Holy Week Blog: Wednesday
“45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.’ 47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.” Luke 19:45-48
Every time I read this story, I’m reminded again of the fierce love that God has for his own glory and for his people. In contrast with most images we see of Jesus today which portray him as a feathered haired, fair skinned, beard toting, hippy, that would never mutter so much as a harsh word, this Jesus looks almost barbaric. Although Jesus was the most caring, loving person ever to walk the face of the earth, in this moment, he wasn’t picking flowers with children and telling stories around the dinner table. He was carrying a whip and turning tables over, chasing corrupt business leaders out of the Temple. What would cause Jesus to do such a thing, why was he so angry? Jesus himself indicates why he did this by quoting scripture when He said “‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”. The temple or the house in which God’s presence through the holy Spirit dwelt among his people, was intended to be a place for all peoples, where mankind could enter in and experience the presence of God though prayer and offerings. At this particular time of year people from all over the world, jews and gentiles, were making their pilgrimage to the temple in order to celebrate passover. In order to do that they would need a sacrifice. For many, bringing a sacrificial lamb with them on their pilgrimage would have been near impossible, and so upon arriving at the temple they would purchase an unblemished lamb to offer as their sacrifice. Seeing an opportunity for great profit, corrupt business leaders would set up booths in the gentile courtyard to change currency and sell animals. Having no where else to go and desiring to be obedient these pilgrims would have no other choice but to exchange their money and buy their sacrificial lambs at ridiculous prices. So instead of being a house of prayer for all peoples you might say it had become a house of business for all peoples with money, making it a den of robbers. By commercializing the sacrificial system, they were taking advantage of the poor and corrupting the image of God in the temple. Not to mention, they were doing all of this in the gentile courtyard, so they weren’t just corrupting the image of God in the temple, they were corrupting the image of God to the world. So yeah, Jesus gets angry, really angry, and out of fierce love for his glory and his people picks up a whip and begins cleansing the temple of everything that’s not God!
I think for most of us, when we read this story our natural tendency is to begin identifying religious people and places that we can compare these events to. We are quick to put ourselves in the shoes of the people who are being taken advantage of and quick to cast judgement on those whom we perceive are more like the business or religious leaders of Jesus day. However, as I sit here contemplating the weight of my own sin in light of the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice, I become increasingly more aware, that in my flesh I am far more like the corrupt in this story then I care to admit.
Understanding this has caused me not to be shocked that Christ would behave this way, but rather thankful as it gives me a picture of how He loves me. According to the scriptures God now dwells in a new temple… His people. And through the work of the Spirit we are being changed more into the image of Christ. So in those moments when I feel my flesh giving way to the cares of this world, seeking my own glory, and forsaking others, I am thankful for the fierce and often times crushing love of Jesus who through his Spirit is cleansing this temple from everything thats not God!