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Archive for October 19, 2014

An Angry Jesus

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and over turned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves, He said “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” John 2:13-16 (NASB)
Tables flipping over, money flying everywhere, animals in a stampede as man and beast ran from the court of the Gentiles. Then the figure of Jesus emerged, standing with whip in hand. “Get out of here! How hare you turn My Father’s house into a business.”
This is not the Jesus meek and mild that is so often portrayed. This is not the nice, gentle, pastoral shepherd who leads us into green pastures and beside still waters. This is the angry Jesus.
What is going on here? Why is Jesus so angry about what is transpiring in the temple?
The real problem here is not just that Jesus is mad, but that He is at the temple mad, that He is at the Passover mad. Hundreds of worshipers would have been at the temple at any given time during the Passover. This is one of the holiest of feasts for the Jews, because through it they remembered that the death angel had “passed over” their homes that last night in Egypt. This is when they paused to remember their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. This is when they were coalesced as a people of God. Now of all times, Jesus shows up and really lets them have it.
Why? Simply put, worship had become a “market enterprise” rather than a spiritual enterprise. Worship had become a matter of ritual, of doing the proper thing at the proper time, rather than a matter of heart and soul. Religion and worship had become matters of transaction rather than relationship: you pay your money and you get your forgiveness. Or as in our modern church, you just say a few words and accept Jesus as your Savior and all will be forgiven and you will go to heaven when you die. Before you revolt, hear me clearly; there is nothing wrong with the previous sentence, except when that is all there is to one’s faith. There was nothing wrong with the Jews buying doves, goats, lambs, and cattle for sacrifice, except when that was all there was to their faith.
When our faith is determined more by what we want or need than by what God wants for us, then we are destined to become more like Walmart than the Church of Jesus Christ. We have so prostituted the nature of the Church that often people go “church shopping” with the attitude of seeing which church offers the most bang for their buck, rather than spending time in prayer seeking God’s will.
The problem with this type of Christianity is that it can be both superficial and artificial. Jesus is striking out at a loss of sacredness, at a loss of a sense of holy places and holy times, which is revealing of a loss of relationship with the Holy One, God. When worship becomes duty rather than love, obligation rather than opportunity, it is not long before it becomes optional altogether. When we lose worship, when we lose the sense of the Holy God among us, we have lost what makes us special creatures of Holy God.

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