Jesus in the Temple
(Mark 11.15-19; Luke 19.45-48; John 2.13-22)
12Jesus went into the temple and chased out everyone who was selling or buying. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and the benches of the ones who were selling doves. 13 He told them, “The Scriptures say, ‘My house should be called a place of worship.’ But you have turned it into a place where robbers hide.”
14Blind and lame people came to Jesus in the temple, and he healed them. 15But the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses were angry when they saw his miracles and heard the children shouting praises to the Son of David. 16 The men said to Jesus, “Don't you hear what those children are saying?”
“Yes, I do!” Jesus answered. “Don't you know that the Scriptures say, ‘Children and infants will sing praises’?” 17Then Jesus left the city and went out to the village of Bethany, where he spent the night.
If people watched a silent movie of the last year of your life what could they conclude about what is important to you?
In today’s passage, Jesus’ dramatic rampage speaks loudly and clearly about what he is “for” and what he is “against.” Even without hearing the words of judgment that he shouts, clearly he’s dead set against the commerce that is being allowed. Some suppose that he’s upset because the sellers are exploiting the buying pilgrims. But Jesus chases out the buyers too!
Exchanging money and buying sacrificial birds or animals were necessary for the out-of-towners. The buying and selling was not the point. The insult is that it was happening in sacred space set aside for Gentiles in the outer court of the temple – the only section where these despised, second class “outsiders” were allowed to worship. How could they pray in a space that was overrun with shouting hagglers?
So why didn’t the temple authorities do something about this blatant encroachment? Because, though the law provided space for the Gentiles, they actually weren’t really welcome – even at the fringe of the temple property. Ditto the needy blind and lame people that Jesus attracted! Ditto little kids running around singing ditties!
So Jesus wasn’t just going after the money changers and merchants. He knew they’d have their tables reset within a few minutes after he left. This drama was for the self-righteous chief priests and teachers of the law. And their angry reactions tell us that his message had registered.
Replay what happened with the sound off and fast forward to the final scene. What do you see? Space cleared for the “outsiders.” Open arms for the less than beautiful people. A big smile for the dancing, prancing kids. Hmm.
Loving God, in your mercy you open your arms to receive all who will come to you. Show me what clutters my attitudes and the true span of my embrace. By your grace, continue to enlarge my spirit so that I may love all whom you love. Through Jesus Christ. Amen