Reading: John 2: 13-22
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people 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 courts, 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! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
We are midway through Lent and the challenges to ponder our faithfulness continue. Of course, Jesus is displeased by the unfaithfulness he witnessed everywhere. However, he finds it beyond tolerance in the place consecrated as holy. The Temple in Jerusalem is the center for Jewish faith and practice, so that when Jesus arrived to discover the sanctity of Temple grounds violated, he was more than distraught. He was angry!
Many believe that religious leaders had turned the Temple into a means to take advantage of the least fortunate, but the scripture doesn’t say that exactly. What Jesus challenges is the misuse of The “house of prayer.”
In any case, Jesus was overturning more than tables that day. He was challenging what the Temple was meant to be for all people.
Mark’s Gospel tells that Jesus declared, ”Is it not written, ‘ My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations ( Mk. 11:17)?” It was a place of worship meant to spiritually nurture, teach, equip, and lift-up all God’s people; a place where all were welcomed to come and pray and draw closer to God. Jesus saw activity that distracted and diminished the blessing the Temple was supposed to be.
Jesus understood the human soul needs places of respite from the chaos of the world. As we follow him, we see that the harm selfish egos and demoralizing political posturing bring are not God’s desire for humankind. Jesus shows us that we are not to be a stumbling block to anyone seeking to draw closer to God! We are called to tend to what is holy, so that we can guard human dignity in recognition of the imago deo in all people. This calls us to first tend to our own relationship with God!
Of course, God detests profiting through the exploitation of others, as much as our judging one another as if we are God; but I wonder if the harder proclamation (or confession) to make might be that All people deserve safe places to grow in faith where they are welcomed and inspired to be all that God has created them to be. Once again, it is clear that we need to do our best to make the way straight and that begins in the garden of our own heart.
Therefore, it is my prayers that we will continue to engage in careful self-examen. Let us tend to our relationship with God. Let us consider how we can give our hearts more fully to God in prayer. May God save us from putting up barriers to anyone seeking to answer God’s call to come to worship and pray.
Rev. Vanessa LeVine
Pastor for Clinical and Regional Services at Methodist Healthcare Ministries and Clergy Member of Travis Park Church