“That’s not what I expected. I’ve been listening to others who have heard Him teach, and their stories of His divine wisdom and hints of rising power have excited me – even ignited hope to my weary soul…worn down with eking out a living under the heavy hand of Roman captors. Yes, I feel like a captive, even though I am not a slave, yet. What a miserable thought – that I might have to sell my body to have some means of caring for my family, paying tithes and purchasing sacrifices, and giving to those who are even more needy and poorer than I. Oh, God, when will You save us? Those were my thoughts that Passover when I brought the few coins that I had saved to purchase an offering and pay the temple tax in the house of God.
As I walked inside the temple, a commotion began at the east corner, a place to avoid when purchasing an offering, though the other vendors are not much better. Dishonest and unjust Ben-Hadad charges exorbitant prices for exchanging Roman denarii for shekels, and his cohorts squeeze every last coin for their pitiful excuses of a sacrificial animal, even selling doves with broken wings and blemished, scrawny sheep.
All of a sudden an explosion of wooden tables crashed all around me and a whirlwind spinning with coins and curses seemed to suck out all the air in the room. Men groped on the floor or pressed against the wall in confusion and desperation. Then His voice, clear and with authority commanded, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ This must be Jesus!” (Adapted from John’s account of the cleansing of the temple, John 2)
Today some see the temple cleansing story as instruction to churches not to sell pastors’ books, study guides, bible covers, CDs of the weekly sermons, etc. What came to my mind, however, was Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own…” This Scripture is instructing Christians not to use the body for immorality, wickedness, and various sexual sins. We are told we are without excuse because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to convict us (let alone plenty of fellow believers and non-believers to condemn us). Yet, I wonder if the age-old practice of self-flagellation is just a misguided response to this conviction. I don’t doubt that many of us feel a sound whipping is in order to cleanse our conscience! How long, though, does it take to forgive oneself and more importantly, what does it take for God’s forgiveness to sink in? I know how wretched a sister or brother in Christ feels to be caught up in sin. Christ still is consumed by zeal for His Father’s house – consumed by His desire to see us cleansed by His blood. But wait! Didn’t Jesus Christ already accomplish that? Are we truly forgiven or do we need to perform some ritual, penance, or sacrifice to cover sin?
I don’t think that is what the Apostle Paul was saying. Rather, what we need is to receive the ongoing regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, working out our salvation day to day in the presence of Almighty God.
Thank You, Jesus, that You are still consumed with zeal for my body, mind, soul, and spirit. Keep me aware of the places within me that need Your cleansing. Cleanse me by Your Holy fire and the washing of Your word. Have Your way with me. Thank You, thank You. Thank You, God for Your mercy!