A Place to Gather

view of ruins during daytime
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. John 2:13-22
This is not a great way to make new friends.

The little marketplace that had been set up in the temple courtyard was a money-maker for sure.  Pilgrims who travelled from far-away lands and needed either a sheep or – if the pilgrims were poor – pigeons for their sacrifices made for easy sales (with high profit-margin, no doubt!).  The money-changers got a cut from every exchange of foreign currency, too.

And I’m sure those running the temple got their share, too.

So when Jesus fashioned his own whip and started driving the animals out and overturning the tables, he was upsetting a lucrative little economy.

Because that’s not the point of the temple!   That very courtyard where the noisy, smelly animals were being sold was to be the Court of the Gentiles, a place where all people – even those not circumcised or part of God’s covenant people – could come in peace and pray to the one, true God.

Jesus’ one sacrifice for all people for all sins eliminates the need for exploiting people by selling animals for sacrifice.  And we don’t do a whole lot off currency exchange in the narthex. 

And yet, we do get distracted in the church by all kinds of things, don’t we.  Sometimes we forget that our relationship with our God in Christ– and inviting others into that relationship with our God in Christ – is what we’re all about. 

God help us to keep that focus in the church!

Gracious Father, You have provided us with a place to gather around Your Word and Sacraments in worship.  Help us to remember what the church is all about.  Help us to focus on Jesus alone as our Lord and Savior.  In His name, Amen. 

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