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Passover is a week long festival that happens every year. It’s a time to remember God delivering the Jewish people from slavery, something worth celebrating every day. Something only God could do. It’s a celebration of deliverance and a celebration of freedom.
The time had come for Passover once again so Jesus begins heading towards Jerusalem. As he enters into the temple courts it’s obvious that the people have turned the place into a financial circus and zoo. People are selling sacrifices left and right in the temple courtyards, a place meant to be sacred ground, a place for Gentiles to ask questions about the Abrahamic God. But instead of being filled with prayers and reflections and the hearts of those encountering a compassionate God, it was instead filled with the noise of transaction.
Life in God was never supposed to be a transaction, something we pay for. It’s something God gives and gave, and ultimately paid for, so we could have life as God intended. But somehow relationship that God wanted to give the world had turned into buying sacrifices. Faith in God had become a transaction instead of a gift.
To top it all off, money changers were there in their midst. They knew foreigners were in town and that it would be the biggest week of the year to offer others services. They would take foreign money and exchange it for local money so that foreigners could buy sacrifices to offer in the temple, all for a small, and sometimes large, fee. The money changers were taking advantage of this transactional way of faith, that really wasn’t supposed to exist, so they could make some quick cash.
Jesus rightly so gets upset about this. A holy anger fills him and he begins cleaning shop. Without saying a word he fashions a whip out of leather. He begins driving out the sacrificial animals. He chases those selling these animals out of the temple courtyards. He flips the money changer’s tables upside down causing money to fly everywhere. It was quite the scene. Jesus definitely drew a lot of attention to himself and definitely made some people pretty angry about what he had done.
The people asked him, “Who do you think you are? What sign do you have that you’ve got the right do any of this?”
Jesus responds, “Tear down this temple and I’ll rebuild it in three days.”
The people begin thinking to themselves that Jesus is just someone who’s crazy. It took 46 years to rebuild the temple after it had been torn down. How could anyone rebuild it again in 3 days, you know, unless they were God?
One thing is for sure. Jesus had started his mission of bringing life back to this world. No longer would he let us live under the allusion that we could get it right on our own. Faith wasn’t to be a transaction. God would freely pour out his grace for any who would just believe.
A retelling from John 2:13-25; Psalm 127:1-2
How does this help me love God better? It’s not about the sacrifices I’m willing to make. It’s about me being willing to believe and accept the sacrifice God made and kept. How can I do anything but love God in return for the love poured out for me?
How does this help me love others better? I think of the noise and distraction that the animal sellers and money changers must have been making in a place that should have been a place of worship, a place of Gentile worship even. The Gentiles supposedly weren’t as worthy as the Jewish people hence the reason they set up shop in their worship space. I have to ask myself, “Do I make space for people to worship and encounter God, even if it’s not the way I would see or do it?”
Why did John see this as worth telling? It reveals something crucial about Jesus. Jesus is passionate about his Father’s house. Jesus is passionate about God who time and time again from Genesis until now, reveals that it’s a love of God and love of neighbor that should dominate our lives. Jesus can’t stand it when others are taken advantage of or discouraged from encountering who he/God really is.
What is true for them then that is still true for us today? We still try to buy our way to God through actions, behaviors, deeds, etc. God is grace-filled and it’s so hard to live into that.