The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After 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
We also get this story during Holy Week, but in John’s Gospel, it comes right near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Maybe we need to hear it now, too, because Lent is a time of house-cleaning.
Did Jesus cleanse the temple as a measured act of protest, or in a sudden raging passion? I like both ideas. Jesus certainly was one to choose his words and actions carefully. But if there was one thing that made Jesus really, really mad, it was people using religion to mistreat and oppress others. That’s one thing that makes me really mad, too.
When confronted about his actions in the temple, Jesus does a quick-change on them. He starts talking about the temple that is more important than the glorious building: the temple of his own body. Later, Paul would write that each of our bodies is a temple. Each of us, as a sovereign human being, is more important than any building we could ever erect to God, because God can’t possibly be kept in a box. The best way to love and respect God is to love and respect each other.
Who are the robbers in my temple? How does Jesus drive them out?
Here’s Prince with “Thieves in the Temple.” I had never heard this long version before. I admit that I find most of the eight minutes a bit tiresome, but there are some gems in here. What is Prince’s message about the body as a temple? What role is he playing in the story?