I am doing everything I know how to fully enter Holy week this year. I am tracking Jesus, reading the different Gospel accounts, using my imagination to put myself in the events of the final week of a Man who knows it’s His final week as one.
I keep reading all these posts and articles about Jesus clearing the temple on Holy Monday. They range from reckoning with the force atypical of Jesus’ ministry demeanor (Was He angry? Was He urgent? What was that about?) to standing triumphantly in “cleared” temple courts, thankful that Jesus loved us enough to expel all the profiteers.
I just really saw that going differently.
Those money-changing businesses had likely been there for years. There were sophisticated connections and systems in place that benefit more than each table owner. This random Guy from out of town (and most people in that courtyard were from out of town) enters and with some rant about prayer and thieves, tosses the place. Then He leaves.
At which point, the tables are righted and business resumes as usual—only now they have to redouble their efforts to make up for lost profit.
Sure, after the difficulty of the last few weeks I wan to claim total victory. Temple thieves are smashed! They are never coming back!
It’s tempting to congratulate myself on spending the season “clearing out my temple with Jesus.”
It would be tempting to call this “bare face” a “cleared temple” (instead of another whitewashed tomb).
To take comfort in all my “progress”.
This morning, I finally managed to carry contentedness away from the mirror. I even noticed it as I walked out the door. An hour after I got to work, a co-worker made a comment about my bare face that suggested there was something wrong.
In my head, I went right to: “This is why I wear makeup. So people don’t have to see me like this.”
Don’t I know better yet?
Let’s be honest. There is a big part of me that is just waiting for the Maniac with the homemade whip to leave so I can go back to doing what I do best: vying for my security by profits from my own schemes and efforts;
brokering my own grace with God and others
in the currency of approval.
Clearly, everyone’s still in business. Why shouldn’t they be? They’ve been there for years. I’m tied up in their elaborate exchange rules, unable to find my way to the inner courts of God or people without them. I continue to pay them tribute in habitual ways I can’t even recognize.
Yet, there’s an even bigger part of me that yearns to be free from all that.
That knows these extortionists don’t belong there.
That has hope Someone else is in charge around here.
And then I glimpse it.
I survey the mess after the temple thrashing and I see that some of the booths—the booths where I secure my success and broker my approval—were actually badly damaged. I am going to have to work hard to reinstall them.
And I don’t think I’m going to do that.
No, my temple courts aren’t clear. But this bare-faced season, this temple thrashing, has made its mark. Cords that bound me have been loosed and I think some of them might have even been broken in these short weeks.
Because every ferocious act of righteousness undertaken by Jesus on our behalf makes a permanent mark.
And on Friday, we anticipate a ferocious act of Love.
This ferocious act of Love has already snapped the cords that bind us to our brokers of power, approval, and security. In fact, it gave us a New Temple. One without inner courts and outer courts and taxes and the need to pay our way and earn our rights.
We don’t have to go back. Because of Friday—because of that Maniac display of Love and Ransom—we live in an eternity with no money changers and no need for them.
And we walk through our days on this earth with a God who is so outraged by the idols and enemies that rob us of our joy and closeness to Him, He’ll never leave them alone. The ferocity of that Love and Righteousness means He’ll come back to the courtyard and throw them out again when we ask Him to.
And even when we don’t.