John 2:13-17, NIV

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus
went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found men
selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables
exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and
drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle;
he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned
their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said,
"Get these
out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a
market!" 17 His disciples remembered that it is written:
"Zeal for your house will consume me."


 

November 27, 2010

I hate to say it, but the temple in Jerusalem was, in one sense, a
slaughter-house. All those sheep and cattle, doves and pigeons,
were sold to pilgrims and then offered up on the altar as religious
sacrifices. Year after year, generation after generation, the
descendants of Israel did this, as prescribed in the laws of Moses.

Passover was the most popular and holy festival. Devout Jewish
families, from Judea, Galilee, across the Jordan, or wherever they
had settled, came to Jerusalem for their yearly pilgrimage. Instead
of bringing their offerings of sheep and goats, etc., they brought
cash which, since they lived in Roman territory, bore the image
of the Roman gods and Caesars.

They were met in the temple courtyards by merchants who had
animals for sale, and others who could change their currency into
coins acceptable for use within this sacred place. It happened
just like always, year after year, generation after generation.

Until one day, when Jesus got mad. And that forces us to look at
the picture of what was going on in the temple courtyard. Really
look at it. To examine the traditions of faith with fresh eyes, like
we were seeing it for the first time.

What was Jesus so angry about? He said people had turned his
Father's house into a marketplace! With these words he established
at least two things: 1) the temple was God's house; it didn't belong
to anyone or anything else. 2) the rituals surrounding their traditions
of worship had evolved into a profitable business which created
gain (wealth) for some, and loss (meager budgets) for others.

The whole enterprise totally sidetracked everyone. The trappings
had become the main event. The meaning which Moses had given
to the act of bringing offerings to the Lord as expressions of love
and gratitude, confession and the need for forgiveness, had been
hijacked by a marketplace atmosphere and traditional duties.
That bottom line sounds much like current religious holidays.
Scary stuff. Maybe it's time to have some "zeal for the Lord of
the house."

                                                                  More journal entries


November 13, 2001
The wedding celebration and wine drinking is over and life
goes on, rolling down a sobering road, and then up to Jerusalem.
First came the "sign" performed at his mother's urging at a
private small-town family affair. Now a very public sign involving
nothing less than the temple courtyard in the holy city of
Jerusalem. Also known as king David's city and the Mt Zion so
fondly referred to in Old Testament scriptures.

At Passover time Jerusalem overflowed with people, pilgrims
coming from far and near. It's a pilgrimage Jesus had taken every
year with his own family. And it makes me wonder how long Jesus
had been contemplating the passionate deed he was about to
discharge when he arrived at the temple on this occasion.

Jesus called the temple his Father's house. Yet those he met in his
Father's house didn't behave like they knew his Father.


June 23, 1982
Jesus didn't try other means first --like complaining to the proper
authorities, or testing public opinion. No, he wasn't worried about
being diplomatic. Instead he made a whip and started swinging
until everything was scattered, money and all. John places this
as the second event in Jesus' ministry. Other Gospels have it
much later. What had happened to trigger the energy it took to
react like this? Was Jesus enraged? Why did it happen only once?
And how long did it take for business to get back to usual again?

Did this episode help to change anything? Probably not. His anger
bordered on violence--can he be justified for doing this? What was accomplished? He called attention to himself, and the greed and
carnival atmosphere existing at the temple. Although Jesus may
not have intended to, his deed put him at odds with Moses in
the minds of the people.

A one-man riot, protesting what? Injustice? Abuse of the temple
grounds? Corruption? Willful ignorance? Using religious practices
as a way to make a killing? After all, it was not illegal; it was
simply a tradition.

The element of surprise made it possible to accomplish what he
did without being stopped by anyone. Or was it his sense of
authority? There must have been no laws against this sort of thing
because he wasn't arrested and tried for disorderly conduct, assault, recklessly endangering life and limp. Not to mention scattering
money all over the grounds!

Had I been with Jesus, I would have been afraid. Anger frightens
me; so does shouting and chaos. I'm very uncomfortable telling
someone they are wrong, or trying to change someone else.
I don't think I would have stayed close to Jesus that day.

