Turning Tables: John 2:13-22 {Lent 3 2018}

I know I am odd, but the story of Jesus turning the tables over  and driving away the moneychangers in the temple is one of my favorite stories.

It shows a very human side of Our Lord.

Unlike the other three ” synoptic” Gospels, the Gospel of John is known as a more ” spiritual” version of the life and times of Jesus. details that are not found in any other Gospel accounts are often found in John’s Gospel.

Back to Jesus and the moneychangers. Let’s look at the text from this week’s lesson:

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16

And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” 18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” 19 Jesus answered and said to them,

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

Jesus clearly explains to the crowd why He is angry  He says: Take these things away. Do not make My Father’s House a house of merchandise!” 

I often wonder what the crowds thought when they witnessed this incident. After all, here is a rabbi from another place coming into their Temple, making a mess, and yelling. I cannot imagine that the merchants and the priests were very happy with Jesus’ behavior : He was ” disturbing the peace” in the most inappropriate way.

Yet I understand how a very human , God-loving Jesus could feel angry enough to literally turn the tables over.

In Matthew’s Gospel, the story goes like this:

“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 1″It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'”  {Matthew 21:12-13}

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ words are a lot more inflammatory. He compares the merchants in the temple to a den of robbers. 

No doubt about it, Jesus is not happy with the situation in the temple , and He is not afraid to speak the truth.

We know that Jesus’ speaking the truth is one of many actions that lead Him to Calvary, yet His public ministry is full of actions taken that defy the norms of His society. He saw wrongdoing, and He called out the temple leaders on their behavior.

But what does this story mean for we 21st  century Christians? For me, this story reminds me that in order to truly be disciples of Jesus, we are supposed to emulate Him as close as possible by our own life.

There are ” moneychangers” everywhere we look in our own world. Jesus calls us to be that prophetic voice: to call out those who abuse power, or seek to profit from unscrupulous legislature.

Christ is depending on us to follow Him into the world and turn some tables. We are called to do our best to set right that which is wrong in 21st Century America. Last week , during our Convention in my Diocese, our Bishop challenged us to ” Be the Church” .  Part of ” being Church” is truth-telling.

Bishop Russell Kendrick, of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast said this during his address last Thursday evening:

” And then there is all the hatred, mistrust, and anger. Language that would have made my Mama wash my mouth out with soap has been legitimized by the most respected figures in our culture. And too, the 5 deadliest mass shootings in history have occurred in the last 10 months. ”

My bishop then goes on to tell us that Being Church is more than sitting in pews on Sundays. Being Church means getting out there to witness to the Gospel by our actions. 

Bishop Kendrick says :

“The work of being an advocate begins in the spirit of truth. Such a spirit is at the heart of the prophetic tradition of our story. The prophets were something like God’s check and balance against the institutional powers of their time. They told the truth that was not easy to tell. ”

Jesus, in His actions and words in this story, is telling a truth. He is advocating for what is right, and advocating against a system where people make money from the faithful Jews coming to worship at that holy place.

O God, of justice , please show me what you will have me do to live out Your Gospel by being an advocate. You sent us Jesus, One who live in a Way that brings humanity closer to you. Thank You for sending Your Son, our Lord and our Brother. In the Name of the Three-in-One, Amen. 


Lent 3 2018


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