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Cleaning House
Written December 14, 2019

“So how did people observe Passover in the olden times, Daddy?” my son asked.  Our family was sailing from Egypt to Judea.  We were going to be hugging the coast of the eastern Mediterranean for 400 miles.

“Well, in the old days our people were farmers and herdsmen.  The rule was that once a year, you had to sacrifice one of the lambs from your flock.  You'd take it to a priest, and he'd pray over it.  Then his assistants would slit its throat, butcher it, set the meat aside, and put the innards on the altar and burn them.”

“And then he'd sit down to a good meal that evening, I bet.”

"No, he'd return most of the consecrated meat to you, so your family could cook it for the Passover dinner.  Exodus 12:1-8  That's the ritual celebration we're going to observe next week.”  Numbers 9:1-3~

“We still do all that?  But we don't have any lambs.”

“That's true.  I may be one of the most successful grain traders in Alexandria, but I don't own any flocks.”

“And we haven't brought a lamb with us on the boat.”

“But we have brought money,” I reassured the boy, patting my purse filled with Roman coins.  Each silver denarius was worth about a day's wages, and three denarii were equal to a Jewish shekel.  “And we can use the money to buy a lamb after we arrive.”

I always thought Alexandria was a crowded city, but it was nothing compared to Jerusalem at Passover time.  We managed to find an agent to rent us a small room for a week.  It was in someone's house, up on the second story.  There we would eat the Seder when the time came.  Matthew 26:17-18  Of course we had to pay the rent in advance, which lightened my purse significantly. 

The next day was the Day of Preparation.  My son and I went out to buy groceries.

In one corner of the temple enclosure was a cage of doves.  The sacrifice of a pigeon is all that a poor widow can afford. 

Next to it was a pen of bleating young sheep and goats.  “How much for one lamb?” I asked.

“Ten shekels,” the man answered.

“Let's see,” I calculated, starting to extract coins from my purse, “at the three-to-one exchange rate that would be thirty denarii.  That's a month's wages.”

“No, I said ten shekels,” the man said, wearily.  “We get this all the time.  Look, those Roman coins of yours have the engraved image of a person on them.  That's the emperor Tiberius.  Our Jewish law prohibits graven images like that.  Exodus 20:4   You can't use pagan money to buy a lamb to sacrifice to the Lord.  Your money's no good here.”

“Back home,” I joked, “when someone says ‘your money's no good here,’ that means I'm going to get my drinks for free.”

“Our lambs are not free.”

“But this is all the money I have.”

“So take your Roman silver to those tables up there, trade it for Jewish silver, and then come back down here to make your purchase.”

With a sigh, my son and I trudged to the currency exchange.  I pulled out my Roman coins and told a money-changer that we needed ten shekels.  “That'll be forty denarii,” he answered.

“But,” I started to protest, “I thought the official exchange rate....”

“Hey, I have to make a living here,” he said.  “You know how much I have to pay to rent this table during Passover?”

Just then an itinerant preacher came stomping by, shouting, “Stop carrying merchandise through this holy court!  The temple should be a house of prayer, but you people have turned it into a den of thieves!  A filthy commercial marketplace!”  Mark 11:16-17~

“What's wrong with earning a profit?” my money-changer asked.  “Everybody loves making money.”

“The love of money leads to all kinds of evil!” exclaimed the preacher.  1 Timothy 6:10  “It is God you must love.  You must love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.  Luke 10:27  No slave can serve two masters, so you'll have to decide which you want to serve, God or gold!”  Matthew 6:24~

He was getting angry.  “You price-gougers up here are buying unclean coins.  Those price-gougers over yonder are selling livestock.  And you're making obscene profits everywhere!”

He grabbed the edge of my money-changer's table and flipped it over!  Coins went flying everywhere.  Matthew 21:12  “Hey, you can't do that!” everybody shouted.  The preacher started to overturn another table, but the other changers surrounded him.