 

June 8, 2008 (Thoughts from a previous study - Matthew 21:12-13)
The marketplace in the first century temple was very specialized.
Merchants sold animals to the worshipers for sacrifices--goats
and sheep or to the poor, doves and pigeons. For a fee, moneymen exchanged foreign currency into the required coins for the annual
temple tax. All this was done in the courtyard of the Gentiles, the
only part of the consecrated place in which Gentiles could worship
God and gather for prayer. Thus the house of prayer for all nations
was reduced to a noisy, smelly den of thieves.


November 14, 2001
John places this incident at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. The
other Gospels writers put it closer to the end. Maybe John is doing
what many authors do--events are not in chronological order but
in the order that best serves the story line. Right up front, John
wants us to see a very bold Jesus throwing down the gauntlet,
and challenging the ancient traditions and the current religious
leadership.

Right before the annual Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He walked through the temple courts and didn't like what he saw.
When he was a baby Mary and Joseph probably had bought two
young pigeons (Luke 2:21-24) in just such a temple courtyard. On
this day Jesus didn't like what he saw--merchants selling their
wares, counting their profits and issuing exchange rates.

Jesus expressed his disapproval by making a whip and driving
everyone and every animal out of the courtyard. Turning over the
tables of money. He spoke to those selling doves--Get that out of
here; you have turned God's holy house into a common market.

I don't know how the disciples could have felt other than shocked.
John comes up with an Old Testament verse to make sense of what happened. Maybe Nathaniel remembered it--Zeal for the house
of God. Whatever, this is certainly a far cry from the mood
surrounding the wedding celebration in Cana. I wish I were back
at the wedding where I promise I wouldn't ever again complain
about the taste of wine.


November 16, 2001
So far in this chapter you get the picture of an emotionally
charged-up Jesus. Enjoying his jolly friends and the food and drink
at the wedding in Cana. Now in these verses consumed (the Greek
word literally means devoured) by zeal for true worship at the
most holy of all Jewish religious sites. The misuse and abuse of
all that is holy. The lack of understanding and proper knowledge
of God that is lacking in the human heart.

Who cleaned up the mess when Jesus was finished "cleaning out"
the temple courtyard? To title this passage "Jesus cleansing the
temple" is a misnomer in the literal sense. Everything was spilled
and strewn all over the place.

But of course, since this is John's gospel, we know he is much
more concerned with the deeper meaning of this incidence. The
mess was on the surface of the ground. We have to dig further
down, or maybe climb further up, to find its true significance.


December 1, 2010
The temple in Jerusalem was the house of God. That was king
David's intent when he picked the site and first envisioned the
temple. 
A thousand years later Jesus had to claim ownership once
more. This was 
his Father's house. It makes me think about our
places of worship today. 

We who attend and those who have leadership positions are
probably not much different from the devout Jews of Jesus' day.
We write our mission statements, set our goals, create some rules.
One of the worst I have seen is a "No Trespassing" sign on a
church lawn and other areas of the property.

We keep up the premises, take care of the appearance of the
building and think we own the place. And in a sense we do. God
does none of those things! But that is thinking small. Jesus in
John's gospel is huge--proclaiming a very big picture of the world
God loves and how we can be redeemed from the darkness
that constantly threatens to engulf us.

We care for the church property and do the business of the
church, not because it belongs to us, but because we love Jesus.
In the next few verses, Jesus speaks of his body and the temple
as having the same symbolic meaning. So we administer our
churches for what it is, the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. With
reverence, with loving devotion, with faithfulness, even boldness
at times. Two thousand years after the resurrection of Christ
we can be grateful for these words of Jesus to remind us, "This
is my Father's house." It's worth pondering: What would happen 
in my congregation if Jesus came and started cleaning house?

Prayer of Confession: O Jesus we confess that all too often we use
our place of worship as a marketplace where we sell each other
short, where we cheat each other out of genuine Christ-like love,
where things become more important than people. Like those in
Jesus' day we get confused and think of our church as a building
with four walls. Whereas You want us to think of our church as
Your body which projects us out into the streets and along dark
and lonely roads where other hurt and hungry people live. Help us
see clearly that the way we love and minister to others is the way
we love and minister to You.  --adapted from an unnamed source.

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