Summary: The cleansing effect of having a dumpster in your driveway is a amazing. You can get rid of a lot of clutter in your house. In a simlar way, "junk" can gather in each of us who are called to be the temple of the Lord. Jesus cleanses us.
Every so often, as you drive around the various neighborhoods in these parts, you will notice the presence of dumpsters. Sometimes they are there to collect the waste from construction; sometimes reconstruction; but other times, the dumpster seems to be just for junk.
I find this last kind of dumpster to be the most interesting; even exciting. I’ve often imagined how great it would be to just have a big old dumpster in my driveway for awhile. Oh, the things I could throw in there! There’s the tricycle that was run over by a car, the old bed frames and the old couch. You know what I mean? Of course you do, because you’ve been thinking about dumpsters too. You may have even been longing for a dumpster. While garage sales perform virtually the same function, somehow a dumpster is just so much more gratifying. You heave it, you hear a crash, and the junk is out of your life.
If you ever have the opportunity to have a dumpster, you’ll find yourself getting carried away with what might be called “dumpster fever”. You’ll fill it 2/3s of the way, and then you’ll start walking around the house looking for something, anything that you can throw away to fill it up. Your wife’s precious moments collection? No, better not. That 50 year old Evinrude that your husband loves but hasn’t worked on for 5 years and is dripping grease from it’s lower housing all over your garage floor. Nope. Better not. If you’re not careful, you can end up tossing everything in there!
And why is that? Because our houses have a tendency to get cluttered. And sometimes, we get to the point where we just want to reclaim the space we once had so that we’ll have a place to live. After all, that’s what houses are for: they were not meant to be waste collection facilities; they were meant to be place to live.
Of course, you might not agree with what I say, you might actually like your junk and would hesitate to throw any of it away. And that’s okay. The dumpster thing is just an illustration. An illustration meant to evoke the feeling of being cleansed and set free. I’m sure you can imagine a situation in which you feel that way.
In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus was all about the business of cleansing the temple. In this text we find that Jesus and His disciples went into Jerusalem for the Passover. People from all over were coming in to Jerusalem to worship and offer sacrifices. And since many were not able to bring their own animals for sacrifice, they chose to buy animals in Jerusalem. In addition, they also had to have their money changed into the local currency so they could pay the temple tax, which went to support the upkeep of the temple. And everything was pretty much on the up and up with these customs. So far so good.
So during passover, there was an abundance of people who sold animals, and people who changed money which were much needed services. But by Jesus’ time, they had become corrupt. While they still provided a service they were ripping people off, taking advantage of the visitors. Not only that, they had actually moved their businesses into the courtyards of the temple! The temple took on an almost State Fair appearance; complete with advertising vendors and stinky display barns. Under these circumstances it became difficult, if not impossible for anyone to think about worship and their relationship with God. They were too busy keeping a tight grip on their coin purses and their noses.
It is no wonder that the sight of this greatly disturbed Jesus. He quickly made a whip out of cords and drove out the animals and the animal vendors. He overturned the tables of the money changers, scattering their coins. And to those who were selling doves he said, "get these out here! How dare you turn my father’s house into a market." The temple was the place where people would go to worship, to pray. The temple was the place where God had promised to meet and remain with his people. And Jesus was so very concerned that people be able to have this real worship, that he had absolutely no patience for anyone or anything that would prevent it. And these moneychangers and animal salesmen were doing just that, so they had to go.
So how does this apply to us today since there is no more temple? Besides the fact that it was leveled in about 70AD, with the completion of Jesus mission on earth, it would no longer be necessary. In the former days God dwelt among his people in the temple, but with the coming of Jesus, it is no longer through the temple that we approach God. It is through Jesus that we pray, through Jesus that we receive forgiveness and atonement.