Saturday 14 March 2009
Lent 3 Clearing out!
Jesus cleans out the temple in Jerusalem of market traders, pigeon sellers and money changers. You can imagine the noise and caflufel! There was an economic network of curtain makers, barbers, incense manufacturers, goldsmiths, trench diggers,, shewbread bakers. It was a racketeering issue with ruling class interest. The temple fundamentally was an economic institution that dominated Jerusalem. Greek or Roman money had to be changed into temple or Tryian coinage for temple dues. There were other money changers, bankers. Doves were sold to the poor and widows, women, lepers, who were considered unclean by the law and were made to pay for it. Jesus also prevented anyone carrying a vessel through the temple. All business would have been suspended for the day. Lastly he taught them. Is 56 speaks of an inclusive Israel, of foreigners who were marginalized, a place for the dispossessed and outsiders. The thieves or robbers Jesus refers to are social bandits, the government. Unless exploitation of the poor stops, the temple will be destroyed. And we remember the widows mite.
Jesus attacks the underlying political economy of the temple economy that exploits the poor. His actions upset the temple authorities who depended on the sale of those sacrificial victims and the exchange of money to lubricate their coffers. Prophets were associated with miracles so the Jewish authorities demand a miracle to explain his actions. His answer indicates that despite his anger he does not believe that God lives in buildings alone. The Temple of God he alludes to in his reply is of course his body which will be resurrected in 3 days.
The Jewish authorities are scandalized by his response and fail to understand what he is talking about. And despite his following in Jerusalem, Jesus intuitively knew he could not trust the people. Time would tell that he was right.
Often our holy places are not places of prayer but are cold reminders of a bygone age or are let out, sold for other purposes. We desperately need places to pray-and if churches should be anything they should be those places. The story also speaks to us of the passion of Jesus, his anger, his righteous indignation and how lukewarm we are about our faith and the injustice and abuses we are daily surrounded by. We need that passion!
Of course the real temple of God could be our bodies as it was Jesus' and the implications of that take some swallowing.