“Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace.”
Jesus arrived at the temple to spend time in reflection and worship in preparation for the Passover. After several weeks of intense ministry, he sought to quiet his spirit and refresh his soul. His disciples and other of the faithful gathered around him. Together they offered up praises to God. But the harmonizing sound of their prayer was drowned out by the discordant din of a marketplace. Jesus sighed deeply and tried to focus. He lifted his spirit before the Father. But again he was distracted by the complaining customers for sacrificial animals. Shouting, they accused the sellers that the lambs and oxen they had purchased were sick and bruised, not without spot or blemish as the Law commanded. Jesus groaned and shifted his weight restlessly from knee to knee.
Closing his eyes and pulling his shawl over his head in an effort to somehow block out the world around him, Jesus suddenly came to full attention as over the noise of the ox and the lamb and clinking of coin and bartering shouts came the voices of the poor. They were protesting the high exchange rate they were forced to pay in order to procure the temple coin. Common coins were not allowed in the temple. Only these special, holy coins could be used to purchase the animals for sacrifice. Jesus had had enough. In defense of the poor he rose from his knees and taking the reins from an ox, he fashioned a whip. With anger and zeal he purged the temple, overturning and driving out everything that hindered the poor and simple of heart from worship.
Jesus’ zealous, purgative action was not to be a temporary adjustment to the religion of the day but an announcement of its pending destruction. The old temple, oriented toward increasing the coffers of the rich and protecting the power of the clerical elite, would be replaced by a home for all those who were broken. Upon the dust of the sign-seeking, self-serving religion of the masses, a temple would arise whose foundation was the wood of the cross. The doors of this new temple would open wide, not just to Jews but to Greeks as well. Within the walls of this new temple, however, no voices of greed would be heard nor would Greek words of human centered philosophies be uttered. Rather the perfecting Word of the Lord would echo in its chambers, and upon its walls would be engraved God’s commandment of cross-bearing love.
Third Sunday of Lent Ex 20: 1-17, I Cor 1:22-25, Jn. 2:13-25
Peace Connections: Making the connection between the Sunday Readings and issues of peace and justice. Copyright 1995, by Thomas L. Garlitz. “Not for profit” permission to reprint granted.