Monday Of Holy Week: Jesus' Temple Tirade
Throughout Holy Week we'll be following in the footsteps of Jesus as he leads us to the Cross.
According to the Gospel of Mark, on the Monday following Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he returned to the Temple and started a ruckus:
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” Mark 11:15-17So what was Jesus up to here? Theologians Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan believe that he was staging a prophetic teaching moment, much like the prophet Jeremiah had done when he stood in front of the Temple and confronted all of the worshippers who tried to enter.
The Temple system had become corrupt. The overly-religious people of Jesus day had begun to worship the institution of the Temple rather than the One who instituted it.
They began to place more value on the rituals, the system, the rules and regulations of their religious practice than on actually showing their love for God by doing justice, showing mercy and caring for the "least" in their society.
This kind of slippery slope had been addressed by the Hebrew prophets centuries earlier, prophets like Amos and Hosea, who preached these words from God:
I hate, I despise your solemn festivals and take no delight in your solemn assemblies... Amos 5:21-23
I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6C.S. Lewis once wrote that this same problem plagues the Christian church.
Lewis asserted, that when Christians begin to blur the lines between God and the systems, rules, and regulations of their religion, they inevitably see the Christian life as a series of transactions that are regarded:
"...as the only thing [God] wants so that their punctual performance will satisfy Him without obedience to His demands for mercy."As we reflect today on Jesus' actions in the Temple, those of us who claim to follow Jesus should be called to faithfulness in our own ways of understanding our faith.
It's far too easy for Christians to begin to see involvement in the Church as something that must be done in order to make God love us more. We can then become so consumed with church-y things that we neglect our true calling to be light in the world.
May you seek to follow Jesus today and every day, focusing less on religion and it's practices and more on your relationship with the One who, in the words of St. Paul, "loved the Church and gave himself for it."
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.