Tuesday of that week. Jesus returns from his day off, time away, which likely seems to have been for rest, recovery, preparation, centering. He returns to the Temple area and confronts the traders there who are selling animals for sacrifice within the Temple area. It’s not like a t-shirt stand being set up near an event like we see today. It’s part of the institution. A place where the Temple money (which wasn’t sullied by political or foreign association) could be used to purchase what was needed, and appropriate, for ritual sacrifice in religious expression. Jesus is irate, revolutionarily overturning the tables of the merchants. Seemingly because either of corruption, such as exorbitant prices which took advantage of the defenseless pilgrims come for worship. Or maybe it was an active critic of the institutional leadership and religious hierarchy who had forgotten their purpose: not to make money, but rather to facilitate the worship of their brothers and sisters. Or maybe it was Jesus torn to see a place of prayer, devotion, communal cooperation, become an open-air market, bustling with commerce, like you’d find in any city.
His critic seems to get at a question that we face today as well: how do we limit and hold hostage our expressions of faith? How do we cheapen our spirituality with trite platitudes? Or with limiting assumptions of what kind of spiritual response is authentic or appropriate? How do we pollute the beauty of faith through transactional expectations which lead to commerce, shame, exclusion or isolation? It’s not as simple as a black and white situation in which you’re either “good” or “bad”. It’s a slippery slope, a fine line which we all cross at times. Jesus calls us to reform, to renewal, to renvisionning.
Take a moment to reflect on your thoughts and reaction. Meditate upon the visual representation of the scene above. You might even listent to this excerpt of Bach’s ‘Christus, der uns selig macht’ [“Christ who Makes us Blessed] from his Saint John’s Passion.
- How do long for reform, renewal, renvisioning in your life of faith?
- How might you need Jesus to overturn the tables in your life, to mix things up, so that you might see more clearly?