Wanderings for March 15, 2009
When does knowledge make a difference? When it prevents us from unjustly judging and condemning others because we do not understand their culture, tradition or ways.
Today’s Scripture is an example of that. Jesus goes into the Temple and raises Holy Heck, using a hand-made whip, chasing out animals, overturning tables, dumping out money and saying “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” I used to read this, saying to myself “Yeah, yeah, go Jesus go!”
Without knowing nothing’ ‘bout nothing’, I assumed that people had turned the Temple into their own personal farmer’s market, their own little Meijer’s in the middle of the sanctuary. Of course Jesus got mad- I’d be mad too. But that’s not what was going on.
The story takes place during Passover. Men over the age of 20 were required to travel to the Temple, some coming from very far away. In order to participate in worship one needed to pay the Temple Tax and bring an animal for burnt offerings (see Leviticus 1,3).
Well, the Greek and Roman coins featured graven images and referred to their emperors as Gods, so that money could not be used to pay the Temple Tax: the coins had to be changed into acceptable coinage, therefore the need for money changers (who would charge a fee for their services). And the animals had to be spotless, with no blemish. Ever travel a far distance with an animal in a car? Now imagine having to travel 15 miles or more, on foot or donkey with an animal without blemish. How well do you think that would work? So, there needed to be people selling blemish free animals for those who traveled far and wanted to participate in worship.
The merchants used to do their business on the Mount of Olives, but over time they moved into the Temple area known as the Court of the Gentiles. Can you see how money changers and animal sellers were necessary, and not a farmer’s market or Meijer’s?
Does this change your notion of what the merchants were doing? Does it help you understand the purpose they served? But does it also muddy up our understanding of why Jesus went on a whip-frenzy, tossing and turning and chasing out? If these things were necessary, why did Jesus respond the way he did?
Is there a piece of the story we’re not being told? Were the merchants actions correct but their motives wrong? Were people confusing pious piety for true spirituality all to make a profit. Was Jesus upset that the Gentiles were getting the goats-end of the deal? What do you think, and how does this affect you view of the money-changers and animal sellers?
Have a blessed weekend, and God bless,