Text: Matthew 21:12-17
To allow the Lord to shape your life
For freedom from shame, indifference or pride
For those seeking healing
THE STORY OF JESUS CLEANSING the Temple appears in all four Gospels, although John positions it early in his account. Under Matthew’s pen, this event is not simply an “attack” on the religious authorities of the day, but it becomes a refocusing of what it means to worship God.
The first is that we must recognize that Matthew (along with Mark) ejects both buyers and sellers in his upending of the booths and tables. Far from it being a blow in support of “the poor,” Matthew sees Jesus’ action as condemning all who use their religious life as a cover or excuse for sinful behavior. In much the same way as he roundly criticized interpretations of Sabbath-keeping that would prevent people from being healed, Jesus condemns the narcissism that would bring self-serving activities right into the presence of God and assume God’s blessing. God should be happy that I’m here at all is a dangerous game.
This is reinforced by Jesus healing the blind and lame within the precinct of the Temple. The rabbinical religious guidance to such persons was that their participation in Temple life was optional, not obligatory, due to their infirmity. By his action of healing, Jesus demonstrates that being in God’s presence is salutary for all, and that there is no reason for anyone to use their life situation as an excuse for avoiding God, as if God cannot handle or bear what a person might bring forward. I’ll start up with God again once I get myself together is a terrible burden.
The third is the voices of the children that cry “hosanna!” The scribes and Temple officials are scandalized, but Jesus accepts the acclaim. This moment sharpens what Jesus is doing: it is not the Temple, but the Lord of the Temple, that is the point of our religious devotion. It is not the building, but the Lord with his people that is the true source of our life.
So, what is worship? It is to be in the Lord’s presence among his people, recognizing that we come not in strength but in need, and ready for God to challenge and change us.
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks