From Luke 19…
Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants from their stalls. He told them, “The Scriptures declare, `My Temple will be a place of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
Don‚Äôt think that Jesus was upset by the merchandizing- by the buying and selling in Temple area and by the fact that people were most likely being cheated by exhorbitant prices and unfair exchange rates‚Ä¶ it‚Äôs deeper than that.
Jesus quotes VS IS 56:6-8
“I will also bless the Gentiles who commit themselves to the LORD and serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who have accepted his covenant. I will bring them also to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. For the Sovereign LORD, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people Israel.”
This was a promise that Gentiles, people from every nation, would be allowed to experience God and worship Him in the Temple.
But this religious marketplace was set up in the Court of the Gentiles, the place where this was supposed to happen, the outer part of the Temple where anyone, Jewish or not could come and worship God‚Ä¶ this was the one place where God‚Äôs people should have been doing some serious missionary work- sharing what their God was all about and who He was with people who may not have known. But, instead, when people visited this area, they saw exorbitant prices, a complete lack of reverence‚Ä¶ this was meant to be a place of prayer- instead, people were busy ripping each other off.
By allowing this area, to become a noisy, smelly public market, the religious leaders were preventing people from exercising the spiritual privilege promised to them. How could someone pray with all that noise and stench? And God‚Äôs house was meant to be a ‚Äúhouse of prayer for all nations.‚Äù
The quote, ‚ÄúBut you have made it a den of thieves‚Äù is from Jer 7:11. Jesus was saying that instead of allowing the Temple to be what it was meant to be, a place where all people could find God, they had allowed it to become a robber‚Äôs den. And maybe Jesus was talking about not so much robbing people of their money‚Ä¶ but robbing them of something much deeper- the chance to be near God.
This story (from Zacchaeus down to these last verse) tells us that Jesus gets intensely angry at people and religious institutions that pile so much crap on top of faith that people cannot get to God. This offends Him- and He would not stand for it.
So He drove them out.
And here‚Äôs what I wonder when I read these stories of Palm Sunday: When the King comes to me and to my life, and to this community, what will He find? The results of a living, active spirituality- one which takes what God has given it and multiplies it by sharing it with everyone? Or the self-absorption and shallowness of a ‚Äòme-centered‚Äù religion? A life that points others to God or one that keeps them away?
A community that is open to all who are looking for God, or one that gets in the way?
I want God to find in me the results of a faith that is vibrant and alive, a faith that moves me to action- to meeting the needs of others, to being a friend to those no one else will be a friend to- especially those shunned by the religious of the world. Because that‚Äôs what Jesus is calling us to‚Ä¶