Believe and Obey

A Radical Christian Perspective on the World's News & Current Events

Cleaning House

AdobeStock 298388523

Stirring Up Trouble

This week’s text is John 2:13-22.  This is the story of Jesus clearing out the temple of the merchants.  It appears early in John’s Gospel, but toward the end of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  This represents a serious amount of trouble that Jesus is stirring up for Himself.  He is striking at the heart of the temple business model.  Nothing is surer to anger people than to cost them money.

Not satisfied to simply criticize what is going on in the temple, Jesus overturns the tables of these merchants and scattered the coins of the money changers and chases them out of the temple.  I do not know what the word for an “F” bomb is in Aramaic, but I am pretty sure Jesus was yelling it at these people.  He was human after all.  Therefore, it is somewhat odd that this story appears so early in John.  It seems to make more sense at the end as Jesus heads toward His death.  This seems the kind of thing the temple authorities would latch onto as a reason to get rid of Jesus.

Why All the Angst?

The question arises, what is Jesus so angry about?  Some have concluded that He is simply anti-business.  This seems a bit too simplistic.  Jesus is not preternaturally anti-money.  True, He did say it was harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  Harder, not impossible.  Jesus knows the lure that money has over humans and that this lure can take us into situations that we best avoid.

That said, there is nothing that Jesus taught that denies that there is a time and place for commerce.  That He teaches about honest commerce should tell us that.  Matthew 5:42, Luke 3:14, and Luke 16:10-11 come to mind.  The problem Jesus has here is that this is neither the time nor the place to engage in such commerce.

It is clear enough to Jesus that the temple authorities have allowed a business to arise that is profiting at the expense of pilgrims who have come to Jerusalem as part of their faith commitment.  Moreover, they are in a part of the temple that was supposed to be reserved for gentiles to come and pray.  Jesus is looking back to Isaiah 56:7 which says that the temple is to be a house of prayer for all the nations.  Instead, Jesus finds that they have allowed this space to be a place of commerce.  This is the defilement that so angers our Lord.

Jesus reminds us here that the time is not always ripe to do business and that business is not to be done in these spaces that are reserved for praise and worship.  Doing the right kind of business in the appropriate places is the lesson here.  This is also a reminder that righteous anger is a very human thing.  The other reminder is that the time and place is always here and now to give witness to our faith and to speak out when we see wrongs being done, particularly in a sacred space.  All of this teaches us to take our belief and turn it into obedience.

Praise Be to God

Related Posts

Scroll to Top