Coins are propaganda.
It is true on our day as well. We do not think of it so much because we choose our leaders. For us to see Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington does not cause issue for us as these are the leaders we have chosen for our nation, BUT were we to be under the authority of another and oppressed (or Native American or African-American perhaps) our ‘ruler’ would use currency to make a point.
This reality is behind two stories in Scripture that give the stories more meaning.
First, when Jesus storms the Temple in Jerusalem and overturns the tables of the money-changers in John 2, he is making a political point. Temple rules required sacrifices to be offered with animals without blemish and acceptable. Temple leaders sold these animals and to buy them you had to purchase them in Temple currency – hence the moneychangers. As you can imagine, all of this occurred at inflated prices and was a means of extortion.
What was also true is that the Temple leadership was determined by the biggest bribe offered to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. So what makes Jesus angry is that this means of God’s presence and holiness had been completely corrupted and when Jesus takes on the money-changers it was an act of revolt the common people of Israel likely would have embraced.
Which leads us to story number two, Palm Sunday. Jesus enters Jerusalem with his followers waving palm branches – a national symbol of Israel. On Palm Sunday Jesus makes a prophetic and political statement. For Jesus, reality on Earth must reflect the values of Heaven, and for those waving palm branches it was as if to say ‘Israel is coming back’ in opposition to Rome.
Evidence of all this is found in coins. Jews revolted against Rome in 66 A.D. and temporarily drove Rome out of Jerusalem. They started minting their own coins again that featured a Palm Tree.
In 70 A.D. Rome conquered Jerusalem again and destroyed the Temple, and then also took to printing new money which features a Roman soldier looking down on a Hebrew with his back turned to a Palm Tree – a nation defeated. The coins are pictured in this blog so take a look.
So what does this all mean? As we prepare for Palm Sunday do some thinking. Jesus expected our lives on Earth to align with the values of Heaven. He was willing to fight for that as well as die – and he asks his followers to do the same. Is it time for what we do to match what we say? Thoughts, prayers, actions along this line I believe capture what Jesus felt as he enacted – and we celebrate – Palm Sunday.