AND THE VACATION ENDS
The thing with family vacations is they come to an end. They have a closing date. You have to check out and check back in to the real world. You have to say good-bye to family members at airports. You have to go to the monitor and check the status of your flight. Sometimes, sometimes you see that your flight is delayed. Sometimes you check your connecting flight and see that you will not make that flight. Sometimes you have to scramble around and try to fly standby just so you can get home. Sometimes there is no way around it but you are going to get stranded because there are no other available flights that will get you to your final destination. And then sometimes, just every once in a while, all the hotels are booked up and you have to sleep on the hard floor of an airport knowing thousands of millions of soles of shoes from all over the world have tread upon this same industrial carpet you are now trying to make your bed. Sometimes you try to walk through an airport and your feet are so swollen you swear you have just turned into an elephant because you have been traveling for 24 hours straight and you are at the age where you are retaining water. Then sometimes, you finally arrive at your home airport and your assigned baggage claim just keeps circling without any sign of your luggage because you have had to change up your travel itinerary so many times. I’m just saying! The thing with family vacations is they come to a close and real life interrupts the good times.
Guess what! Jesus says, “Know exactly how you’re feeling weary traveler!”
“After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at table exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for you house will consume me.” John 2:12-17
All good things must come to an end; family vacations must close out. Spiritual retreats and times of refreshment with God wind down and you have to come down from the mountaintop. A man named Moses once came down a mountaintop where he had spent forty days experiencing the Presence of God, and what he saw at the foot of the mountain sickened him. His people whom he had led to know the liberating freedom of God had now forsaken God and had given themselves over to their carnal desires. Now Jesus is led to end his retreat with his new friends and students. He leaves Capernaum. He closes out his time of getting acquainted. Real life is calling. The Jewish Passover was approaching. He leaves Capernaum and heads to Jerusalem to fulfill the requirements of the Law that Moses had once received on the mountain. He heads to the great city of Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah, the city that held the magnificent temple and place of worship for all of Judea. He climbs the temple steps and what He sees sickens Him also. His Father’s House had been turned into a den of thieves. People were out to make a profit. They pursued the almighty dollar. He looks around. No one is praying. No one is worshipping. There wasn’t any room. The moneychangers and the profiteers filled every inch of the temple trying to exploit the poor and rich alike. Instead of worshippers on their knees seeking His Father in heaven, Jesus saw booths upon booths of traders trying to gauge every cent from the people who had come to the temple to offer their sacrifices. For many of them, their pilgrimage had been long. They couldn’t afford to bring the required sacrifice from their homeland. The poor animal wouldn’t have survived the trek. It was customary to buy the sacrificial lamb or dove outside the temple enclosures, but what Jesus saw was more than just commerce. It was price gauging at its ultimate. It was exploitation of the poor. This was not just luggage lost because of airline travel. This was His Father’s House turned into a viper’s nest. To say Jesus “lost it” would not be a fair assumption on our part. I have “lost it” on multiple occasions due to the stress of travel. Most of the time my stress level is self-afflicted. This scene we read about in John 2 is not Jesus “loosing it”. Jesus was sickened because True Worshippers were being denied access to worship. His fervor of love for His Father’s House ate Him up. He was consumed with jealousy for the Honor of God’s House and for the Honor of His Father who is in heaven. God’s House was to be a House of Prayer and not a house of commerce and the pursuit of illegal profit. God’s House was to be a sanctuary for all who sought the Lord in truth. What Jesus saw as He entered the temple enclosure was a marketplace and sales shop. It was a place to sell merchandise at a top dollar. So with the ferocity of a jealous lover, he drove out the thieves and robbers. To those who sold the doves Jesus yelled, “Take these things out of here!” The doves were bought by those who couldn’t afford a lamb. This was the exploitation of the poor and Jesus would have none of it. He threw over the tables; coins and gold flew everywhere. He knew the moment he saw the weighted scales, these money changers were dishonest in their exchange. Jesus tossed their tables, trays and weights and turned them upside down. From Jesus’ perception it was heinous what was happening to this place of worship. He could no longer harness His Zeal, so he chased the deceivers from His Father’s House with a whip of cords. Like Indiana Jones, Jesus cracked His whip and drove out evil.
Most of us have experienced the miserable mishaps of flight delays and airport stays. There have been times if you could just crack a whip it might freak other travelers out but it sure would release the pressure points of your annoyance over airline travel and weather delays. But that is not what we see in this scene. Jesus was getting to know his new friends and they were getting to know him. Jesus was showing them what is important to Him, and making His Father’s House a House of Prayer and Worship was utmost to Him. Can you imagine what they must have looked like as they watched their mild mannered Rabbi bursting out with this explosive righteous anger and jealousy? They had to have just stood by with mouths agape, but somewhere in the far recesses of their memory they recall a Psalm that was once taught to them.
“For zeal for you house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.” Psalm 69:9
Jesus had come from His Father. He loved His Father above all. And He was jealous for His Father’s reputation. Now He would show His new followers this aspect of His character. Zeal for His Father’s House and its purity consumed Him and drove Him to act.
What does Jesus find as he looks down on us when we go in to worship at His Father’s House? Sometimes does He see my mind wandering to Sunday lunch and what restaurant we should go to? Does He see the worries of my life mounting up in my thoughts and driving me from worship and prayer? Jesus offers us sanctuary. He wants us to come and worship Our Father who art in heaven. He wants us to leave all our business practices outside the temple and come bow down and give all to prayer and worship. Remember His Zeal for His Father’s House consumes Him.