Robber’s Roost was considered impregnable. Conveniently hidden by a maze of canyons and rocky bluffs, the natural cavernous fortress was hideout to Butch Cassidy and his infamous Wild Bunch gang of the late 1800s. For more than thirty years the cattle-rustling, bank-robbing outlaws used the cave as headquarters for their clandestine operations. It served their purposes allowing them to avoid detection, interference or capture by authorities. Yet eventually pressure from sheriffs and lawmen of the day forced the roost’s colourful inhabitants to abandon their rocky hideaway. Some escaped to South America, some were captured and incarcerated, and many met their end in classic Wild West shoot-outs of the day.
Robber’s Roost is not the only den to experience a figurative disinfecting. Mathew records for us in the twenty-first chapter of his biography of Jesus a dramatic incident of den cleaning. It was the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, and He had entered Jerusalem that day amid cheering, palm branch-waving crowds. Rumor had it that this man from Nazareth might become the political leader to free the Jews from Roman Empirical domination.
As He approached the Jewish temple that day, a strong smell of livestock pervaded the air. The jingling of coins changing hands and grumbling of bartering voices replaced the usual prayerful murmur heard in the outer courts. Walking through the gate, an array of lenders and moneychangers at their tables bombarded Jesus’ senses, opportunists capitalizing on the influx of travellers in town for the sacred festival of Passover. The livestock brokers were tendering for sale birds and animals at exorbitant prices for the required sacrifices. The opportunity for profit was tremendous.
It was obvious that the Jewish religious leaders were in league with these opportunists. They were using the temple culture to line their own pockets and the commotion resulting from the business was music to their ears.
But Jesus was appalled; He moved swiftly into the courts and surveyed the chaotic scene. Something must be done to clear out the courts and return the temple to its intended purpose. Driving out the buyers and sellers of merchandise with a voice of authority, Jesus moved from stall to stall, overturning moneychangers’ tables and upending livestock vendors’ benches.
“My house,” he quoted from centuries-old Scripture, “will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” The vendors grabbed up their equipment and scurried away like cockroaches at daybreak. As the clamor and odour of the temple-market began to dissipate, wounded and disenfranchised townsfolk began to return, shuffling and limping into the courts, searching for the Man of Wonders. With them came children chanting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” repeating the rally cry they had heard outside the city gates. With gentle tenderness, Jesus healed all who came to him.
The description of Jesus clearing the temple is a delightful one. Stories of wrongs being righted satisfy our sense of justice, gratify our desire for chaos to be transformed into peace and calm. But let’s not think that this narration is merely historical. God’s Word is “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…it judges the thoughts attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12,13).
Our hearts are like that temple of Jesus’ day. God intended each of us to serve a holy purpose; our lives are meant to be a setting where He is honoured, where dialogue with Him enhances our life experience, and where we feast on His goodness daily.
But alas, we’ve turned the sacred into the profane. We’ve desecrated the temple of our lives by making it a robber’s roost of opportunism. Our interior lives have become chaotic, pleasure-driven marketplaces to one extent or another. Is this not true? What can be done? Who can help us?
Only Jesus can clean out thieves’ dens, repair desecrated temples, and restore damaged hearts. Only He makes a place where we can find the healing of heart and soul we long for. The stench and the clamour do not need to define us. We have a resource in Jesus. Let’s invite Him into our temple-courts today to do what only He can do for us—make us what we were intended to be: people whose lives bring God delight and glory.
(Photo Credit: [[File:Ambrogio Bon – Izgon trgovcev iz templja.jpg|thumb|Ambrogio Bon – Izgon trgovcev iz templja]])