Day 35 ~ Grateful for Grace

As a kid, listening to the stories leading up to Easter, the one that was always the most dramatic (and frankly, a little confusing) is the story of Jesus driving out the money changers in the temple.

I say the story was dramatic, because nowhere else in scripture do we find a whip-yielding Jesus, flipping over tables and ordering humans and animals alike to flee the temple grounds! And a little confusing, because when my Sunday School teachers reminded us to behave like the gentle, patient, child-loving Jesus, I don’t really think they had this moment in mind!

I’ve spent quite a while with these scriptures that are so familiar and yet so atypical of Jesus. I understand what’s on the surface here….the outer courts had been turned into a market for selling animals to be sacrificed in the temple, complete with inflated prices and an unfair rate of currency exchange. Jesus couldn’t have been more clear when he raised his voice for all to hear, saying, “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Matt. 21:13)

There is a simple, straightforward message here about rebuking those who seek to profit from the poor and use the worship of God as the front to do it under the guise of religious obligation. And that’s certainly a big enough message!

But, let me share a few other things I’ve learned about this passage, and let’s see if there’s something more for us here on Day 35. =)

It was customary for those who traveled great distances to sell animals suitable for sacrifice in their homeland, then bring the proceeds to purchase a replacement at the temple. And there was likely, at one time, a legitimate currency exchange system to handle the different forms of money. Jesus had taught in the temple many, many times the past few years, and would have passed through some of this before, with apparent restraint, so what may have been different on this day?

Maybe it was the increase in activity due to the Passover crowds surging through Jerusalem. Maybe profiteering priests used this as an opportunity to stick it to sacrifice-less strangers just because they could. Maybe it was the accumulated frustration of Jesus, watching as people were being taken advantage of until he had to bring a stop to it, or a combination of any number of things. When he was questioned about proof of his authority to “do these things”, speaking of his own resurrected body, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days,” (John 2:19) signaling his death and resurrection. This was clearly personal!

But the thing that has landed the heaviest this time around for me is this…..

There was only one portion of the outer temple courts that allowed general public access, called The Court of the Gentiles, reserved for non-Jews, foreigners and anyone considered impure. To wander from this court, past a barrier that led to the next “inner” court was considered punishable by death!

Guess where the livestock were being corralled, money-changers were swindling people simply wanting to worship God in the way they had access to, and where there were so many people it sounded, felt and smelled like a marketplace instead of God’s holy temple?

Yep….the Court of the Gentiles, the same area Jesus’ righteous fury caused a stir and brought even more ire from Jewish officials.

Are you seeing what I’m seeing? The people who should have known better, who should have honored the holy temple of God and who had full access to worship any time they desired were not only profiting at the expense of those who had less, but they were practically flaunting their privilege to those who as yet couldn’t worship freely, even if they desired to (and why would they be hanging out in The Court of the Gentiles unless they were drawn to worship God?)

Jesus knew that In a matter of days, he would be hanging on a cross and giving his life for those outer court people….and that, my friends, includes us.

So, I’m kind of still sitting with this, on this second day of Holy Week. I think sometimes that’s exactly what we need….to notice, reflect, and pray for clarity and insight into what God may be saying to us. That’s what I’m doing anyway. =)

Grateful for Grace!

Shellie <3

About Shellie Warren

Welcome ~ I am a mom, a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a dreamer and a writer. But most of all I am a woman of faith - I have a deep longing to know and love....God.
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