Matthew 21 starts with the bit about the ass and the colt, and then moves on to casting the moneychangers out of the temple (“My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves”, from Matthew 21:13), and Jesus’s withering a fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22). The former of which I rather enjoyed, but the latter is quite harsh: that poor fig tree! What happened to turning the other cheek?
At any rate, these leave you with the ideas that: 1) you shouldn’t mess with Jesus, and 2) those in the temple aren’t exempt from his wrath, indeed rather the opposite. Which leads directly to the next bit, with Jesus confronting the “chief priests and the elders of the people” (from Matthew 21:23). This lasts for a full two and a half chapters, containing: a couple of arguments about bible interpretation; a couple of parables all on the theme of “chief priests bad (directly going against the will of God), followers of Jesus good”; the “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (from Matthew 22:21) bit that makes it clear that Jesus is focusing right then on arguing with the priests rather than with the state; and Matthew 23. In that chapter he really lets loose against the priests, with seven verses starting with “woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”, five verses where he calls them blind, one “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers”, and other fine examples of invective.
Ouch. But great stuff: it’s one thing when Jesus is telling me that it’s way or the highway, but I’m perfectly fine with him telling off other similarly judgmental types. Especially when it’s an argument between the old and the new, though I do feel a bit sorry for the priests here, with their fear that they’re on the wrong side of history.
This post has not been revised since publication.