Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil
thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1st Corinthians 1:18-25
This morning’s lesson is another of those familiar stories that some of us learned in Sunday School years ago. John relates the day that Jesus and his disciples went into the temple and drove out the money changers. When the religious leaders questioned the authority by which he had done this, Jesus replied, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Obviously, no one understood what Jesus meant and these words would be used against him later at his trial when he was accused of being the Messiah. John says the disciples would remember those words after Jesus’ resurrection.
But, let’s take the time this morning to look at why Jesus chose to take this action in the temple. Jewish law covered various restrictions and rules concerning temple worship. Every male over the age of 19 was required to pay a temple tax each year. That tax was equal to a day’s wages and the tax had to be paid with a specific coin that was made available at the temple. While there were many coins that could be used in doing daily commerce, those coin were considered unclean by the Jews and hence only a temple coin could be used for the temple tax.
The problem was that there were money changers on the temple grounds that would exchange commercial coins for temple coins….but they were charging an exorbitant fee for making the exchange.
There were also those who were required to make an animal sacrifice from time to time and the men who inspected the animals and who sold animals were also there in the outer court. When Jesus witnessed this, he was enraged. We might see this as exhibiting both his human side and his godly side joining together as he wove a whip and began to drive out the animals and overturn the tables of the money changers.
So why did Jesus take such drastic action? First, I believe it was because God’s house was be desecrated. He told the people that was no worship…no reverence…only a market place, and that could not be permitted any longer. Second, I believe that Jesus was attempting to show the people that animal sacrifice was no longer required. The prophets had said that for years and yet the sacrifices continued.
Jesus said, “my father’s house is meant to be a house of prayer.” The temple was constructed with an outer court yard for the Gentiles, those non-Jews who still worshipped the true God. Then there was the court of the women and the court of the men, the court of the priests and finally Holy of Holies, where only the high priest could go and then only on one day a year. I believe that the final thing that upset Jesus was that the court or the Gentiles was where all the money changers and animals were. People, who could not enter the temple proper, could only worship among the animals and those who were fleecing the people. These people were being prevented from their true worship amidst the hustle and bustle of extortion.
Some would later come to understand Jesus’ words of that day just as they would learn what Jesus meant when he told the woman at the well that man was meant to worship God in spirit and in truth. For the Jewish people the presence if God had always been associated with the temple, but Jesus was attempting to say that God is present in man’s heart not in some building. Not that many years later, the temple would be destroyed, never to be rebuilt, and Jesus’ followers would come to understand that we are the church. We are meant to be God’s temple, hence we are to be a people of prayer and worship.
May we come to acknowledge that God lives in each of us…that he loves us dearly, and that God is good…all the time.
An Act of Spiritual Communion
“My Jesus, I belie that you are present in the holy sacrament of your body and blood. I love you above all things and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot at this time receive you sacramentally, I invite you to come spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as if you were here with me and I unite myself with you fully. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen
A Prayer for the Church and Benediction:
Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers this parish family. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.