Demonstrative

We are happy to share Rev. Christine Johnson's reflections on John 2:13-22 from the 3rd Sunday in Lent. Rev. Johnson is the pastor of Fry's Valley Moravian Church in New Philadelphia, Ohio.

Jesus Clears the Temple Courts

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

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If Jesus came to your congregation's next spaghetti or chicken pie supper, would he bring a whip? If he noticed that table in the narthex loaded with crocheted dish scrubbers/cookbooks/fairly traded organic coffee for sale, would he raise his voice?

It depends. The day Jesus lost his temper at the temple, it wasn't as much about commerce as it was about intention. As crowds of faith practitioners poured into the facility to fulfill religious obligations, the pilgrims all but had to stop at the stalls to purchase necessary supplies: animals for sacrifice and appropriate coins for taxes. It only made sense that merchants had found ways to profit by providing convenient solutions for traveling worshipers. It was a win-win arrangement, wasn't it?

The trouble was that the system had developed into a meaningless exchange of cash for hallowed experience. In effect, merchants in the courtyard were setting the admission price for an encounter with God in God's house. Jesus' demonstrative showdown that day signaled a change would be coming. Soon it would become clear that no one would ever need to buy their way into a building that housed God, because God was not contained in any building. Jesus himself would be taking the place of the temple, so to speak. God's presence would be freely accessible through him.

So...would Jesus be bothered by church fundraising? That depends on whether the efforts help or hinder a person's relationship with God. Is fundraising a disguise for weak stewardship, or does it allow for vibrant ministry? Is the busywork of fundraising a distraction from developing a bond with Jesus, or is it authentic service in the Savior's name? Intentional or unintentional consequences- which ones are showing?