Holy Week Devotion
We began the week with Jesus being heralded as the king of kings as he rode magnificently into Jerusalem on the back of a colt. Everyone gathered in the streets to welcome and bless him. What a great day for the community!
The next morning, Jesus went to the epicenter of life for the Jews – the temple. What he found was not a tribute to God but rather a perverted understanding of what God intended for his people. It had become a place of business, of tradition, of comfort and of protection.
The temple turned the act of sacrifice into a profitable business. Many people had to travel great distances to get to the temple and they would not bring their sacrificial animals with them. Instead they would sell their animal at home with the plans of purchasing an acceptable sacrifice in Jerusalem. Unfortunately what they encountered were inflated prices and less than adequate animals. Also the temple priest did not accept roman currency and the traveler would have to convert their money into Hebrew coinage. Once again the scales were weighted to short the worshiper instead of aid them.
The temple priest and leaders were more worried about following the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law. They lost sight of the why the law was created in the first place – to help grow a compassionate, welcoming, thriving covenantal people. But the traditions of the law grew into a adjudicatory principle that excluded those without means or capacity to offer sacrifices and purification rights. So the law became a tool to marginalize instead of edify.
The temple and its leaders found safe haven in the temple. They had everything figured out. They were not about to get uncomfortable and change things to help the stranger or welcome the needy. They allowed themselves to hide within their religion and they became insulated from the real need for a savior.
The temple had become a place for many political, religious and social leaders to protect their positions within the culture and society. They enjoyed the benefits of their power, notoriety and station in life. The temple system ensured their continued assurance of prosperity.
Can you imagine how this scene would have pierced the very heart of Jesus? He went to the temple to encounter God’s very own chosen people and what he found was a travesty. I am sure his emotions ranged from shock to disbelief to discouragement to outrage.
So what do you think that Jesus would say about our church if he were to walk in on any given day? Would he encounter a place of compassion, flexibility, openness and honesty? Or, would we too have to face his wrath because we have become too focused on the bottom line, tradition, comfort and protection?
Prayer: May God have mercy on us and help us to focus on Christ and not ourselves. Amen.