Have you ever gotten really angry? Not just peeved but just down right angry. Some of us cry when something gets under our skin because we are just so frustrated. Other people resort to swearing. We all have seen that child in the grocery store throwing a tantrum because the child is not getting the cereal of choice. Anger is not a fun emotion. My students in Kenya believed very firmly that if a person dies angry, they couldn’t go to heaven. A patient man was near the top of their values. A generous person would be the only possible rival. Generosity and patience were deeply admired. Expressions of anger were never acceptable.
Yesterday Jesus approached Jerusalem to the waving of Palm Branches and shouts of “Hosanna”. The crowds were hanging on his every action and every word, just waiting for a confrontation with the Roman powers that oppressed them. Interestingly, today our text shares that he enters Jerusalem and it is not the Romans with all their cruelty that Jesus attacks but the overt abuse of spiritual power seen in the practice of the Temple system. Jesus entered the Temple courts and drove out those selling items. The Temple courts were like the third ring out in the temple and where the “ordinary people” gathered. “My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers”, he bellowed. I’m guessing that was a sight!
How do we understand that scene? It is hard to put it together with the tender Jesus welcoming the little children that we love to paint pictures of. Was Jesus out of control? I don’t think so. Could it be that Jesus is upset about price gouging and taking advantage of poor people or is it something more? I suspect that as Jesus is approaching crucifixion, he is making a major statement about how religion works. We do not buy our way into heaven through sacrifices or even good works. The sacrifices were not to make an angry God like us to a means of allowing us a way to clean our conscience so we can stop hiding from God. He will deal with sin. The purpose of the Temple is for prayer, a place where we center ourselves spiritually and can cry out for mercy or sing out in praise. It is a place to focus our relationship on God, not focus on business. Jesus went beyond sermons and parables. Jesus was angry and “drove out those who were selling.” God gets angry when we abuse the freedom of faith or abuse the faith of others. God is a real being with real feelings and abuse enrages him. We like to think of a loving God we can cuddle with but this week, Jesus is going to do battle with sin. Serious. God wants relationship, not appeasing gifts…with you! Let’s ponder that today.