He broke free, ran down to where the pigeons and lambs were kept, grabbed a whip, and began driving the animals away.  “Get these things out of here!” we heard him shout.  “My Father's house must not be a house of trade!”  John 2:15-16~

“Who is that, Daddy?” my son asked.

“Some fundamentalist troublemaker, I guess.”

“His name is Yeshua,” offered my money-changer, righting his table and beginning to scoop up his coins.

“In Greek, that would be Jesus,” my son observed.

“Is he from around here?” I asked.

“No, he's new in town.  From Galilee, I think.  He's going around telling people that better times are coming.  According to him, we Jews will be liberated from the Roman Empire of Tiberius and find ourselves in a holy Kingdom of God.”  Mark 1:14-15~

“Our new king will be the invisible God?  How would that work?”

“I'm not sure.  But just between us, I suspect that Yeshua dreams of sitting on the throne himself.”

“Why do you say that?”

The changer put down his handful of coins and moved closer to me, lowering his voice.  “I have some inside information.”


“This guy named Izzy came by yesterday to do some business.  It seems he holds the purse for Yeshua's inner circle, a dozen disciples.  John 12:4-6  Izzy told me in confidence that Yeshua has given himself a title, ‘The Son of Man.’  Matthew 20:18  And he's promised that in the coming Kingdom, those twelve will reign with him.”

“Yeshua thinks he's the Messiah?”

“Izzy says he told the disciples secretly, ‘When the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’  That's a quote.”  Matthew 19:28~


“He even allowed a woman to anoint him, as if he were already the King of the Jews!  The oil of nard came in an alabaster flask and was worth more than three hundred denarii.”

“A year's wages?  The woman must have been very rich.”

“Izzy was the treasurer, as I said, and he objected that the woman's precious offering shouldn't be wasted like that.  It shouldn't be poured over Yeshua as if he were a corpse being prepared for burial.  It should have been sold, and the money then could be given to the poor.”

“Or at least to the treasurer.”  Mark 14:3-8, John 12:3-6~

“He also has begun to doubt some of Yeshua's teachings.”

“What does he teach?”

“Well, Moses established the rule of ‘an eye for an eye,’ but Yeshua says that's wrong now; we shouldn't resist anyone who hurts us.  And we shouldn't swear oaths.  Matthew 5:33-39  And we don't even have to always keep the Sabbath.”  Luke 13:14-17, Mark 2:27~

“He's preaching that in public?  Why haven't the priests and rabbis stopped him?”

“There's more.  According to him, marrying a divorced woman amounts to adultery.  That's a sin.  And it's not enough to avoid the act of adultery; we can't even think lustful thoughts.”  Matthew 5:27-32~

“But we're only human.”

“Also, it's not enough to love our neighbor and hate our enemies.  Leviticus 19:18  No, we should love everyone and pray even for our persecutors.  We must try to be as holy as God is himself.”  Matthew 5:43-48~

“Izzy must be getting tired of idealistic talk like that.”

“He told me he's thinking of selling what he knows — Yeshua's seditious plans for a glorious throne and twelve other thrones and judging everybody.”

“Who would buy that knowledge?”

“Well, both the priests and the Romans would love to have it.  The priests want to silence Yeshua's heresies; and if the Romans knew he planned to overthrow Roman rule and set up his own kingdom, they too would want to get rid of him.  So maybe the priests will pay Izzy for what he's heard.  Then, with that knowledge, they can tip off the Romans about Yeshua's ambitions to be king.”

“I see.”

“And if the priests pay Izzy a little extra, he can inform the Romans of the traitor's whereabouts, so they can arrest him and haul him before Governor Pilate on a charge of treason.”

“Yeshua would surely defend himself.  Treason is a capital offense.”

“But would he actually deny being King of the Jews?  If he's as holy as he claims, he'll be too honest to deny it.”  Matthew 27:11-14~

“How much would all that information be worth?”

“About three lambs.  Izzy plans to ask for thirty silver shekels.”   Matthew 26:14-15~


Click here for other Bible stories I've retold in the first person.



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