The Bare Soul
December 18, 2011
John 2:15 - And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables;
Picture a beautiful spring day in Jerusalem in approximately the year 30 A.D. If one would enter the large outer area of the temple, commonly referred to as the Court of the Gentiles, they would undoubtedly see a bustling "marketplace." In probably a smaller area, one would find an assortment of livestock---sheep, lamps, doves---all which were available to purchase for the various sacrifices mandated in the Pentateuch (or the Torah), the first five books of the Old Testament. (For instance, Mary and Joseph probably purchased two young pigeons or turtledoves when their Son Jesus was dedicated in the temple three decades earlier [Luke 2:22]). However, in order to purchase animals from the dealers, money would often need exchanging. Roman currency was no good within the temple walls, but only Hebrew currency such as the shekel or denarius. Animals for sacrifice could not be brought into the temple, but had to be purchased from the dealers. Not only were "temple animals" the only acceptable sacrifices, but as previously mentioned, only Hebrew money was acceptable for treasury tithes or for paying the temple tax. Then, the money collected would need to be turned back into Roman money to support the priests and the temple. Moneychangers would often charge exorbitant rates to exchange Roman to Hebrew currency (and vice versa)---sometimes as much as 300 percent! This covetous monopoly angered many of the Jews, including an itinerant rabbi who would visit the temple on that fateful Passover.
For those of us either raised on a farm or possibly others of us who have frequented county or state fairs, we understand the unintentional consequences of animals habitating in close proximity. The early springtime rains in Jerusalem undoubtedly made a swampy mess as the ill-attended animals awaited slaughter. A common animal bedding material used in ancient Palestine, as well as an absorbent for rain and feces, was the common papyrus rush brought in from the Jordan Valley and from areas in the south. There was probably a layer of papyrus rushes or reeds paving the normally dusty ground to absorb the aforementioned unpleasantries, plus additional surplus for the animals' bedding. When Jesus came into the outer court of the temple that day during the Passover, it was probably an overwhelming sight. Stepping through a sloppy, unsanitary mess where the smells were as bad as the sights, Jesus grieved demonstrably through his subsequent actions. We are told in our lead verse "that He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple ... ." Many scholars believe "cords" in this context consisted of a scourge or a "whip" of rushes twisted together, making an instrument that could ultimately herd both man and beast. With a little imagination, we can picture our Lord slogging through the sewage, overturning tables where the money became part of the filth underfoot. While it's not mentioned that Christ hit man or beast, we can only surmise that His zeal was enough to hurry both four- and two-legged creatures on their way. The very rushes that were intended to give comfort to both the animals and those traversing that area became the tool used to eradicate them from God's holy temple. With holy boldness, Jesus declared: “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.” (John 2:16)
How can we apply this story of Jesus' zeal to our lives today? If we think about the temple as a metaphor for our body, soul, and spirit, we can likewise apply the same understanding that Jesus tried to convey about His Father's house. In general, Herod's Temple consisted of an outer court which was for the Gentiles and women. The inner court, or the sanctuary, was the location where Jewish men worshipped. The innermost area was the Holy of Holies where the priest entered once a year on the Day of Atonement to offer the Passover lamb for the sins of the people. If we consider the outer court (or the temple porch) our body, the sanctuary (or the holy place) our soul, and the Holy of Holies our spirit, this will help us understand Jesus' passion to keep His Father's house free of defilement. Through these metaphors, I believe Jesus was showing us how to fervently protect the "temple of the Lord" within all who know Him. Jesus knew if the outer court (the body) was defiled with filth, then it corrupted all of the temple. Jesus understood in order to keep the heart clean, there must be an act of consecration to purify the entire being. This has everything to do with both salvation and sanctification, beloved. Just as Jesus' zeal was an act of love to protect His Father's house, there may be something lacking in our spiritual lives if there is not a similar repulsion to "the sin that would so easily beset us." (Hebrews 12:1) If we do not come to a place of holy anger over sin within, and if we are not scourging sin from our lives in a zealous way, then we may want to question if indeed we are of the Light.
It really comes down to the following question whether or not we are zealous for our Father's house within: Do we loathe the sin within or have we become complacent and comfortable with our transgressions? If Jesus were to come visit us today, would we be embarrassed to show Him around our "outer court?" Have we sold out to the moneychangers and the profiteers, or have we sold out to God? If we have given our bodies to this world, beloved, we have also given our sanctuary and our "Holy of Holies", our very spirit and soul, to the flesh and the devil. There is only one choice if we are to follow God---that is to burn with zeal for the house of God within us. If we are not scourging sin then we are savoring and salivating over our transgressions. It is time to rise up and overturn every table of sin and falseness in our lives and chase the filth from the temple within. If not, we may be surprised someday regarding whose house we were actually caring for. May we all scourge the sin with cords of zeal, consecrating a holy habitation for the Holy One to abide always.
Heavenly Father, may we drive sin from our lives as Your Son drove sin from Your temple. May we experience Your zeal and passion for holiness, denying worldly gain and embracing Your godliness that only You can give. We praise You for Your goodness and love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Your Barefoot Servant,
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