set up a shanty town on the mall in Washington, calling for a redistribution of wealth. And he was murdered for his actions.
Like my Lord Jesus and my brother King, we need to challenge and disrupt our economic system. Capitalism thrives off of poverty. It can only exist through exploitation. And so, in the name of Jesus, in the legacy of King, we must resist.
In what places do we find economic, political, and religious exploitation intersecting around us? How can we disrupt oppression and help people recognize the holy alternatives?