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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, 2001The 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, 1982Jesus 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, 2001John 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, 2010The 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.