When dealing with the emotional life of Jesus, one must turn to the cleansing of the Temple as a direct action campaign by our God in the political economy of the Temple state.
After examining the Temple the evening before, (Mark 11:11) Jesus returns to the outer court where businessmen have set up shop to exchange money and sell live sacrifices. Others were transporting goods to and from the Temple.
He takes three actions:
- Drives out those buying and selling
- Overturns the tables of the moneychangers and those selling doves
- Prevented people from carrying anything through the temple.
The Temple was not solely a religious institution but also an economic hub of activity. The mixing of the sacred and the profane did not surprise Jesus. So what was He righteously livid about?
He drives out the buyers and sellers, but more specifically He “overturns” – another translation could read it as “destroys” – the moneychangers and the sellers of doves or pigeons. Why these two? They represent the buyers and sellers who come in and rob those who are trying to regain introduction back into the community. The poor and the unclean were considered second-class citizens and had to pay for their return to acceptable status within society often only able to afford the smallest sacrifice available to them, doves.
Jesus had done away with the purity laws and practices of the time throughout His ministry. He does not want the people to be taken advantage of as they sought to regain some sense of humanity after being declared unclean by the very people who can then capitalize from their need to become clean. He realized that these cultic practices of the day were no longer about God’s will but humanity’s greed.
House of Prayer, Den of Robbers
Isaiah 56:1-8 (ESV) reminds the readers that all are included in God’s “house of prayer.” However, the Temple has instead become a den of robbers as in Jeremiah 7 (ESV). It oppresses the foreigners, the fatherless, and the widowed. Its follower and leaders “steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to other gods” and as such actions imply “rob” God of all due to God.
Just like the place in Shiloh, Jeremiah 7:12 (ESV), if the Temple does not reform its ways, it will be destroyed.
Dear God, help us to see how we may be hindering people from coming into the church. Help us to see the ways we make people jump through hoops to be a part of our community. Help us to love everyone who comes to our doors as sisters and brothers. And let us be righteously livid when they are not. Amen.