Monday in Passion Week. Jesus has come to the temple with His disciples, and He does something that many today would not associate with Jesus: He gets angry. Upon entering the temple grounds, he sees the salesmen hawking their wares. These were people trying to make a buck off God’s children as they came to Jerusalem to worship for Passover. “Pigeon not quite perfect after that 3 day hike? Here ya go! A clean one for only $19.95!!” As a former salesman, I can only imagine the schtick that these guys used to con the people of God.
Needless to say, Jesus was not pleased. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the incident that followed as Jesus “drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats those who sold pigeons.” (Matthew 21:12, ESV) Then He shouted (I imagine) “My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers!”
Uhhhh…not the kind of thing you say when the religious elite are already planning your funeral.
But Jesus didn’t care. He cared about the mockery that had been made of worship. He cared about the spiritual state of the people in the temple, not whether or not the coffers were full. He cared about the heart behind the sacrifice, not necessarily the sacrifice itself. As He said, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice. For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)
So here we go.
Jesus is stepping on toes and turning tables, the Pharisees and Sadducees and I’m-So-Self-Righteous-asees are all watching with indignation, turning red and seething. And yet, before their very eyes, the Lamb of God, the fulfillment of every sacrifice that had ever been offered in the temple, is cleansing it of its impurities. He is washing it clean. He is trying to make it what it was meant to be.
Hmmmm….Paul would later tell us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (of God, that is. See 1 Corinthians 6:19). So what does this say to us today?
Is our worship sincere? Are we being open before God and each other? Are we opening doors so that others may come in and find the Treasure that us jars of clay have been given to share with them? Or are we, like the religious of Jesus’ day, simply going through the motions, following the “rules”, and setting up barriers to mercy in the name of “doing it right?”
What tables need to be turned over in my temple? What moneychangers need to be thrown out? What needs to be cleansed? I can only speak for me, but there’s a lot. A lot. What about you? If Jesus came into your temple today, what would He find that needed changing?