Who Do You Say I Am?
For Jesus, the entry to Jerusalem served as the prelude to a week with a full itinerary. As Jesus visited this city that He deeply loved, His path inevitably led to the temple. Answering the question of Jesus’ identity… who do you say that I am… requires that we see His visit to the temple as more than a casual worshiper. He was the Lord of the house.
For Jesus, coming to the Temple was coming home. It was a place of precious childhood memories. It was there that He came and confounded the rabbis with His knowledge at age 12. Even as a child, Jesus was comfortable in the temple. He was not anxious to leave, even when His parents did! His trips back to Jerusalem were few and limited by distance of travel.
But now, He was home. The temple. But His expectations of devotees filling the corridors and the courtyard of the house of God were soon dashed by a crowd of people more reminiscent of Disney World on spring break than devout worshipers seeking God in prayer and offerings.
There was buying and selling of merchandise. Religious merchandise, mind you. Doves and goats and trinkets for sale to enhance the worshipers’ approach to God in His house. Money changers designed to turn your pagan coin into acceptable temple currency… for a reasonable price, of course. These tables and displays littered the outer courts of the temple, where women and Gentiles could come to worship. They wouldn’t complain about the inconvenience… and who would listen if they did?
The words of the prophet Isaiah perhaps welled up inside of Jesus… “who has required of you this trampling of my courts…” as He took in the sight. And then, grabbing a whip used to drive animals, Jesus went in… swinging. He turned over the tables of those who defiled the outer temple corridors and sent doves, coins, and goats fleeing. Merchants scrambled to the floor to recover their lost money while others scattered to recapture their fleeing animals. Chaos ensued.
The disciples were the first to notice the visible change in Jesus’ face. They had seen it before. Once in a dispute with religious police over healing on the Sabbath. Another time as He stood at Lazarus’ graveside toe-to-toe with death. A storm cloud covered His normally peaceful and even docile expression. Now His eyes were no longer kind. Fury is more descriptive. His face was terrifying to behold… His words authoritative but angry and punctuated with the whistle of the whip as it fell again and again. Anger does not describe this moment. Rage is more like it.
And the disciples stood cowering, wide-eyed and afraid at what this would bring. Over and over Jesus shouted, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den for thieves!!” If rage described Jesus’ actions and words in that moment, there was terror on the face of those who were the target of this rampage.
But confusion reigned still on the face of the disciples. Who is this man they follow? What is He walking them towards?
And just what does He mean, “My house??”
“It is written,” He said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.” Matthew 21:13
FOR REFLECTION: If Jesus came to your church today, what would his reaction be?