It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem.
Passover is the number one festival of the year for Jesus and the Jewish people. Anyone who could afford it would travel to Jerusalem and celebrate there. Why Jerusalem? This is where the Temple is located. The Temple is the center of worship and music, politics and government, the center of the nation’s economy, the center of the nation’s animals, the center of everything.
We have no modern equivalent. It would be like the Temple would be all of our national symbols wrapped up into one. The White House, Capital Building and Supreme Court, throw in Wall Street and Nashville and Hollywood, mix in animals from all the ranches and farms around the nation, and put them all together with the nation’s largest cathedrals and churches, and we still wouldn’t compare. Why? The Temple is where God promised to live in the midst of his people. The Temple represents the nation. The intersection between where God dwells, heaven, and where his people dwell, earth. The Temple is everything to the Jewish people.
But, the prophet’s of the Old Testament warned this absolute “Temple is the center of everything” could be a problem. If you aren’t following God.
For instance, listen to Jeremiah.
“Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and burn incense to Baal and all those other new gods of yours, and then come here and stand before me in my Temple
and chant,“We are safe!”—only to go right back to all those evils again? Don’t you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears my name, has become a den of thieves? Surely I see all the evil going on there.
I, the LORD, have spoken!”
In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money.
It’s Passover. The greatest celebration of the greatest event in the life of God’s people. God frees his people from slavery and brings them to the Promise Land. They remember this every year as if it is happening all over again. The highlight is to sacrifice sheep like they sacrifice at the original Passover where the blood of the sheep on the door frame is a sign that God’s people live here and the angel of death passes over this house.
Now, the Passover is big business. Estimates are that as many as 250,000 sheep are sacrificed at Passover in Jerusalem. But, you didn’t bring your own sheep. It is too difficult to travel and sheep could be stolen or attacked by wild animals along the way. Or the sheep could get feisty. Like this.
So, sheep are sold at the Temple for the sacrifice. You can’t use Roman money, however. It is considered unclean so you have to exchange for Temple money. For a fee, of course. If you are poor you could also borrow money to purchase doves which were cheaper. Still as much as 40 day’s wages!
This looks like Jeremiah’s prophecy coming true.
Jesus has seen enough.
Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables.
Here we are told Jesus made a whip from rope. In the Bible language the word is, pfragellion. This would be a whip that had stones and bone tied in it to make it extra nasty. Same root word like a “frag” grenade. Let’s just say Jesus is up for the task. Here is an example you can buy on eBay. Don’t know who wants this, but…
So, Jesus chases the bankers and all the animals out of the Temple court. Like flipping over a craps table in Vegas, that would be a bit confusing. Whose money is whose? Basically Jesus just stopped the whole Temple sacrifice system, for a short time. A disaster. And a message.
What is Jesus getting at? Well, it appears the Temple is no longer the intersection between heaven and earth.
Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
Jesus goes right to core. This sacrifice system is corrupt. It is not about remembering God saves his people. It is the whole Temple and the people who keep the system going and all it represents, using the Temple, not as a sign of freedom and not as the place of God’s presence, but instead a place of burden and hardship.
Now, it’s too easy to simply say well isn’t that what is happening today? Not as much religion, but politics. Washington and the politicians are taking away our freedom. Or politicians are bringing burden and hardship onto the poor. We hear words and phrases being thrown around like “social justice”, as opposed to what, just plain justice? Islamophobia, homophobia. Gender this and gender that. “Hate” seems to be what binds people together.
It’s time to stop and listen. Those on the left, on the right, at the center….Listen. I like the way
Archbishop Oscar Romero said it years ago.
How easy it is to denounce structural injustice, institutionalized violence, social sin. And it is true, this sin is everywhere, but where are the roots of this social sin? In the heart of every human being. Present-day society is a sort of anonymous world in which no one is willing to admit guilt and everyone is responsible.
Because of this, salvation begins with the human person, with human dignity, with saving every person from sin.. Individually there are among us here no two sinners alike. Each one has committed his or her own shameful deeds, and yet we want to cast our guilt on the other and hide our own sin. I must take off my mask; I, too, am one of them, and I need to beg God’s pardon because I have offended God and society. This is the call of Christ.
There is no one who is pure and without sin. Remember Jesus’ words to a crowd screaming for social justice?
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
We don’t need an overhaul of the Temple and the ways of the world. We need forgiveness. We need Jesus.
But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.”
“All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
“What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said.
Yes, it’s true. Jesus did it. Jesus did the reality that the Temple is only pointing to. He died and raised from the dead and he is the Temple who forgives all sin for all time. He is the intersection between heaven and earth. And we are too. You and I are the Temple. We are the intersection between heaven and earth as we follow his way.
Jesus is not about hatred. What I see and read today is a lot of hatred by those who think others are haters. Hating haters is hatred. No one is innocent and pure in all of this. This is why seeking the good of other people becomes the way we are a living sacrifice for the living God. As Christians we live in the real world which is God’s world, after all. We have access to the powers of heaven available to us now to be a people of gracious kindness. In this day and age, that is indeed revolutionary.
What is world needs right now more than anything else is you. The living Temple of Jesus.