No one took notice of the young man as he walked through the crowds and slowly up the steps to the outer courts of the Temple. It was the Feast of Passover and the city was fast making preparations. He was just another face in the crowd.
The days when the sacrifices must be completed were fast approaching and the city was already filling up with visitors who had come for the annual feast to make sacrifice for sins. The Temple was awash with a cacophony of noise and aromas and if not aromas; smells. In anticipation of the coming celebration, the vendors and money changers had already begun to set up their tables and stalls in the outer courts of the temple. There was money to be made.
In days gone by, travelers would have been able to purchase these animals and exchange their money in a place outside the temple courts. At one time the animal merchants set up their stalls across the Kidron Valley on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, but over the course of time they gradually moved closer and closer to the temple. Now, they were in the temple courts, doubtless in the Court of the Gentiles (the outermost court). For some reason, the animals have now been brought into the temple courts. It is certainly more “convenient.” People can purchase their sacrificial animals right at the temple, and they can also exchange their money.
During one of the holiest celebrations of the year, the most holy place in Israel had been transformed into a bazaar complete with the braying of cattle and bleating of sheep and the incessant voices of the hawkers selling doves and exchanging currency. The place of prayer has become a place of profit taking. It smells more like a barnyard than a place to enjoy God’s presence. With thousands upon thousands of pilgrims flowing into the city for Passover, the Temple was filled with men preparing for the yearly sacrifices, purchasing animals at exorbitant prices and exchanging for local currency at highly inflated interest rates. The temple smelled like a barn and looked like a circus.
No one noticed as the young man stopped and slowly turned in the middle of the Court of the Gentiles. They were too consumed by their money-making to take note of the color rising up his neck and into his face, or of his eyes like smoldering dark coals emitting a withering gaze as he scanned the room.
No one paid any attention as he reached under a nearby table, quietly gathering discarded baling cords that he methodically began braiding into a single cord. They didn’t see as he finished the braid with a heavy knot at the end, nor did they take note that he began to slowly wind one end of the makeshift whip around his calloused fist.
He stood in the middle of the room for several minutes as he drank in the sights and sounds while men hawked and yelled, bargained and bartered, offers and counter-offers; deals were made, animals sold, coins clinked, the merchandizing was in full fervor. The air was filled with the smell of cow dung and bird poop mixed with the aromas of kebabs of vegetables and lamb roasting. Cows braying, sheep bleating, birds squawking, men yelling, coins jingling mixed with the sounds of guffaws of laughter when suddenly, rising above it all, a single anguished voice, “Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhh!!!!!
The sound of a man in great pain pierced the confusion, and in the middle of it all stood a man with a braided whip hanging limply from his clenched fist.
Eyes bulging, veins popping, spittle flying from his lips; his face beet red in anger, tears flowing down his face as he beheld the coarse blasphemy taking place scant yards from the holiest place in the earth, almost within reach of the Mercy Seat, he screamed, “My Father’s House!”
“My FATHER’S HOUSE!!!!!”
His voice cracked under the stress of his fury as he launched daggers of accusation toward priest and vendor alike, “My Father’s House shall be called a house of prayer, but you……………,” raising his finger and one by one pointing at cattle merchant and money changer; priest and pharisee, “You have turned it into a den of thieves!”
The whole place fell into shocked silence. It was like someone had hit the “mute” button. There was a stunned pause while everyone sought to interpret what was happening. And then…………… he exploded.
Grabbing the corner of a money changer’s table he tossed it into the air like kindling, sending coins flying into irretrievable directions. The makeshift whip zinged through the air, again and again – stinging the backs of fleeing merchants, stampeding cattle, and sending sheep in all directions. The flutter of wings filled the court as he smashed cages and set the pigeons and doves free as shocked priests retreated into inner courts.
Finally, the place is empty as everyone has fled the scene. Jesus stands alone in the middle of the outer court, the carnage left by his anger; overturned tables, broken stalls and smashed cages are all that remain. Hot, angry tears roll down his cheeks and his breath comes in short, agonized snubs as he regains his composure.
Softly, he manages a croaked whisper, “My Father’s House.”
This Jesus is the Jesus I serve. I am not sure where the image of Jesus came from whereby He is most commonly presented; this feminized, soft spoken pacifist, fresh from his set and curl and pedicure, who pats everybody on the head and tells them how good they are. I don’t know where he came from, but I have no room in my heart for him. The Jesus I serve has a zeal for the house(hold) of God that devours Him. (Psalm 68:17) He had compassion for sinners but no tolerance for religious hypocrites. He was patient with weak men, but gave no quarter to phony priests. The Jesus I serve extended His hand to harlots and brawlers, but held only contempt for those filled with their own righteousness.
I truly suspect that if Jesus showed up at many of the celebrations and festivals of the 21st century church there would be a lot of overthrown chairs, broken glass, and busted up pulpits. This is the Jesus I serve.