Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Clearing the Temple

As I started to think about how Bible stories might change if they were written today (as in the case of Abel killing Cain), I was struck also by the scene of Jesus clearing the Temple in the Gospels. If you'll remember, Jesus goes into the Temple and finds a bunch of merchants there selling sacrifices and other Temple goods, and He goes wholly holy on them and starts turning over tables and throwing them out. 

I don't think most of us believe any more in a Jesus who would do such a thing. Our Jesus has become, for lack of a better word, "too nice."

And our theology has become too weak.

See, most Christians today believe that if Jesus had gone into the Temple and found something He didn't like, He should have just left and gone and found another Temple. (An impossibility, we must add, since in the time of Jesus, there was only one Temple. He was, after all, a Jew.) Maybe He should have started a House Temple. Maybe He could have written an open letter or had a nice sit-down with some of the elders, you know, in private. There are a lot of other options for handling what He didn't like, we say. He didn't have to start turning over tables.

And, we'd add, there might be some very good reasons why sacrifices ought to be sold in the Temple. Maybe someone lost their entire crop and needed some firstfruits to bring to God. Maybe all of their sheep wandered off. Maybe their lambs were killed by wolves. Maybe their wine had burst out of its wineskins or their grains had gone moldy on the journey to the Temple. Maybe it just wasn't convenient for them to carry a sacrifice such a long way, so it was better that they just bring some money and buy something at the Temple. 

There are all kinds of reasons why having merchants in the Temple is convenient. And Jesus doesn't really want us to have an inconvenient faith. So we re-write the Gospels and declare that our Jesus wouldn't do such a thing. 

But the problem remains: He did.

We can sit around all day and claim that He wouldn't, but the fact remains that He did. And that's the trouble that our theology gets us into. We have so re-written the story of God, the story of Jesus, that it doesn't look much like the Story He's given us any more. We simply edit out or wash over scenes that don't seem to fit with the way that we think our God would act, but we neglect to address the fact that our God did act that way. And does. 

And He has to. I don't want a Jesus who doesn't clear the Temple. I don't want a Jesus who just walks away. I want a Jesus who sticks around. I want a Jesus so concerned with holiness that He's willing to cause a bit of a ruckus.

I don't want a Jesus who thinks that faith should be convenient; I want a Jesus - I need a Jesus - who dies on a most inconvenient Cross. 

I think the Gospels would look a lot different if we wrote them today, based on our common conception of Jesus, but I think we would be missing so much. So very much. We might miss even the Christ Himself if we're not careful. 

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