To look at the picture of Jesus over the baptismal font near the door of the church building, we see a friendly loving and accepting figure of Christ to those who come to him with faith like little children. “Let the little children come to me…”. Yet, in our Gospel reading this morning (John 2:13-22) Jesus adopts a very different and quite shocking posture, action, and words towards those who focus on the things of this world and ignore the God who is spirit and truth and love.
In our Gospel passage we have the cleansing of the Temple of Herod, and Jesus speaking of the destruction of the physical Temple, or destruction of his body, or of both. Everything is turned upside down.
At that time and place, Judah was occupied by Roman soldiers who were extremely forceful in their behavior.
Different parts of North America have been occupied by Spain, Britain, or France in the past — imagine the USA today being occupied by Germany, Russia, or Isis! The very thought is repugnant, and gives a sour taste in the mouth.
For Jesus to speak of the destruction of the Temple would provoke an antagonistic reaction from the authorities, as much as it would if we were to speak of explosives while queueing up for an airplane today, or if we were to be present with police forcing down someone in the street.
So there is an electric scene of confrontation. “Do not make a marketplace out of my Father’s house.” That is the cry of Jesus in this gospel passage, as he plaits together a whip and then uses it almost like a weapon, or at least a tool. “Do not make a marketplace out of my Father’s house.”
In the Gospel of Mark, Luke, and Matthew, this cry of Jesus, and his action of the cleansing of the Temple led directly to the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple, and his cry, “Do not make a marketplace out of my Father’s house.” is, then, an extremely important statement and action — It is a kind of hinge point of the crucifixion. We view the crucifixion of Jesus as a – or the — hinge point of human history. So then, Jesus action of the Cleansing of the Temple, and his cry “Do not make a marketplace out of my Father’s house” is also a hinge point of human history.
Thirty years or thirty five years later, that Temple was destroyed, burned, and dismantled by a huge military force, a military force made up of four legions of the Roman Empire. To give you an idea of the military force involved: four Roman legions were sent to destroy Jerusalem and its Temple; while it took eight Roman legions to subdue Britain.
Did the action of Jesus, and his cry “Do not make a marketplace out of my Father’s house” refer only to that particular building, the Temple? Could it have referred ONLY to that Temple which was to disappear a few decades later?
That is what you and I have to contemplate and consider deeply in our souls. To my mind, when Jesus cried out, “Do not make a marketplace out of my Father’s house”, he was not referring only to that ancient and very impressive stone Temple of Herod. After all, in John chapter 4 he said that those who worshiped God would not worship in Jerusalem, but “in Spirit and in truth”. At one level God can be known through the stars (Ps 19); at another level God can be known through the written word of the scriptures; at another, known through the living Word, Jesus Christ; and finally, God can be known by living in our own hearts.
In John 3 Jesus said God loved the world. In one sense, the whole world is the house of God. If so, then Jesus cried out, “Do not make a marketplace out of the world”, consuming everything that there is and leaving disaster in our wake.
Again, when Jesus cried out, “Do not make a marketplace out of my Father’s house”, he was referring to that much much more important place which is God’s house, namely, the human heart, in which the Holy Spirit resides. He cried out that we should not make our whole hearts full of consumer affairs: but rather learn to care for other people, to share what we have.
If our hearts are the house of God, then the cry of Jesus is that we should not make a marketplace out of our hearts, because our hearts are the place in which God lives.
A market is a place of exchange. It is a place in which there is nothing for nothing, a place in which everything has a price, a place in which there is very little for a dime. The world constantly urges us to exploit everything, monetize everything, and make a profit on everything. I see some of this in John Grisham’s books. It makes for a very ugly world. Jesus turns all that upside down, and cries out, “Do not make a marketplace” of your heart. God lives in your heart.
Jesus gave his heart and his life to us, who cannot repay him, in love, and without charge. As we absorb the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17), we know we have a mountain of scarlet sins that God forgives and forgets… as we forgive one another a molehill of wrongs. There is a wisdom in the cross which is wiser than the philosophies of the world (1 Cor 1:18-25).
Last week we read that one of the marks of discipleship is that we want to follow Jesus. Let us not make of God’s house a market place. As we follow Jesus, let us like Jesus also be different from the world around us: let us give our heart and our life to God and to other people–and the creation itself, having mercy upon them, who cannot repay us, in love and without charge. That makes for a very beautiful world.