Summary: This Is Our Father’s House 1) Drive out all distractions 2) Stop going through the motions 3) Give ear to Jesus’ promises
What do you see when you turn into the church driveway? Do you see the big white cross that stands guard outside the church? Do you notice the slate tiles that cover the roof of this place? What about the small cross on the very top of the church ever take a close look at that? What do you see when you come inside? Do you see a place for your coat to go? Do you see where you’ll sit? Or have you become so familiar with this building that you look at all these things without very much going through your mind? I do hope you feel comfortable here but there’s always the danger of becoming too comfortable. Our Gospel lesson warns against that this morning by reminding us that this is our Father’s house, not our house to do with as we please. Since this is our Father’s house we’ll want to drive out all distractions, stop going through the motions of worship, and give ear to Jesus’ promises.
Our text describes how Jesus and his disciples had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. This was one of three festivals all Jewish males 20 years and older were to attend every year. They were to present the appropriate animal sacrifice and pay a temple tax. To serve pilgrims who traveled long distances a booming business had developed selling animals for sacrifice and changing foreign currency so pilgrims from out of country could pay the temple tax. The problem was the merchants cheated the pilgrims (Matthew 21:13). Even the priests were in on the action. They regularly disqualified animals the pilgrims themselves had brought to sacrifice on some technicality forcing the pilgrims to buy one of the priests’ “approved” animals at an inflated price. To make matters even worse this shady business went on in the confines of the temple courts. The place where the sounds of worship were to be heard - priests chanting the Psalms and pilgrims lifting their prayers heavenward, was dominated by the cacophony of clinking coins and the stench of animals and greed.
When Jesus came upon the scene he grabbed some rope, fashioned it into a whip, and began lashing out at merchant and animal alike. When he came to the moneychangers he flipped their tables sending their neatly stacked coins rolling in every direction. When Jesus faced those selling doves he said: “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:16b) Jesus with whip in hand is not usually the image that comes to mind when we think about our Savior, is it? I wonder if the disciples felt embarrassed as they watched Jesus, the way we feel when someone in our group starts to complain loudly at a restaurant about the service and food. But then one of the disciples remembered a prophecy about Jesus from Psalm 69. It said: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17b).
No, this was not the merchants’ house, nor did it belong to the worshippers or even to the priests. It was the Father’s house. God’s house was to be a place of prayer, a place where God came to the sinner and gave freely of his love and forgiveness. The priests and merchants, however, were taking advantage of sinners who had come looking for solace. God’s house was no longer a refuge and Jesus was not going to put up with that.