Jesus Cleanses the Temple
3rd Sunday of Lent
March 7, 2021
“He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area.”
A pilgrim to the Jerusalem Temple at the time of Christ would have beheld one of the great wonders of the ancient world. Although only the “wailing wall” (actually a retaining wall) is visible today, you can take an underground tour of a tunnel under the temple mount and see incredibly huge and perfectly cut stones that undergird the enormous platform Solomon built, and they are still there today in pristine condition.
A gentile in New Testament times who ascended the steps to the temple platform would have been allowed only as far as the “Court of the Gentiles”. This was envisioned as a place where righteous gentiles could come and experience some of the peace, prayer and pilgrimage that was what a visit to the holiest shrine in Judaism was all about. So what exactly would a gentile have found when he visited this square?
Unfortunately, this was precisely the spot that had been commandeered by the corrupt moneychangers as well as the vendors of lambs and goats and doves. Jewish pilgrims and gentiles alike came from all over the known world; and, of course, they needed to buy animals for sacrifice and exchange money, but now their first experience would have no longer been a place where anyone could find God. Instead, there would have been a cacophony of buying, selling, yelling, cheating and corruption. This is also precisely the spot where Jesus got so angry!
You and I are God’s temple because we were created by God and house an eternal spirit. Jesus won’t tolerate this kind of corruption in a temple of his. Imagine for a moment that you were to design your own church as we did seven years ago – only this one is within you. What does this structure look like? Is it a peaceful place? Would Jesus be at home there?
As Christians, we have invited Jesus into our temple within, especially in the Eucharist. But when he finds that we love something else more than him, or are in bed with some kind of sin or corruption or avarice or greed, he will immediately get to work cleansing the temple of our heart. If necessary, Jesus sometimes permits drastic, table-turning events in our lives, such as what we have gone through in the last year, so that we will convert; but he would prefer that we help him to do this peacefully, especially by making a good confession and truly examining our lives to see in what ways we habitually please – or displease – God.