John 2:13-22 is an unusual surprise in that it reveals the raw emotion and response of Jesus to the unholy practices taking place in the Temple. We are set back by unexpected actions from a side of Jesus we do not recognize. We may be tempted to ask some questions:
‘Jesus, is that you?’ ‘What are you doing?’ ‘You may want to chill out a bit, don’t you think?’ ‘It is hard to understand what you are doing here.’ ‘Are we really to emulate your actions in similar situations?’
How would we balance this with Paul’s admonition, “In your anger do not sin?” (Ephesians 4:26)
These questions may lead to some varied and interesting explanations, but when we consider the likely motivation behind the action of Jesus, then at least two things seem clear. First, the space and time of worship for Jesus is paramount, and should be for us too. The place of worship is nothing less than his fathers’ house, not to be cheapened by market practices. This space is sacred. As such, it should remain clean and pure, a suitable dwelling for the Father’s presence, and a place for God to remain with us.
Secondly, it is clear that the use of the temple for taking advantage of people (economically, politically, or otherwise) angers Jesus. There is an appropriate time and place for the church to involve itself in the earthiness of things like economics and politics in ways that represent the new kingdom. But that place is not the temple, and that time is not during worship. Instead, the temple is a place where worship is elevated above all else. Everything else fades away. It must be a time un-diluted and un-compromised by anything else; to draw near to the Father.
We religious folk applaud Jesus driving out the moneychangers and restoring proper use of the temple. We agree that the temple should be a holy space, clean and pure, for the special purpose of meeting with God. But as we move to the end of the passage, we feel that the actions and words of Jesus begin to circle in on us.
Jesus transformed the meaning of the passage by redefining what is understood as Temple. No longer is it the brick and mortar of a building structure, the temple is the flesh and blood of a body – His body. And since his Ascension, we, the church, remain as his body on Earth. And as such, our bodies are the temple of his Spirit.
For Jesus the space of the new temple is still paramount. Our bodies are the temples of his Spirit, not to be cheapened by anything less. We are called to keep our bodies clean and pure, a holy place suitable for dwelling with the Father. There are many appropriate uses of our bodies, but there comes a moment when everything else must fade away and we remain in worship with the Father.
In this Lenten season, consider the following questions;
What remains in our lives that Jesus would overturn or drive out when he entered our temple?
How can we re-dedicate our temple to be a clean and a holy space suitable to dwell with the Father?
During this season, let us open wide the gates of the temple and commit to moments when everything else fades away except for moments of dwelling with the Father. Jesus would you enter our temple again and drive out everything else.