(watch here: https://youtu.be/NtexAwvdNtw)
13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ 17His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ 18The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ 19Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
23When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.
What a grand entrance into his public ministry! Last week, we heard Jesus perform his first miracle at a wedding in Cana when he turned 180 gallons of water into wine. As if that wasn’t enough to start getting people’s attentions, he went on to Jerusalem a few days later and causes quite a scene at the temple. As we heard in our reading for this morning, Jesus was furious at how venders had carried about their business of selling goods to be used for sacrifices in the temple. One can’t help but wonder why he was so angry. Wasn’t their business necessary for offering God adequate praise and thanksgiving? People needed to buy their sacrifices to worship God appropriately. Why was Jesus so angry? Why wasn’t he understanding, let alone approving? Perhaps because he felt that the temple wasn’t the right place to carry out such business. People could very well have made such purchases elsewhere. They could have bought their sacrifices at a different time and place and simply brought them to the temple when they came to worship. Perhaps Jesus felt the business of the venders was dishonest and thus didn’t belong on sacred grounds. People were being cheated and God doesn’t sanction such behavior, certainly not in his dwelling place. Perhaps Jesus was very visually separating matters of the state from matters of the church. Business doesn’t belong inside churches as Jesus might have been illustrating with his showy display of anger. These are all possible reasons why Jesus acted the way he did and we just don’t know which is the actual reason. But we do know one thing for certain: his whipping the animals out of the temple, pouring out the coins, and overturning the tables was quite an attention-getter! It’s hard not to pay attention to a guy who miraculously transforms so much water into wine and a few days later creates quite an upsetting scene at a major place of gathering. Jesus has most certainly come on the scene with much fanfare and disruption! Jesus has most certainly caused us to rethink how we’re going about our day-to-day business! Jesus has most certainly woken us out of our sleepy state of being!
You see, we aren’t all that unlike those venders who thought they were merely helping worshippers fulfill their worship duties. We think that we’re helping people by giving them ways to appease God, to praise God, to worship God. We think that we’re helping people by telling them to make sacrifices for God and for a relationship with God. We that we’re helping people by distracting them from fulfilling God’s greatest commandments: to love God above all else and to love our neighbors as He loves us. God only wants one thing from us—our love. God only wants us to do one thing—love our neighbors. In loving, we are worshipping him. When Jesus walked into that temple, he could see nothing but distractions. He could see that the venders were more concerned with making a profit than with loving God or their neighbors. He could see that the buyers were being distracting from what they came to the temple for in the first place—love and worship God. He could see that God was no longer the priority for those who were gathered. They should have purchased their sacrifices elsewhere, if at all. God doesn’t expect us to purchase our sacrifices. A sacrifice can take many forms—time, money, health, sleep, comfort, well-being…there are a number of sacrifices we can make to God. And even so, God is more concerned with the love beneath the sacrifice. God knows love. God knows when we love him. God knows when we love each other. Sometimes love demands sacrifice. Sometimes love demands that we deny ourselves for others or for God. Sometimes love is hard to do. But love is all that God expects of us. Love is the most important thing in all the world. Without love, we are nothing and we have nothing.
Jesus stormed into that temple, whipping animals, overturning tables, and throwing tables, because he knew it needed to be transformed. He knew that it was no longer a place of love, of knowing God’s love and sharing it with those around us. But he also took it one step further; Jesus transformed his own body into a temple. He said, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Jesus understood that his body was a place where God dwelled. Jesus understood that his body would one day be transformed into the resurrected Christ. But most importantly, God dwelled within him. God lived and moved within him. His body was a temple, a sanctuary, a resting place for God. So, too, are our bodies. Each of us has been given a temple for God. Each of us has been blessed with a body to know and to shelter God. Each of us has God within us. Each of us has the love of God in us, eager to be shared with others.
And our temples can get venders too. We can get things that distract us from knowing God’s love and sharing God’s love with others. Fear and doubt, sickness and anxiety, pride and sin…these are all “venders’ who try to distract us from God’s love. We must simply let Jesus into our hearts and he’ll gladly whip the animals and overturn the tables! He’ll gladly make way for God’s love to take the helm of our lives! He’ll gladly realign and reconnect! Jesus made quite a scene at both the wedding of Cana and the temple of Jerusalem because he knows how desperately we are in need. Last week, I suggested that God had his reason for changing all that water into wine. Maybe the wedding celebrants needed more time for fellowship. Maybe they needed a longer escape from the worries of life. Maybe they simply needed a great memory to last a lifetime. God fulfilled their need as He fulfills the needs of the temple visitors. God knows we need his love. God knows we live in his love. God knows we thrive in his love. Let us give thanks for our God who tends to our needs. Let us give God our undivided love. Let us love each other as He so graciously loves us.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.