At that time, when Jesus was come into Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” And the multitudes said, “This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
And Jesus entered into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money–changers, and the seats of them that sold the doves; and he saith unto them, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer: but ye make it a den of robbers.”
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple: and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children that were crying in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the son of David;” they were moved with indignation, and said unto him, “Hearest thou what these are saying?” And Jesus saith unto them, “Yea: did ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” And he left them, and went forth out of the city to Bethany, and lodged there. -Matthew 21: 10-17
There are three tall spruce trees in our back yard. They provide homes and food for the birds and squirrels, and shade the house in the hot summer sun. When the wind is high, and it has been high a few times in the last couple of months, it blows needles, cones, and branches east towards the house, covering the yard, and making the soil just a little more acidic. While there is benefit to the trees, there is also a cost.
In the reading today, Jesus is first identified. He is given authority by His identification, and this is important. If anyone else had gone into the temple and done what He had done, the consequences might have been very different. Yet, no one else did. Was there no one else who felt the way Jesus did about the money changers, the people selling goods for sacrifice? We see from the last part of the reading that yes, by the fact He received praise. There were those in the temple that knew it was wrong, but did not have the power to do anything to change it.
But what of the money changers, the people selling sacrificial goods, the people changing their money and buying the goods. Were they completely oblivious that they were in the precincts of the temple? Surely, they knew they were in a place that was set out as sacred rather than profane. And yet, even knowing this, they continued their practices. People followed along because no one questioned. It was easier not to question.
There was ease, and there was profit, for what was going on. The money changers profited, the sellers of sacrificial goods profited, the people changing their money to buy the goods profited. Yet, like the spruce trees in my yard, there were consequences that on the surface might not have seen to be detrimental, but over time would have poisoned the sacred with the profane.
Once Jesus opens the window and lets some fresh air in, so to speak, people come to the temple. They are blind, they are lame, they are healed, and Jesus is praised. God’s work can happen because there is room for it to happen. Those who were moved with indignation did so because it’s a natural response (perhaps a sinful one) to respond as if one has been victimized even though they will not acknowledge that they themselves have perpetrated as well. Sure, the function of the people changing money and selling and buying was disrupted; likely, people were shocked, upset, angry. Were they not intruding on the precincts of prayer?
What are our money changers? What are our sacrificial good sellers? What are the things in our lives that we allow to intrude on what is true, what is sacred? Have we made room in our lives for the sacred, or do we allow the profane to infiltrate our sacred precincts?
How easy is it for us to overturn the tables? How easy is it for us to overturn the chairs? How much easier for us to simply push through the crowds, continue changing our money, buy our doves, make sacrifice, and push back through the crowds to leave the temple? How is that meaningful? How is that significant?