15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:
” ‘My house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”
18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
19 When evening came, they went out of the city.
This is one of those passages that we have read many times, but sometimes don’t truly understand. What makes it even more confusing for many of us is that it seems so out of character for Jesus, the one we usually see as a shepherd, a friend, and a savior. What is Jesus getting so upset about here?
Just as a general principle, when we come into contact with passages like this, that leave us scratching our heads, mystified as to what God wants us to learn, it is usually helpful to take a look at the context in detail. Part of our confusion may be a consequence of us not so much our lack of insight, but not really understanding the cultural or chronological context in which the passage was written.
Most of us know very little about the temple and the rules for worship that were enforced there, but in that time period, worship within the temple was reserved for the Jews alone. Gentiles were not allowed to worship there. People with disabilites were not allowed to worship there. This may seem harsh, but as we discussed previously, Jesus had not yet torn that curtain, and given the full picture of salvation for all humanity – but very soon he would. So at that moment, these marginalized people were forced to worship outside the temple…the same area where the moneychangers had set up their shop. Imagine that as you try to draw close to God, people are shouting out prices for doves and animals, exchanging money and leading goats by leashes. It would be very difficult, if not possible.
And this provides us with the context that we need to understand Jesus’ response properly. He was so upset because he loves the marginalized and forgotten, and his heart is always passionately for their defense – so should ours. His salvation is for all people, even for those who we typically set outside the gates of our houses and hearts, and loves them deeply – so should we. He is passionate about worship, knowing that the experience of drawing close to God is unmatched by any others, and defends the importance and holiness of worship – so should we.
This relates back to the last few devotionals on boldness, where we saw that Godly boldness is humble boldness – here we see that the best kind of passion we can possess is a compassionate passion for others and their needs.
1. What can you say you are truly passionate about? Are these things usually focused on others, or yourself?
2. Is there something that you are passionate about that may be displeasing to God?
3. If you are passionate for others, what is it about that topic or those people that make you passionate for them?