And Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” (Luke 19:45-46)
After Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem, one of the highlights of the dedication was his prayer. He knew that God couldn’t be kept in a box, even one the size of the temple. But the temple reminded people that God would hear their prayers and respond with grace.
By the time of Jesus, the temple had been destroyed, rebuilt, and enhanced. Currency exchange and livestock sales drowned out the prayers of God’s people. What a zoo – literally!
It drove Jesus nuts. “Not in my house!” He tipped tables, threw chairs, and chased everyone out, both man and beast. “My house shall be a house of prayer.”
Just imagine you’ve finally gotten to Jerusalem. Just like last year, you lined up at the temple to buy a couple of pigeons to bring to the priest for your sacrifice. You’ve done this every year for as long as you can remember. Just before it’s your turn to make a purchase, a man cuts in line, starts pushing people around and throwing furniture. You say, “Hey, what’s your problem? I would have let you go first. Calm down. All you had to do was ask.”
Or, you’ve got your little table set up at the temple. You’ve only got a few goats to sell this year. They’ll go quickly. “How can I help you, sir? Hey, take it easy, you’re gonna hurt someone! Those are my goats!”
It’s crazy. Jesus must be out of his mind. But you know what? If you showed up at your house and saw a guy selling tacos from a truck in your driveway, you’d lose it too. “What’s the matter, mister? Don’t you like tacos?” That’s not the point. This is my house. Get out here! I’d be throwing chips and salsa around too!
For some reason, we allow religion to become transactional. We come to church with an offering in exchange for a rite or ceremony. It breaks my heart when someone asks, “How much would it cost to have my child baptized?”
I think that’s how Jesus felt. His heart was broken. He was in Jerusalem to pick up the tab for sin. And these folks were cutting into his business.
Not in my house.
I’m just here to pray, Lord.