“12 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. 13 “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.”
14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
“‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise?”
17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.”
-Matthew 21: 12-17
Monday of Holy Week and we find Jesus at the temple courts as the Jews gathered in Jerusalem for Passover. Just like with major holidays and events today, prices were being raised to turn a profit on the things people needed the most for celebrating or for sacrifice at the temple. As people came to worship and celebrate they were being taking advantage of by the greed of the money changers and sellers.
This is why we read of Jesus’ anger and of his overturning of the tables and booths. He was witnessing his Father’s house being turned from a holy place to a place of greed and sin; exploiting those in a time of need.
We then see Jesus turn from his righteous anger and begin to draw the lame, children, and others to him. As they gathered, he began to heal them. He was returning the temple to a holy place, a place of love and hope, where needs are met with authentic relationship.
As I reflected on this passage today I struggled a bit with what message I could share. Often we focus on how Jesus had a right to be angry and this scripture is often referenced when a message on anger is preached.
However, as I read a few reflections on the scripture I began to focus on why Jesus was angry. What stirred the anger? Was it just the business taking place in what should have been a holy place? I think his anger was indeed directed at the greed and the sin he saw. I also think he was angry about those who were being wronged by this sin and greed, and those who were in need and being overlooked in pursuit of profit.
I wonder what Jesus might think if he took a look at some of our churches today? Would anger burn within him because people in need are being overlooked due to greed and sin?
I believe so. Unfortunately we often come to church with our own needs forefront on our mind. How can God meet me and my needs? We expect to get filled up for the week and leave to resume our regularly scheduled lives that are often too busy to be in the business of serving others. If I show up on Sunday (or most of them), I get a big smiley face in book of Life, right?
I write this not as one to judge, but as someone who has felt the same way, been too busy, and wanted my needs met first. I just know that when this is how we exist as a church, we are failing. When we consistently seek to serve our needs first, we are in the business of greed.
If we can learn anything from Jesus’ ministry and the way he lived his life, it is the example of how to put others first and always be ready to serve, whether our needs are met or not. When we become about the business of serving first, we often find that our needs will be met, without even realizing it. Our hearts will be filled with joy as we share the love of Christ. Looking outside of ourselves causes our perspective to shift. We can see the need around us as opportunity to grow and serve rather than a burden to be avoided.
Take a look around this week whether at work, shopping, church, or even the park. Is there a need that God can help you meet?