Summary: Jesus is adamant that sacred space be preserved as sacred space... our lives are sacred space!
Title: Into Sacred Space with Jesus
Text: John 2:13-22
Thesis: Jesus is adamant that sacred space be preserved as sacred space.
The great temptation in working with this text is to cite Jesus as our example to act in righteous indignation against all that is offensive to us in our culture. Some would say that Jesus’ driving the money changers from the temple with a whip is a call to Xtreme or militant Christianity. Some would say it is time that Christians stop being nice and start bashing a few gays and burning some abortion clinics.
I would like to suggest that this text is not a springboard for attacking your favorite whipping boy. It is about something much closer to home and to our hearts. It is about keeping sacred space sacred.
Bonnie and I spent the week between Christmas and New Years in Chicago with our family. On one occasion I was reading the Chicago Tribune, 5 year old Samson was sitting on my lap. I happened upon one of those feel good, Christmas spirit news articles about the seasonal Santa’s who bring joy to children throughout the Chicago metro area. The Santa pictured with the article was black. I pointed to the picture and said to Samson, “Look Samson, there’s a picture of Santa.” He hesitated for a moment and then said, “That’s not Santa. Santa is white.”
Something in me ached as I realized my grandson, a person of color, believed Santa was of necessity, white. A black Santa was an atypical Santa to Samson.
We all have our perceptions and preferred images of Jesus as well.
Most of us have grown up with Sallman’s “Head of Christ” so that may be your image of Jesus.
• Project Sallman’s “Head of Christ”
When I was in college someone came up with a really macho masculine image of Christ.
• Project the Rugged Portrait of Christ
You might prefer what I call the handsome Christ.
• Project the Handsome Hollywood Christ
Or you might be partial to the blond and blue-eyed Christ.
• Project the Blond and Blue-eyed Nordic Christ
Whatever your image of Christ, the most atypical image is that of Jesus Christ wielding a whip, flipping tables over, and driving money-changers from the temple.
To say that Jesus Christ was a wild-eyed, enraged, maniac would not be accurate. However, to say he was passionate about God’s house would be. After the incident the disciples remembered the Old Testament prophecy describing the Messiah as having “passion for God’s house.” So when Jesus saw what was happening in the temple he was angry.
Jesus did not immediately “fly-off-the-handle” when he saw the abuses in the temple, which serves to underscore the idea that the incident was not the reaction of a hothead. The bible says that he made a whip with some ropes and chased the merchants and money-changers out of the temple. In other words, Jesus was very deliberate about what he did.
But non-the-less, the image of gentle Jesus wielding a handmade whip, turning over tables, and chasing people out of the temple is an atypical or irregular picture of Jesus.
What would compel Jesus to do such a thing?
I. Jesus took exception to the social injustice he saw in the temple.
In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; and he saw money changers behind their counters. John 2:13-14
The setting was the Annual Passover observance that took place in the city of Jerusalem. The law required every male living within twenty miles of Jerusalem to attend. In addition to that, celebrating Passover in Jerusalem was a pilgrimage every Jew looked forward to at some time in their life… it might be likened to the Muslims’ pilgrimage to Mecca. So it was big and it was likely that upwards of two million Jewish pilgrims would be in Jerusalem for the Passover.
It was not only a big religious event, it was big
business for the city and for two primary groups doing business at the Temple.
The two named culprits were the merchants and the money-changers:
A. The Merchants
As you know, all sacrifices had to be spotless and without blemish… so every critter offered as a sacrifice had to be approved by Temple inspectors. So not only was it difficult to bring your own sacrifice from home, so to speak, it was also nigh unto impossible to get your own sacrifice approved. So pilgrims who wished to offer a burnt offering to God had to purchase their sacrificial victim from the merchants.
Needless to say, the merchants had the corner on the livestock market and they, as we used to say in Iowa, “cut a fat hog” so to speak, with every sale. They were ripping off the public.