Posted: 08 Mar 2012 07:52 AM PST
"Making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables" (John 2:15).
Like many if not all of you, I strive with all my might to live like Jesus. I try to be gracious, loving, and forgiving at all times.
But last week, "Angry Elise" made an appearance. I don't usually have a temper and I rarely get mad, but on this occasion I witnessed someone gravely violate and mistreat a marginalized person who was in a bad situation. This made my blood boil, and it took every ounce of self control to not do something drastic (like overturn a table!).
In this passage, Jesus is not so meek and mild. Jesus gets angry! And he has good reason. Jesus and his disciples are among the thousands who have journeyed to Jerusalem for Passover. Animals such as cattle, sheep, and doves are required for burnt offerings at the temple. Because many of these pilgrims had a long journey, they did not bring their own animals, so here they can purchase them.
First, though, they must have their money changed to local currency to pay the temple tax. They must do this in order to participate in worship. To make matters worse, these business transactions (and the money changers are making dishonest profits) are not happening outside the temple, but right inside it! This may have been convenient, but convenience can promote laziness and great disrespect. So Jesus puts a stop to it, telling those selling animals to "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" (verse 16).
Here we truly glimpse Jesus as human. Yet in addition to confronting and challenging a corrupt system, Jesus is also affirming his authority and identity as the Son of God. Jesus' bold move in the temple throws it into chaos during one of the busiest times of the year. He challenges this system, one that is so caught up in rules and rituals that it cannot acknowledge the presence of God in Jesus.
We in the contemporary church can be just as guilty of turning our churches into "marketplaces." Just as Jesus issued a radical challenge to the religious authorities of his day, so he issues a similar challenge to the modern church. We must take care to prevent our practices and rituals from taking us away from our true ministry. If we get too swept up with power and authority, we, too, can allow our churches to become marketplaces instead of houses of prayer for all people, recognizing God's holy presence within and among us.
O God, help us to be bold like Jesus and to stand up to systems that oppress others. Be among us and help us to make our churches true places of worship, love, and hospitality to all who enter in. Amen.
Elise Hanley, director of mission and outreach