And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; (John 2:13-25 KJV)
Jesus arrives at the temple in Jerusalem for Passover. He walks in and sees people selling cattle, sheep, and doves. This was common practice. People traveled long distances to reach the Temple and bringing an animal along to sacrifice just wasn’t feasible. Buying at the Temple was convenient. It was also a major profit turner. Anyone who came had to exchange their foreign currency for the temple money.
The text quotes Psalm 69:9 “It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me”. Zeal isn’t a word we hear much. When we do it’s usually with a negative association about someone being a zealot or zealous. I looked up zeal and found it means: excitement of mind, fervor of spirit, ardor in embracing, pursuing and defending.
The prophet Zechariah further clarifies this passage. It’s mainly a collection of visions which understands the future King of Judah will be one of peace. Zechariah 14:21 concludes the book by saying “Every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be sacred to the LORD of hosts, so that ALL who sacrifice may come and use them to boil the flesh of the sacrifice. And there shall NO longer be traders in the house of the LORD of hosts that day.”
Jesus’ zeal comes from the desire of God’s heart. Jesus is defending God’s vision of the Temple when he overturns the tables. Sometimes I think the Bible can be summarized as people saying “wait, them too?” and God saying over and over and over “Yes, ALL the pots and pans and people are holy.”
What I find interesting about this text is no one questions what Jesus has done. The whole community seems to understand the temple economy was wrong. Nobody said, “Hey! What’d you do that for? They did ask however, “Under whose authority did you do this? Show us a sign!”
Jesus answered, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up”.
The Jews misunderstand Jesus, which is a theme in John. They take his words literally. King Herod commissioned the building of the temple and work had been going on for 46 years. But Jesus was talking about his body. His body is the temple.
I’ve been to the Temple in Jerusalem. It’s called the Western Wall or sometimes the Wailing Wall. But the Temple is not easy to get to. It takes thousands of dollars and a flight across the ocean to get there. The space is divided so men and women can pray separately.
Jesus’ body is a radical place for the Temple to be because there’s no dividing it. There’s no fencing it off. Nothing you and I ever do can contain it. This is the good news of Lent. Jesus has cleared the way and each of us have access to him!
Prayer: Lord, in this season of Lent, let us develop a zeal for you. As zeal for inviting others to experience you. A zeal to remove barriers that keep people from coming to you.
Rev. Jennifer Rutter
First Baptist Church, Colorado Springs