Yesterday was Holy Monday. The traditional read on this day is the Cleansing of the Temple, in which Christ cleans the house of the Lord. He calls it like he sees it:
He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers! (Matthew 12)
I like Marcus Borg‘s read on this happening. He clarifies that it is not so much that Jesus finds the mixing of “business” in the Temple courtyard to be making the life in the Temple impure, but, he says:
Rather, his act was an indictment, a public protest, against what the temple had become. In words that echo Jeremiah 7.11, it had become “a den of robbers,” a robber’s cave, a center of injustice and complacent affirmation of God, as the fuller context of Jeremiah 7.1-11 makes clear. (see below for full text)
So it was in the time of Jesus: the Roman governor ruled Judea through the temple authorities whom he appointed. So long as they collaborated with Roman authority, they remained in office.
That is what had turned the temple into “a den of robbers.” Because of the collaboration of temple authorities with Roman rule, it had become the center of an economically exploitative domination system and thus a center of injustice, as in the time of Jeremiah six centuries earlier. That was not what it was meant to be.
(read the full article at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/marcusborg/2014/04/holy-monday-public-protest-in-the-temple/#ixzz3W0WbuBkf )
Jesus was turning over more than tables… he was trying to reopen access to living spirit to everyone by cleansing the power structures that had insinuated themselves into this holy place.
I also like the simple clarity of his the act–one that surprises us a bit, coming from the one we now call the Prince of Peace–Jesus Christ gets angry because there are activities which clutter up the joint and degrade the house of God, which is to be an intentional space for the sacred activities of human life. We could all use a bit of this holy anger to make room for that which is actually important to us.
Houses–the ones we live in, the ones we work in and the ones we pray in–are meant to serve the life for which they are built. Every house in which people live and move through is bound to get cluttered and choked up with remnants of the past, corpses of yesterday’s intentions. ALL houses need some upkeep and the occasional deep clean. Sometimes it really takes quite a bit of fire to get to it!
It is Holy Week in so many serious ways out there in the world and in our personal lives–but one of the holiest tasks we can start with (ever and again) is ‘cleaning house.’ Organization experts all say the same thing: clear off the flat surfaces in your office and your home. Make space for the real life that wants to unfold there. Sometimes the holiest work is just dealing with whatever is in your way! Every workspace or kitchen table can become an altar, a place of sacramental encounter.
Jeremiah 7 (NASB translation)
Message at the Temple Gate
7 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 2 “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house and proclaim there this word and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the Lord!’” 3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ 5 For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, 7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
8 “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail. 9 Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you have not known, 10 then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—that you may do all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” declares the Lord.