The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” – John 2:13-16
I have often had cause to reflect on John’s recollection of Jesus clearing the temple. I have heard many use this verse as a justification for getting righteously angry at others and excluding them from communities. I wonder what Jesus would think of this reflection on his actions?
The Temple in Jerusalem was a large building with many sections for different purposes. At the heart of the building was a place called the ‘Holy of Holies’, a place where it was believed God dwelled. Around this was a court where only priests could enter. Another area was given for Jewish men to worship and then another separate place where Jewish women could worship. The temple area that Jesus found people selling animals and changing money in was called the Court of the Gentiles and was the place non Jewish people could come and worship God.
The students this week thought a great deal about what it would have been like to try to worship God in a place full of animals, money changers and all the noise that comes with a marketplace. The students thought that it wouldn’t be very easy at all to focus on God in this environment. We thought about Jesus ‘cleaning up’ the temple and why Jesus did this. Jesus wasn’t just angry and aiming to hurt people. He wanted to make sure that all people could have a place where they could meet God and focus on Him. Jesus wanted to remove barriers to people – regardless of age, gender race or religion – worshipping and accessing God.
As we move forward in this season of Lent, a season when we focus on Jesus’ sacrifice for all, may we all think about the barriers Christians can place stopping people meeting God. Do we require people to believe the same things exactly as us? Do we require them to be of a particular economic status? Do they need to wear certain clothes? Say certain things?
As this passage shows us today, Jesus isn’t concerned about who turns up to worship, but that we provide a space for people of all walks of life to worship God.
May God encourage us all to break down the barriers that the world creates between God and his people.