Jesus was making a scene. His disciples stood in the margins in open-mouthed wonder at the chaotic spectacle.
“Get these out of here!” he roared, scattering coins and overturning tables, “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
There was nothing meek and mild about this Jesus. He was not communicating a passive take-me-or-leave-me invitation to those he confronted. Bringing order back from chaos is never the time for tranquility. It’s the time for resolve and focus and intention. And this was no trivial fray. This was the temple.
The temple of God, in first century Jerusalem, was the most sacred and honoured location the Jewish people recognized. At least, it used to be. But the religious leaders, the priests and professors of Mosaic law, had started twisting it for their own personal gain. They had seen a way to turn a profit and were making a day of it.
Vendors of livestock had set up pens in the courtyard where sheep and cattle jostled against each other. The smell of manure and urine mingled with the bawling of the livestock; their owners prodded them with goads, broadcasting their merits to the crowds of involuntary customers. The new twist on an old law required the everyday man to purchase his gift for God at exorbitantly inflated prices or leave empty-handed. He had no way of making peace with God.
I believe this is what infuriated Jesus. The people were like a sheep whose shepherds had become hungry wolves.
His Father’s house was designed to be a house of prayer for the nations. The courtyard was supposed to have been an access point for Jews and non-Jews to approach God. The temple was an entrance for seekers to find hope and peace and relationship with God. I believe Jesus is no less concerned today. But where is the temple?
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” challenges the apostle Paul of the early Corinthian believers (I Cor. 3:16). We need to reconstruct that in our minds. The specifications and regulations and celebrations for which the temple was the centrepiece, were a symbol and prototype of the role of all believers in Christ. God’s presence now resides within us — our lives are the courtyard through which others will find Him too.
Sometimes, maybe inadvertently, we think the courtyard is ours; we think we can do what we want with it, maybe even turn a profit – in a superficially religious sort of way to ease our consciences. We network for our glory rather than for God’s. We build relationships that serve our desires rather than seeking to include the hurting and lonely. We trade in comfort commodities rather than offering relief and consolation, truth and hope to the hopeless.
The solution is both simple and difficult. We must bring truth and love back into our private and public lives for Christ’s sake. We are called to make disciples, to serve the needy, to speak the truth.
Christ is the hope of the nations and we, as gatekeepers, are to have those gates swung wide in welcoming invitation.
“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; Come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” –Psalm 100.
The invitation is for all.
(Photo Credit: George Gastin; CC BY-SA 3.0 )