Summary: The Third Sermon of Lent 2008
So far this Lenten season we have learned about Jesus as our ‘homeless savior’ from the fox, Jesus as our ‘peaceful savior’ from the donkey, and last week, Jesus as a ‘warning savior’ from the camel.
(Slide 1) Today we are going to learn from the dove, a harmless creature if there ever was one, about Jesus our ‘angry savior.’ What does the dove has to teach us about this side of Jesus? Let’s find out from Professor Junglefuss and Juanita:
(Dramatic reading from Living Lent; the animals tell the story, the dove reveals an angry savior’ by Creative Communications for the Parish © 2008)
Let’s hear Matthew’s account of Jesus’ angry outburst that is found in chapter 21 and verses 12 through 16 of his gospel account:
‘Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants and their customers. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the stalls of those selling doves. He said, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a place of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”
The blind and the lame came to him, and he healed them there in the Temple. The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the little children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.” But they were indignant and asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”
“Yes,” Jesus replied. “Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.’”
When you think of ‘anger’ what comes to mind? An angry, red faced person who is ready to blow what seems like steam out of his or her ears and let loose a torrent of verbal ammo that will rip into your, or another person’s heart and soul?
When anger comes to mind what do you think of? The road rage driver who cuts you off in traffic with the wave of fist (or something else) or worse or the sharp stare of a person who has been ‘out foxed’ by you at the store because you got the last item they wanted at the sale price?
When we think of anger, do we think of Jesus? Our text for today shows us a side of Jesus that I think either we shirk from wanting to see or want to use to advance our own personal agendas because an angry Jesus can become a weapon in our hands and mouths to justify our own anger.
This angry outburst takes place after (perhaps right after) Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Now, it is the second time that Jesus does this because John records in his gospel account (chapter 2 and verses 13 through 17) a similar outburst at the beginning of His ministry.
Jesus is angry that the temple is being used for profit by those who are taking advantage of the poor and the Gentiles who are forced to the margins of the temple to pray. Now, lest we think that this was an ancient problem, we need to remember that at times in our American history, money was raised through pew rentals.
This meant that the wealthy could pay for the best pews in the sanctuary (usually the front ones) and the poor only had the balcony sections or the back of the church or even the front entrance from which to worship. In the New Testament book of James, the author talks about the favoritism that can cause problems in leaving the poor out while favoring the rich.
But it is not just a rich and poor issue. It can be a black and white issue; educated and uneducated issue; white collar and blue collar issue. It is about barriers that are built (sometimes unintentionally but built just the same) to keep people from experiencing God.
Notice that Jesus’ quotes from Isaiah 56:7 as He turns the tables and drives out the money changers. There is a good reason for that and we need to hear His statement in the context that it was written in when He calls the temple ‘a house of prayer.’ We begin with verse 1 and conclude with verse 8:
“Be just and fair to all,” says the Lord. “Do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you. Blessed are those who are careful to do this. Blessed are those who honor my Sabbath days of rest by refusing to work. And blessed are those who keep themselves from doing wrong.
“And my blessings are for Gentiles, too, when they commit themselves to the Lord. Do not let them think that I consider them second-class citizens. And my blessings are also for the eunuchs. They are as much mine as anyone else. For I say this to the eunuchs who keep my Sabbath days holy, who choose to do what pleases me and commit their lives to me: I will give them—in my house, within my walls—a memorial and a name far greater than the honor they would have received by having sons and daughters. For the name I give them is an everlasting one. It will never disappear!