During the weeks before Easter, Christians observe a time of reflection called Lent.
Lent is a time when we think about our relationship with God. It gives us some time to ask ourselves, “What are the barriers that are preventing me from having a relationship with God?”
These barriers can range from not caring for our mental health, to putting our career before our family, friends, and God, to putting our personal well being ahead of our neighbours’. The season of Lent invites us into a time of reflection so we can think about what is going on in our lives and reconcile ourselves with the people we’ve wronged, with ourselves, and with God.
Around this week in Lent, Anglicans read the story of Jesus clearing the money lenders, cattle, and animals used for sacrifices from the Temple. (Jn. 2:13-22) Never before, or after, this event do we hear about Jesus acting this way. We often think about Jesus as a calming figure who gently teaches his disciples and heals people. We don’t think of him as a rage-filled person or a madman running around the Temple in a frenzy, herding animals with a make-shift whip, yelling at confused business people and temple authorities, “Take these things out of here!” (Jn. 2:16)
Why was Jesus unhappy?
The Temple was an important place for the people in Jerusalem. It was a place to worship their God. But, the society around the Temple had changed. The Roman Empire controlled Jerusalem! The priests kept the temple running, but they believed they were now living in an unholy land. As a result, they made a few changes: locals needed to exchange their Roman dollars with Temple currency.
They then could use temple currency to buy incense and animals for offerings. While these changes worked for the Temple priests, it prevented people experiencing poverty from worshipping God. The temple was no longer a place of liberation. It symbolized Israelites’ enslavement by the Romans. For Jesus, the Son of God who heals and resurrects and liberates, this is intolerable! In a frenzy, Jesus attempted to bring the system to an end.
Afterwards, the priests asked Jesus, “What gives you authority do this?”
Jesus responds with a riddle: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (Jn. 2:19-20) Jesus is talking about his body. Jesus’ death and resurrection gives meaning to his actions: moved by love for all Creation, God seeks to remove all barriers that prevent us from having a relationship with God.
In the Temple, we see God’s love at work in the world. It appears as a nonsensical frenzy that will not top until we are freed from the barriers that prevent us from knowing God’s love. Through Jesus, God comes into our world, broken by pain, fractured by suffering and despair, to bring us healing, joy, and love.