Psalms: 45 & 47, 48
OT: Deut. 9:4-12
NT: Heb. 3:1-11
Gospel: John 2:13-22
One of my favorite authors is Eugene Peterson. He’s a pastor’s pastor. This man translated the Message while he was pastoring a local church. He has written extensively on what it means to be a pastor and what it means to be the church. One of my favorite quotes of his is this,
The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.
— Eugene Peterson (@PetersonDaily) February 16, 2017
The church has by and large lost its way. It has become a place of commerce. Many of our church buildings look like malls. We work hard to figure out how to provide services for our consumers, I mean, congregants. The sad reality is that we are no different from those who have come before us. The Reformation came about, in part, because the Church was selling indulgences to help people get into heaven. But, even before that, the people of God mixed up their worship with commerce.
Jesus dealt with this problem and dealt with it fiercely. Check out this story,
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:13-22, ESV)
The courts outside of the main Temple building had become a market. The desire of these merchants was probably good. What they were selling were animals for sacrifice. This was very convenient for those making pilgrimage to the Temple for Passover. However, this area was supposed to be for worship. Non-Jews (and women) couldn’t enter the Temple proper for worship so these outer courts were for women and Gentiles to come and worship. How could they with the stench of animals and the din of the marketplace all around them?
The Father’s house was to be a place of worship. The people had turned it into an opportunity to turn a profit. They had forgotten what they were to be doing there and that the Temple was to be set apart.
As I think about this passage I keep thinking about Paul and his letter to the Corinthians where he said, “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2, ESV)” I have to wonder, have we lost this? Have we become so bought in to our culture of capitalism that we have forgotten what it is that is of utmost importance?
Too many of us think of ourselves as marketers and sales people. While we wouldn’t say that out loud, our actions betray our reality.
If Jesus showed up today would he have to “fashion a whip of cords”? I think he just might. We have forgotten the reality that power comes through weakness, authority through service, and life through death. We have forgotten that our calling as pastors is about making disciples of all nations as opposed to growing “our” church.