Monday, March 25, 2013
Cleansing the Temple
Yesterday was glorious Palm Sunday.
Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The crowds cheered. They shouted. They threw down their cloaks and hailed Jesus as something far more than simply a rabbi or prophet.
They shouted, "Hosanna! God save us."
But Jesus knows the ending. He knew what Friday would hold. He allowed this laud, but it slid off of him because he knows how fickle we can be.
Inside the gates of this city he slides off that donkey to the dusty ground. And where does he go first? The Temple, of course. The place of worship. The very place where the Jews believed the Presence of God did dwell.
Mark tells us that Jesus looks around at everything . He tells us that Jesus leaves and goes to spend the night in Bethany in the home of the siblings: Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
The next morning Jesus gets up and goes back into the city. Had he prayed all night? Had images of his Father’s house filled his vision? In the early morning hours had he made a plan? This would be his pattern.
Jesus enters the temple. He’s on a mission. Focused. Zoned.
He drives out the vendors, pushes out the hawkers—those littering the courts of his Father’s house. He overturns tables. Cages go flying. Feathers flutter. Birds squawk. Voices rise. Arms flail. Tempers flair.
But Jesus keeps going until the court is cleared. Cleansed. But that is not enough. Jesus always fills what he empties. He stands guard. He won’t allow the vendors to traipse back through the courts. The event becomes a catalyst for his teaching; a backdrop for the truth he wants the people to know and understand.
He explains. Always and forever teaching. I can see his gestures: his hands extended and outstretched explaining that this is God’s house. He quoted the prophet Isaiah, God, the Father, has said that this house would be called a house of prayer. It would be a house of prayer for all nations. And all the heads are nodding in agreement. But then Jesus looks at them and quotes Jeremiah, but “you have make it a den of robbers.”
How many of them understood that the you meant them? Did the pious Pharisees and the stern teachers of the law standing at the periphery of his voice understand? Did Jesus look straight at them? Were there empty-handed, indignant vendors on the edges of the court who caught the piercing of Jesus’ eye?
Wait now, be very careful because you see, Jesus could have spoken these things to you and me.
If he came into the courts of our hearts today what would he find? A place of prayer and worship or would he find a den of robbers—thieving what rightfully should be his? Would he find a place of hawkers vying for our time and focus and devotion? Would he see us selling to the highest bidder? Would he witness us embracing what offers the most benefits to us?
How many tables would Jesus have to overturn? How many benches would he have to push back to clear a path? How busy would he be stopping the vendors from carrying merchandise through our courts?
We were made for prayer. We were made to praise. These temples that are us were designed to be places of worship. But we have allowed robbers through the gates.
Today is Monday of this Holy Week of our Faith. All week we will watch Jesus move in and out and through events and people and places. This week our focus is on Jesus.
But in the midst of this please remember that these events are not just historical points in the past. No, Jesus is still moving through the temple—ours.
Paul asks, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”
When Jesus moves through our temples what will he find?
Jesus will cleanse our courts. He will come through with a braided whip and drive out the vendors that we have allowed to hawk wares in our courts—courts that were meant to provide access to the Father. Jesus will come in and teach us a better way. He will show us how to be a place of prayer.
But will we be indignant and angry? Will we mutter under our breaths about our rights? Our pleasures? Our happiness? Our profits? Our traditions? Our merchandise?
Will we question Jesus’ authority? Or will we throw open the gates and bid him to come right on in?
Come, Lord Jesus come.