This will be a short post today – 15 minutes until our screen curfew at 2200! (Periodically necessary to ensure we actually go to bed…)
Immediately after the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (the heart of Israel), Matthew’s narrative takes us to the Temple (the heart of Jerusalem). The focus is coming, and things are hotting up.
The image is familiar: Jesus brandishing a handful of cords whipping the money-changers, traders, and those selling sacrificial animals out of the temple courts. Is this really the same Jesus as we know from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5? The great tension – the Man of words vs. the Man of action. “Blessed are the peacemakers” vs. a physical show of revulsion at what the centre of Israel’s worship has become. Of course, it is only Who Christ is that allows this tension to be realised without any tension (if that makes any sense)!
So why does Jesus do what he does? Yes, the temple had been polluted by a sense of commerce and profit – special temple money was needed to buy the animals which were necessary for the sacrifices which “put you right” with God. You can bet that every transaction took place with a tidy profit for the money changer / trader.
But I think this dramatic action is more than a protest against profit being made in a house of worship. Jesus disrupting the flow of sacrificial animals announces that the Temple’s purpose is redundant – “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” [ref?]. The sacrificial system starts to be shown up for what it actually is – ritualised murder – to that we shall certainly return. The Temple (in particular the Holy of Holies) is not the true dwelling place of the LORD on earth…
Begs the question, doesn’t it, where is the dwelling place? how will this all end?