I love the fact that Jesus cleansed the Temple, and especially the fact that He made a whip of cords and overturned the tables and drove out the money changers from the Temple. This single passage does more than perhaps any other passage to drive out of the Church the false images of Jesus Christ that have been propagated for centuries, especially, it seems, since the late 19th century.
No more Bearded Lady Christ for me; no more Victorian Sissies; no more walking-in-the-garden-alone-while-the-dew-is-still-on-the-roses-because-the-joy-we-share-as-we-tarry-there-none-other-has-ever-known Jesus Blues. The Jesus I know is the one who is willing to make a whip when necessary and display a fiery righteous anger at desecrators and blasphemers.
How could it be otherwise? I’m afraid that in our hurry to have Jesus befriend us and give us a high five and put on a skit for us in His best impersonation of a youth pastor that we’ve forgotten who Jesus Christ truly is.
In case you’ve forgotten: HE’S GOD ALMIGHTY! He is I AM. He is the One who if you see Him you will fall at His feet like a dead man.
He is the One who will judge the quick and the dead, and He is the One who will assign men, women, and children to Heaven or Hell. In fact, He is the One in the Bible who dares to mention the topic of eternal damnation more than any other person in the Bible.
Only if we imagine and claim such a Jesus can we properly understand His cleansing of the Temple or properly worship Him.
Now the question arises: “Why?” Why would Jesus use such violent means to cleanse the Temple? Was it really necessary?
Why He would make a whip and overturn tables and drive people from the Temple? Because, He says, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”
“Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” That is the message for today. And this kind of zeal is not only for Jesus Christ in the 1st century but for you and for me in the 21st century (and anyone else who may ever read this in future centuries!) You and I are to be consumed, eaten up, with zeal for the house of the Lord. Is this something you can honestly say before the Lord today – that zeal for His house eats you up?
I’ve noticed that there are a lot of things that eat people up. A lot of them show up in the TV shows and movies we watch as lust, greed, hatred, revenge, hedonism, crusades, and the like. Most of the things that eat us up are things that, in the end, will consume our souls.
But not Jesus. What ate Him up, what He meditated on night and day, was the house of the Lord, the place where God’s honor dwells. Touch the Church, and you touch Jesus. For this reason, when Jesus paid a little visit and knocked Saul down (another instance of the violent Jesus we aren’t used to imagining), He said to Saul, the persecutor of the Church, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”
The point here for us is not that Jesus Christ cared so much about the Temple, that is, the physical structure. He knew that it would be destroyed in A.D. 70, never to be rebuilt. What ate Him up was what still eats Him up: the Church, His Body, the place where His honor dwells, you and me as His chosen people for whom He bled and died.
Now here’s the startling thing: that God, who does not need us, is consumed with saving us, even to the point of allowing the Son to truly be consumed as a sacrifice for our sins – and yet we, who desperately need God, are not consumed with zeal for Him or His house.
Which of us can truly say that zeal for the Church consumes you? It should. Zeal for the Church consumed and ate up Jesus Christ and still does. My contention is that if you really want to know what someone thinks of Jesus Christ, then look at how they behave toward His Body. When, recently, a group of homosexuals showed up in outrageous drag at the Roman Catholic cathedral in San Francisco to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, they weren’t just putting on a show or showing contempt for the Church: they were showing utter hatred toward and defiance of Jesus Christ.
You say you love the Lord? Then serve His Body.
What is it that eats you up in your life? Is it your secular work (which is godly, in its place)? Is it your family? Is it less noble things like leisure and toys and gadgets, or fear or greed or lust, or even apathy?
We should love the things our Lord loved, and we should be eaten up by the things that ate Him up. And what Jesus Christ loved, to the point of death, even the death on the Cross, was the house of the Lord, His holy people, His Body, the Church.
Do not worry that in being consumed in serving the Lord that you yourself will be consumed and lose the things you love. For it is in being consumed by zeal for the Lord that the Lord will fill the hungry with good things. It is in losing your life that you’ll find it. And it is in being eaten up for His sake that He will feed You Himself, who is your daily bread.
Resolution: I resolve to find one practical way today that I can manifest my zeal for the Lord and His house.
Prayer: One thing have I desired of You, O Lord, which I will seek: that I may dwell in Your House all the days of my life; that I may behold Your beauty; and that I may inquire in Your holy Temple. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- What do you spend most of your “free” time thinking about? What most motivates you in life?
- What is your attitude toward your local church? How might you begin to see it and behave towards it more in terms of actually seeing it as the Body of Jesus Christ?
© 2016 Fr. Charles Erlandson