Photo illustration by Phil Younk
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Worship means more than religious rituals, routines
Based on the Gospel of John 2:13-25
Sheep bleating. Oxen bellowing. Doves cooing. The outer courtyard of the temple smelled of animal dung. Added to this, the noisy shouting of the sellers and moneychangers. This is what Jesus found as he reached the temple in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. The outer courtyard of the temple looked more like an animal market than the entrance to a house of prayer.
When Jesus saw the money changing and the selling and buying of animals, he made a whip out of rope cords. Jesus went from tables to counters to baskets and drove the sellers out of the temple with their sheep and oxen. He spilled and scattered the coins of the moneychangers. To those selling doves, Jesus said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
Why? It was Passover time when thousands of people came to the temple to pray and offer sacrifices to God to fulfill the Jewish law. To buy animals needed for sacrifice and to pay the temple tax, people went to the moneychangers to exchange Roman coins with Caesar’s picture on them for temple coins. The animals were slaughtered and offered as sacrifices to God. Jesus found the sellers charging prices far above the going price, and the moneychangers exchanging people’s money for temple cash and charging high fees for the exchange. They were cheating the people.
With a condemning, blazing look in his eyes, Jesus was so firm in what he said and did that the temple leaders didn’t dare stop him. They asked Jesus what right he had to do this.
Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” They said it had taken 46 years to build the temple and it couldn’t be rebuilt in just three days. John’s Gospel tells us the temple Jesus meant was his body; Jesus would die on the cross and three days later would rise from the dead. We who know that our own bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit are not surprised by Jesus’ answer. The temple leaders assumed Jesus was referring to the temple in Jerusalem out of which he had just chased the greedy sellers and moneychangers.
While many people believed Jesus was from God, Jesus knew some of these same people would soon turn against him.
Jesus was attempting to help the temple leaders – and us – understand that worship means more than just religious rituals and routines. It means more than going through outward motions. It means looking inward in order to grow spiritually – opening our hearts to God and seeking his will, forgetting self, and thus bringing love, justice, peace and mercy to others.
Jesus, help us to grow in our personal relationship with you and transform us by your love!