When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE HAS EATEN ME UP.” (John 2:15-17 NKJV)
Jesus, who only a little while ago performed the miracle of turning water to wine in a very quiet and unobtrusive manner, is now making quite a scene. It is difficult to understand the motivation of a man who does miracles so quietly, but cleans house so loudly. If He was trying to stay under the radar, He certainly blew His cover when He got to the Temple.
“Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Luke 2:49
It is hard for me to really follow the ministry of Jesus at times, maybe I haven’t yet learned to flow with His mission. I still read His story through my eyes, desires and often, sad to say, my logic. I know that this is not particularly brilliant because my logic is nowhere close to the wisdom of my Creator. So why do I continually try to interpret Jesus through my limited understanding?
Perhaps I am like the fellows selling sheep and cattle in the Temple of God. It made sense to them. The people needed to make offerings in the Temple, they were going to buy anyway, why not make it more convenient? Good logic?
They had the proper permits from the authorities and they could argue they were making it easier for people to worship God. What could be better? The requirements are fulfilled and we’ve removed the hassle. What could be wrong with this picture?
I have a tendency to argue in terms like these, even when looking at issues that seem to rob God of His glory. Generally, I ask the question, “What’s wrong with it?”
But is this the correct question? Should I perhaps be ask, “What is right with it?”
We can try to analyze the motivations and original intent of this marketplace, but Jesus was dealing with what it had become. The Temple, which was designed as a building focused on hosting the presence of God and showing His glory, was now focused on the convenience of man. The glory of atonement was replaced by ritual and the sacrifice for sin was lost in the hubbub of a farmer’s market. No one seemed alarmed with this practice. No one noticed the subtle shift from the worship of God to worshipping convenience, the consumer and the enterprise.
Jesus was looking at this from the eternal perspective of communion with His Father. He wasn’t about His, or the culture’s business, but His Father’s business within the culture. I have a hard time getting this right in my dealings with those around me. I generally try to fit My “Father’s business” into my perspective and plans which has the net effect of leaving My “Father’s business” out of my life. This results in my own worship of God being corrupted by pride and my service to God and His people becomes characterized by selfishness rather than love.
Jesus could not have undertaken the upheaval of the entire marketplace without a motivation higher than selfish interest. No “Holier than Thou” attitude could have had the same effect. Jesus wasn’t standing on the corner with a bullhorn yelling “Repent” to satisfy His conscience. He was motivated by His Father’s deep desire that people know truth.
It goes back to what Jesus told the devil during the temptation in the wilderness. “YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE.”
At the core, this incident is about getting people back to an awareness of God. Jesus’ passion is reconciling the world to His Father. He addresses this, by challenging their worship of convenience in a very inconvenient way.
I can imagine few things less convenient than having someone chase your animals into a busy city street along with a lot of other animals and travelers. Nor can I think of something less convenient for rival money changers, than having their tables overturned and their money confused in chaos on the floor. What a mess!
But it mirrored the mess of their hearts. Their worship was confusing. They were struggling to find their cattle and their coins, but were even less sure where to find peace for their hearts.
Some interesting words regarding the temple of God in I Corinthians bring up a parallel. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1Co 6:19-20 NKJV)
In the daily grind of life when schedules, relationships, finances, career, etc. seem to be all jumbled and peace is not the character of my day, I often wonder, “Where is God when I need Him?” “Why doesn’t He bring peace in the midst of my storm?”
Somehow I hear echoes of that cry “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Perhaps in the middle of the chaos He is there after all. And could it be that He is less concerned with me finding all of my sheep, cattle and coins, and more concerned that I am worshipping our Father.