Lent 3 B 2021
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
When I read this text concerning Jesus famous activity in the Temple, I think of all the times that members of the church have sold girl scout cookies, calendars, and a whole list of other items in the narthex and Fellowship Hall.
I think of these transactions because, after reading our Gospel text, one might wonder if the tables should be overturned, and the money raised from these transactions poured out upon the floor, and the market sellers driven out with a whip.
And the answer of course, is NO.
And to help us understand why, we need to explore why Jesus drove the money changers and the livestock sellers out of the Temple.
Now, I must first point out that livestock sellers and money changers were indeed a necessary part of Temple Activity.
Pilgrims who had journeyed from afar needed animals they could sacrifice, and Temple worshipers needed money changers to convert their Romans coins to Jewish coins so they could pay the Temple tax.
It would be a tough task to make a long trek with animals in tow, and the Roman money most people carried with them had an image of Caesar and an inscription declaring Caesar to be god. So, there was nothing wrong with selling animals for Temple sacrifices or trading Roman coins for Jewish currency.
The problem that Jesus had with these merchants was the location that they were carrying out this activity. The livestock sellers and money changers were conducting their business in the Gentile Court area where the Gentiles were supposed to have a safe place to worship God.
Thus, they were denying the Gentiles their designated place in the Temple where they could pray, even though the Temple was supposed to be a house of prayer for all people, not just the Jews. Is. 56:6-7
Isaiah 56 verse 6- 7 reads: “And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servant, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
The Temple was and is a place of worship for everyone. Jesus was upset because the Gentiles were being prevented from worshipping God and God’s blessing. The livestock sellers and money changers activities prevented using the House of the Lord as sanctuary for all people.
And this Jesus could not and would not tolerate, so Jesus drove the livestock sellers and money changers out of the Temple.
In other words, no event or activity that prevents anyone from worshipping God should be tolerated. The girl scout cookies, the calendars that we sell in the narthex, and all the other retail activities that happen on occasion in the Narthex and Fellowship Hall do not prevent anyone from worshipping God.
And that is why the tables should not be overturned, and the money raised from these transactions should not be poured out upon the floor and the market sellers should not be driven out with a whip, because none of these activities prevent anyone from receiving God’s gift of grace.
The livestock sellers and money changers were not happy with how Jesus treated them. And so, they wanted a sign to prove that He had authority to treat them in this manner. The merchants wanted visible evidence that Jesus is indeed the Son of God who has the authority to throw them out.
Jesus responded, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” In other words, Jesus was instructing them that His body is the visible sign. And that His Body is the temple and He Himself will be the sacrifice.
John’s Gospel does indeed inform us that Jesus was killed, and that He did rise again, just as He said He would to the Jews that day in the Temple.
And John’s Gospel also informs us that His death truly did cleanse the church. And that His body and blood covered our sins and made us spotless in the sight of God.
Psalm 32 states “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven; whose sin is covered.” We are thus blessed, for that is exactly why we come to God’s House. We come here to have our transgressions forgiven and our sins covered over; and Jesus does not want anything to get in the way of God’s Activity in our world.
And in the meantime, I think Jesus wants us to enjoy the girl scout cookies, and to use the calendars that we purchased in the narthex. And Jesus wants us to come and worship our Father in Heaven and give thanks for the gift of the forgiveness of our sins given to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Eternal God, your Kingdom has broken into our troubled world through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son. Help us to hear your Word and obey it, that we may become instruments of your saving love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.