1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59
(Psalm) 1 Chronicles 29:10-12
My house shall be a house of prayer. (Luke 19:46)
Jesus had a very close association with the Temple. Having traveled there each year for Passover, he was doubtless familiar with its grounds and its practices. He had even spent three days there as something of a runaway when he was twelve years old. His parents probably had bought their small animal sacrifice from the merchants in the Temple’s outer courts—the very merchants whose tables he overthrew in today’s Gospel reading!
This visit to the Temple turned out to be something altogether different. This time, Jesus chased out the merchants and money changers who had been plying their trades there for years. He even staged a bit of a takeover of the Temple, showing up there every morning and teaching the people who came to him (Luke 19:47). Why take action now?
We need to look at a bit of history to understand Jesus’ gesture here. It seems that the merchants’ stalls were set up in the part of the Temple that had been reserved for Gentiles. It was the only place where they could worship the God of Israel, but it had been overrun with the noise and bustle of commerce. Now, just days before his arrest, Jesus wanted to make the point that everyone, even non-Jews, should be given the opportunity to worship the Lord. He also pointed to his death on the cross, when he would “break down the dividing wall of enmity” between Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14). So out went the money changers, and down came their tables.
This is good news! In Christ, everyone is welcome to worship God. No one need ever be kept away again. Jesus wants everyone to be free to encounter him. He, the living Temple of the Lord, is now open to the public.
For us today, it can be tempting to think that our practice of religion is meant just for our current parish members. But nothing could be further from the truth! Instead of waiting for outsiders to wander in on their own, we need to go out to them and make them feel welcome. It’s what Jesus did, and it’s what he is asking us to do as well.
“Jesus, help your Church be a light to all who seek you. Teach me how to shine that light to everyone around me.”~WAU