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Cleansing the Temple, Matthew 21:12-17

 The second Law of Thermodynamics states that an isolated system left to itself will naturally increase in disorder unless acted upon by an outside force. Basically, left to itself, the world around us tends to increase in chaos naturally. I think that is probably a lesson we have all seen play out in real time over this past year. My friends Hezekiah and Jervon have a saying they like to use when they hear about some event or behavior that stirs up disappointment regarding the direction the world seems to be heading in. It goes like this: Everyday we stray further and further from the light of God, and it’s disgusting. I am not sure that is exactly what Jesus said during this demonstration, but I don’t think it is terribly far off from the reality. 

This natural drift toward disorder is pretty much what we see happening to the religious life of the Jews in this passage. Over the course of time, the religious leaders of Israel allowed the sacrificial system (which was designed to point humans toward the Lord) to become a big business. As Jesus says in verse 13, this was not supposed to be the focal point in His place of worship. Instead, it was supposed to be a place of unhindered worship for all peoples (Isa. 56:6-7). Unfortunately, as humans do, it seems that the people of Jesus’ day have lost sight of the point. As a result, the people have become more like “robbers” in their day-to-day life than worshippers. It is clear that the people have lost their focus on the Lord in their lives, as a place of worship clearly became a commercial center.

Make no mistake, it is no coincidence that the first place Jesus goes after entering Jerusalem in King-like fashion is the center of worship and religious life for Israel. Some people use this passage to justify righteous anger and violence, but I would submit that we are better served by focusing on how Jesus enters Jerusalem as a king who has come to bring peace and restoration. Immediately after Jesus drove out the money changers, the blind and the lame came to Him for healing. It is worth noting that in Leviticus, we are told that these same people were not allowed to make sacrifices to God (21:17). Here we have a sign that Jesus is greater than what was; that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rather than violence and upheaval, Jesus breaks into the world to bring healing and peace. What better response to a King like this is there other than worship? 

In reading this passage, it is easy to think about the multitude of ways our world needs real healing and peace, but what about our own hearts? Don’t get me wrong we should always consider the practical ways we are called to be a part of making peace in this world. However, if you are anything like me, it is always easier to look out and than it is to look within. That being said, where in your own heart do you need Jesus to break in and heal? Are there places He is already breaking into, but you find yourself resisting? May we all respond to His bringing of peace and healing with worship and praise. Amen. 

Isaiah Thomas, Pastoral Intern


  1. I love this. As He did at creation, Jesus moves towards chaos and brings order from it. I had not thought about His clearing the temple in that way before, nor had I noticed that theme immediately continuing as the blind and lame come to Jesus *at the Temple* to be healed. So so beautiful. Thank you, Isaiah!


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