Winning the Temple

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The following is the second of a series of posts which offer an alternative view of Holy Week. This is just a wacky exercise of creative writing that asks the question, “What if this is what had happened?”

Chapter 2

Miriam yawned for the fifty-first time this morning, and tapped the tabletop absentmindedly. Her market stall, located just outside the Temple entrance, had done a poor business.

She sold a variety of religious trinkets, including Torah bubblegum, Legos Exodus sets, and Passover finger puppets. She was looking forward to the big tourist rush leading up to Passover, but so far, she hadn’t seen any impact on her business.

Miriam was also worried that her competitors across the street had got the best of her this year. They were selling “Kosher Style”-themed items, including T-shirts, bumper stickers, and armbands. It was awfully kitschy, she thought, until she turned and perused her own stock.

Inside the Temple courtyard, business was moving at a brisk clip. If Miriam leaned forward just enough, she could see the doves, chickens, and other fowl in cages on the ground, as well as the endless currency exchange booths. Around the corner, she was positive there was a bookie counter, where the men could place bets on any subject matter they liked, including how much longer Pilate would last in Palestine, and who would win the next Roman wrestling championship.

She watched as two elderly men made their way up the road, past her booth, and into the Temple area. She spat in the dust in contempt as they passed. They were members of the Sanhedrin Party; they had brokered a deal with the Romans for control of the Temple. All the Sanhedrin really wanted was a cut of the profits made by innocent shopkeepers like herself and her family. In return, they went along with whatever Pilate wanted, which was simply to remain submissive and quiet.

Miriam was a faithful member of the Milk-and-Honey Party, which believed in no taxes and even less government. She could have cared less about the Temple either; after all, as a woman, she wasn’t allowed to enter the courtyard. All she and her family wanted was the freedom to sell their trinkets and make a simple living.

The robes of the passing Sanhedrin men had scarcely whisked through the Temple gates when she heard the distant thunder.

“What’s that?” she asked, to no one in particular.

Meanwhile, Chuck was racing through the narrow back streets of Jerusalem, headed for the Temple area. Jesus, on horseback, was taking a longer route, in order to make a bigger impression on the citizenry. He was supposed to keep flashing his smile, waving his sword, and shouting revolutionary slogans, whipping up popular support for his coup.

Chuck and a contingent of mercenaries were to reach the Temple and secure the gates, so that Jesus could make another grand entrance, this time at the seat of religious power. This had been the consultants’ idea.

“After entering the city, head to the Temple first, and take it over,” said the first suit. “You must control the Temple, and thereby prove to the citizens of Israel that you have the blessing of God on your cause. Might makes right, after all.”

“What about the priests?” asked Simon the Zealot, who was, of course, zealous to do away with a few of them.

The second suit looked at the first suit and said, “Do what you have to do,” which elicited a hearty whoop from Simon.

Chuck was anxious to prevent a complete bloodbath, but on the other hand, he knew better than to interfere with the resentments of nationalists. As he made his way up the street toward the Temple, he began screaming at bystanders, beggars, and shopkeepers to get out of the way.

“Get out of here!” he shouted. “Trouble is coming! Shoo!”

As he passed Miriam’s stand, he flung his arm, knocking her figurines to the ground. She gasped in horror, and flung herself down to pick them up.

Only a few moments had passed before a stallion raced past her into the Temple courtyard. She looked up and saw a majestic figure quickly dismount. He unrolled a whip and then began thrashing it about wildly, upending tables, knocking open cages, and chasing white-bearded priests.

A couple of soldiers took up guard at the entrance, and began violently removing everyone from the courtyard. They threw out old men on their ear, kicked young boys to the curb, and waved machine guns at young adults. They tossed chickens over the walls, and scattered the cows to run loose in the streets.

Gradually, the man with the whip at the center of the action took control of the space. He placed guards at every corner of the Temple Mount, secured the Holy Place, and set up a radio control station. He ordered all the priests to be rounded up and marched away.

Miriam watched them being led off to a spot behind the Holy of Holies, and though secretly happy to see the priests in misery, she was nonetheless horrified when she heard the shouted orders, the countdown, and the systematic firing of rifles.

She clutched her remaining trinkets to her chest, holding them tightly as if her life depended on it. She wondered what she was witnessing — a new regime? a new religious order? a new oppression?

Her doubts and concerns were momentarily erased when she caught sight of the young man loitering across the street. He was hanging back, peering into the courtyard. On his face, she caught a thin, ironic smile. He was electric with excitement, alive with the sheen of young rebellion.

Her heart skipped a beat. She had never seen anyone so gloriously handsome.

When Lev turned, he saw her gazing at him from the shadows.

TO BE CONTINUED

 

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