“He was teaching and saying, ‘Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.’”
Jesus’ first stop, once he entered Jerusalem, was the Temple. To be fair, most faithful Jews who were passing through Jerusalem would make it a priority to stop at the Temple to make their sacrifices. At that time, the Temple in Jerusalem was the only place one could make a sacrifice to God to pay for their sins and the sins of the family. The religious leaders, as many religious leaders in our time, recognized the opportunity in this. They began selling different animals for sacrifice because according to the Law, a person was to bring a sacrifice that corresponded to their socio-economic ability. This scripture tells us that these moneychangers and salespeople were taking advantage of the poor, the rich, and everyone in between.
Jesus entered into this holy space and recognized it. His righteous indignation led him to overturn the tables of sacrifice. In turning them over, he sent a message about sacrifice. God was never to be worshiped again through sacrifice. God was never to be commodified again. God’s love was never to be bought or bargained for again. Jesus cleansed the temple of the commodification of religion. He cleansed it of the sacrificial system that was keeping people at arm's length from God. He cleansed it of the ideas of God as a bloodthirsty, never-satisfied, rarely-graceful deity.
We often acquire ideas about God as we go about our lives. Some of them are good and helpful, offering us new metaphors for the mysterious Love that created and sustains our universe. Others, however, are destructive. They keep us at arm's length from God and we don’t even realize it. As we go about our lives, we hear messages of God’s character that are in contradiction with the character of God revealed throughout scripture and throughout the history of the church. It’s easy to let these messages infiltrate our sense of who God is and poison our relation to God.
How might your heart and mind need to be cleansed from toxicity that you’ve acquired from the world? How have you allowed the world to dictate who God is to you?
Loving God, we often lose sight of who you truly are. We are often deceived. We are often wrong. Give us the discernment to see you. Give us the wisdom to know you. Give us the grace to be cleansed from toxicity that we inevitably acquire. Amen.