Cornerstone

“Uri and Rivka startled and backed away quickly. A rabbi was holding a whip of cords and going straight down the line of merchants, cracking it unapologetically against each one."

As we enter into the Lenten season, we prepare our minds and hearts to observe Jesus’s painful sacrifice on Good Friday and his glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. In an effort to more deeply interact with scriptural truths, we are presenting some written historical fiction pieces that correspond to verses traditionally read during these weeks of Lent. These presentations have been created by Cornerstone members with the blessing and consultation of Cornerstone elders.

Our hope is that these written pieces will help you to meditate on the life of Christ as told in scripture, and that leading up to Easter we may all find something beautifully new to appreciate about our Living God, who gave up his very life for us.

Rivka’s feet ached. Their caravan had left Cana several days ago, travelling up to Jerusalem for the time of the Passover. The long journey was becoming more difficult to make now that she and her husband, Uri, were getting older. Nonetheless, they wanted to honor God and his commands for this festival. It was the one time of the year when they came to the temple, and Rivka in particular longed to be close to the God of Israel. By the time they finally entered Jerusalem, they were eager to pick up an animal to be sacrificed to the Lord.

Just getting to the temple proved to be an ordeal. At the time of the Passover, the city swelled to many times its usual size, bursting at the seams with pilgrims who had come from across Judea to worship. Uri and Rivka wove their way through massive crowds to approach the outer court of the temple. Once inside, it was clear things would not be any easier.

The outer court was full of people crowded along the eastern wall where tables upon tables of merchants were set up. From all around them they could hear bleating and neighing as merchants and pilgrims brought goats and sheep to and fro. Money changers sat among them, and the clinking of coins seemed to be a constant background noise. The heated negotiations from dozens of haggling conversations echoed off of one another, and the noise of the crowd made it hard to concentrate. Pigeons fluttered their wings against the wooden bars of crates, adding their coos to the din. The air was filled with the stench of sweat and livestock, and flies buzzed persistently around their heads.

Rivka froze, straining to take in the myriad of sights and sounds around her. She had looked forward to coming to the temple as an opportunity to commune with God, but this felt more like the crowded marketplace in the center of the city. She could barely hear herself think, let alone hear God’s voice. Was this what they had travelled all that way for?

Perceiving that his wife was overwhelmed, Uri guided her alongside him toward the nearest merchant’s table. He knitted his brow as he carefully surveyed the merchant’s lambs. “They look a bit smaller than last year’s….and yet priced higher, friend?”

“Ah, but these are the finest quality lambs - guaranteed without blemish! A fitting sacrifice for the Lord, God of Israel, you see.” The merchant bent down to one of the lambs, lifting up its ears and eagerly explaining to Uri the glowing qualities of his merchandise.

But just then, the merchant looked off to their left, the smile quickly dropping off of his face. “You!,” he called out, “I remember you! Now if you are here again to cause trou...” 

CRACK!

The merchant was cut off mid-word as a cord snapped loudly across his table. Uri and Rivka startled and backed away quickly. A rabbi was holding a whip of cords and going straight down the line of merchants, cracking it unapologetically against each one. Some of them fled immediately upon seeing him, others faced the snap of the cords as he drove them away in spite of their vehement protests. He poured out the coins of the money changers, sending bits of bronze and silver scattering across the ground. The money changers quickly lowered to their hands and knees, scrambling to collect the coins amidst the animal feces on the ground.

The rabbi continued down the line of merchants, turning over tables as he went. He lifted a crate off of some pigeons, sending the birds flying into the air. “Take these things away! Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” He stood strong and spoke loudly, with unwavering authority. When Rivka finally got a good look at his face, she saw that his eyes were like fire. She also couldn’t help but think he looked familiar - hadn’t they seen this same man at a wedding back home in Cana?

She didn’t have much time to think, however, as the man proceeded to drive everyone out of the temple - money changers, merchants, and all who sought to buy from them. He even drove out all of the sheep and the oxen. Since they moved more slowly, Uri and Rivka were among the last to exit. Rivka turned back at the gate for one last look.

The man stood in the middle of the outer court, taking in the scene around him. Overturned tables and stools were strewn about, and a lingering lamb trotted past where he stood. Feathers were still softly falling to the ground and a faint mist of dust hung in the air from the panic of people fleeing. The man’s deep breaths settled into one long sigh as he looked up to the temple. At last, all was quiet and still. And in that moment, Rivka felt like maybe, just maybe, she could encounter God at the temple after all.

That night as Rivka lay to sleep, the crack of the whip on the table still played in her head. That man, that rabbi, had such zeal for the house of the Lord - and clearly what he had seen was not pleasing to God. But if those sacrifices were not good enough to make to the Lord, what kind of sacrifice would be?

Ashley Ross

Ashley is a member of Cornerstone and serves as a Web Content Editor.

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