Mirror of Zen Blog

Spiritual Sign Language

Be very, very careful of naked truth-telling. Pointing out spiritual fakery does not earn one lots of friends and supporters. Look what it did to Jesus: He arrives in the Temple of Jerusalem during the start of Passover observances — at the Holy of Holies — and sees people amassing massive mountains of cash right there in the temple precincts. They’re selling sacrifices and changing money, turning humble Jewish shekels into the Greek and Roman currencies of empire and polytheism.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2:13-19)

Within just one week of this action, he was dead. Most scholars believe that this mad act of fearless truth-telling — swinging a whip made out of cords, no less! — is what got Jesus’s ass handed over to the Romans. And poor Pontius Pilate wanted nothing to do with this case — he found no fault with Jesus, and wished that he be freed. But the “correct, correct, correct” religious straight-arrows had been completely insulted and humiliated by one too many of Jesus’s arrogant critiques.

Jesus’s action reminds me of the quote from Zen Master Bassui (1327–1387): “My true desire is to relieve others of their pain, though I myself may fall into hell.”

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