March 7th ~ 3rd Week of Lent

What Angers Jesus?

Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple. —John 2:15

Whoever said that anger is a sin? It certainly isn’t in this passage when Jesus shows his infuriation at the businessmen, the bankers, the religious leaders, and the traders who turned religious devotion into a money-mak­ing proposition. In Jesus’ day, Jewish laws required Jews to offer animal sacrifices as atonement for their sins—the bigger the sin, the bigger the offering, from pigeons and turtledoves to sheep, goats, and cattle. Jews also had to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and dedication (as Mary and Joseph offered two turtledoves after Jesus’ birth), or offerings to mark their cleans­ing after illnesses or blood loss. It quickly added up to a heavy burden for poor people.

For families who didn’t own the required animal(s) called for by the law, they had to buy them at the Temple, most likely at an inflated price because once there, they had no other recourse. Most peasants did business with Roman coins, but they needed Jewish coins to pay a Temple tax, which is why moneychangers were on hand too. Of course, the visitors probably lost money in that exchange as well. Given Jesus’ lifelong demands for econom­ic, social, and racial justice, is it any wonder that he is furious about this profiteering, especially within a religious context?

Such religious exploitation may seem primitive to us, but sadly it still plays out in our churches today. Isn’t it true that those who have the money get their names inscribed on the stained glass windows, the building bricks, or the pews, or the ones with professional power more often get seats at the decision-making tables?

FOR REFLECTION: What might anger Jesus within our church laws and structures today?