Reflection for Friday 20th November 2020

The Rev’d Sandra Juniper

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Reflection 20 November 2020 –

Luke 19:45-48  – JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLE

45When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling.
46″It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”
47Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.
48Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words

When most of us think of Jesus, a number of pictures come to our minds.  We might think of Jesus blessing little children, washing the feet of the Disciples, or healing the sick.   Palm Sunday often seems the most baffling of all.  If all the lovely hosannas and palms and Jesus riding into town on a peace-loving donkey make you wonder how they could crucify Him by the end of the week, read on to the next part of the chapter.  
The very next day, Jesus enters the Temple and is grieved by what he sees.  He then drives out the money changers and street vendors in fact all who were selling.  The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus even made a whip for the purpose….   What on earth made Jesus so angry?   Being a Jew in Jesus’ day was an expensive business. First there was the Temple tax, which was required of every Jew every year at Passover.  The tax was the equivalent of two days wages.   But bringing your money was not enough.  The rub was, the tax had to be paid in Temple money.  The Temple had its own currency, and another entire day’s wage was charged to convert the money…hence the moneychangers.   But the issues didn’t stop there.  Worshipers at the Temple needed to bring a sacrifice, and the sacrifice needed to be without blemish…perfect.  If your animal had any defect at all, it was not acceptable.   Temple workers were there to decide whether your animal was without blemish, and if the one you brought with you was found to be defective, guess what?  The Temple just happened to have some perfect ones for sale. You can guess how many got through without having to buy another Temple animal.   .  

But that was not all that Jesus took issue with.  The place where all of this was set up was in a part of the Temple precincts known as the Court of the Gentiles.  While the Temple proper was reserved only for Jewish males, there were two other places that were set apart on Temple grounds for others to worship…the Court of the Women and the Court of the Gentiles.    It was this area, the Court of the Gentiles, that was filled with the agents of dishonesty, greed, and injustice…the moneychangers and those who sold the certified “perfect” sacrifices. Listen to what Jesus says when he has finished knocking everything over.  He says, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer you have made it a den or robbers.    

So…what does this have to do with us today?  Everything.  In cleansing the Temple, Jesus is making a critical statement about the purpose of the House of God and the calling of God’s people.   This action of Jesus invites us to ask of ourselves if our church truly has room for all people or do we have subtle ways of crowding out some of God’s children?    The priests in the Temple did not decide from the outset that they would crowd the Gentiles out of a place to pray and that they would set up dishonest and unjust systems for conducting Temple business.  But the sin worked its way in like a cancer…starting with small things that could hardly be noticed by those looking on.  It grew because no one was watching, no one was paying attention.   “It is written my house will be a house of prayer …..”  That desire of God has not changed.  This has got to be the place where everyone and anyone can come and meet God.  If we have doors that keep some from entering, if we have space that is so full of our own business that there is no room for the business of God, if we have systems in place that reflect anything other than the justice and mercy of God, we can expect that the Gentle Shepherd will come at us as He would go for a wolf after His sheep…with a whip and fury and the righteous indignation of God.  

THE COLLECT Heavenly Lord, you long for the world’s salvation: stir us from apathy, restrain us from excess and revive in us new hope that all creation will one day be healed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen                                        

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