Friday

19 November 2010

"'My house shall be a house of prayer'; but you have made it a den of robbers." (v. 46)

Background

The Temple was a controversial place at the time of Jesus. Many faithful Jewish people almost despaired of what had become of such a powerful symbol of God's faithfulness and presence among them. Jesus' behaviour is very much in keeping with a wider desire to 'cleanse the Temple'; his is a deliberate prophetic action. The sellers, and in Mathew's account (Matthew 21:12-17) the money changers, were a particular focus for the disquiet. The fact of selling may not be the main problem, though it is hard to imagine that the complex sacrifice rituals were best fulfilled by the rich purchasing suitable gifts on their way into worship. It may be that the dubious practice of money laundering, of converting ritually impure Roman coinage to ritually pure temple coinage was more disturbing to Jesus and others. Perhaps we might also imagine that those that changed one currency into another would have been taking a percentage in the transaction, and while rendering polluted money for clean money was helpful, it wasn't going to make you popular.

I wonder though, if the real problem was where it was happening. It wasn't, in the inner sanctums of the Temple - the Holy of Holies; nor in the outer areas for priests, for men or further out still, for women. Was all this happening in the outermost courts? These were the courts that the Jewish people didn't need because they were there specifically for the Gentiles (non Jews) who didn't matter so much. The Temple's architecture embedded the promise to Abraham in Genesis that his people would be a 'blessing to the Gentiles' (see Galatians 3:6-9). Here in this outer court was the one place that the unclean could come. It was only here that unclean money could be exchanged. But by filling it with a market place it undermined the whole purpose of God's faithfulness to the Jewish people.

To Ponder

Where does the Church favour the faithful and exclude the outsider?

What purpose does the Church have in the local community?

In Prisons Week, remember Christian prisoners and their ministry.

And Pray
Welcoming God, keep the edges of the Church free of nonsense so that we might be a blessing to others.

Bible notes author: The Revd Mark Wakelin

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