The Invitation - Day 10

Luke 19: 45-48

“Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people selling animals for sacrifices. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

After that, he taught daily in the Temple, but the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill him. But they could think of nothing, because all the people hung on every word he said.”

There is so much in this story to unpack that we will spend the next three days looking at three versions of this story, as told in Luke, Matthew, and John, to glean all we can from it.

Some have called it the cleanings of the temple or the temple tantrum, but I refer to it as removing the barriers that keep us from God.  More on that to come.

For today’s reflection, I want to debunk what has become a standard description of Jesus in this passage.

When this story is told, especially in paintings or films, Jesus is upset and tossing tables as he drives the animals and those doing business out of the temple's outer courtyard.  It’s as if Jesus allowed a rage we haven’t seen in him before to take over.  John’s version of this story even includes, “Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.” (John 2:17)

But I don’t think Jesus was reacting in anger at this moment; he was so overcome with emotion that he couldn’t control his words or actions. If that had been the case, it would have been scary to think about the Son of God so angry that he was out of control.  But the truth of what happened is almost as unsettling for ordinary human beings.

First, what was happening in this outer courtyard of the temple that motivated Jesus to respond this way?

Well, it’s important to note that the outer courtyard was the only place that Jews AND Gentiles (non-Jews) were allowed to enter.  No Gentile could go any farther in the temple than the outer courtyard.  So, in essence, the outer courtyard was the only place a Gentile could go to worship at the temple.

In addition to that note, the priests and religious leaders had turned the outer courtyard into a place to make money and line their pockets.  Everyone had to bring an animal sacrifice to worship, but the animals the people brought were often “not good enough” and would have to be sold to buy one of the temple animals.  The temple animals cost way more than regular animals because you’d have to exchange your money for temple money at an alarming rate.  So, the priests were getting rich from the people trying to worship.

But Jesus had been watching this happen for years.  Every year since he could remember, he visited the temple in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.  And every year, he watched what was happening in the outer courtyard.  Year after year, Jesus came, he saw, he left.  Why do something now?  Why this week?

Jesus was also very thoughtful in what He said and did.  Knowing his death was coming and having just publicly announced to Jerusalem that He was king, Jesus chose to respond, not in anger, but with power and authority.  The gospel of John tells us he “made a whip.” That would have taken some time.  So, though he may have been passionate and filled with strong emotions, those emotions weren’t anger or hate, and he wasn’t violent.  Jesus was still driven by love because love was the core of who he was.  Just like he said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45 ESV

We’ll get more into some of the other reasons behind why Jesus did to the temple what he did, but for today, let’s take a few moments to reflect on these things:

  1. What is at your core? Are you exhausted, burned out, frustrated, angry, sad, worried, or is this a good season of life, and you feel more filled with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, guidance, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control?
  2. How do you find yourself responding in stressful situations, and how might your response reflect what’s happening on the inside?
  3. If you’re interested, what things could you begin to help make Jesus and His love your core?
  4. PRAYING TOGETHER - Open your Bibles to Ephesians 3: 14-21, and pray that prayer over the person you are studying with that we would all be rooted and established in love, strengthened with His presence in our inner being.

By Pastor Paddy McCoy

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