And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 

Mark 11: 15

This passage is not about the bake sale in the lobby of a church that helps to fund a missional trip to Mexico, Africa, or to other foreign lands such as coastal cities in California or Oregon. Yet, perhaps it does apply to those modern-day events that take place in many churches, too. The temple was to be a place where people who believed in God could come together to worship and to grow closer to the Lord. It was also to be a gathering place for seekers to draw nearer to God and to be influenced by and taught out of God’s Word. With the temple’s rigid class separations this last purpose was being severely hindered by these acts of commerce, for the Court of the Gentiles was both the place where the buyers and sellers congregated but it was also the only part of the temple where seekers and even where converted gentiles were allowed to join in worship of God.

All of this trade related activity had effectively subverted the purpose of the temple and the mission of the priests. A place, an in-gathering of people, and service to the Lord were all redirected into serving the desires of people over God’s wishes and desires. So, Jesus was troubles in His heart and saddened over how far from the Father’s wishes and intent that His people had strayed. In His sadness, frustration, and anger Jesus took action that was intended to change the situation and to dramatically demonstrate the seriousness of the offense against God that had been committed. The things that Jesus did were not small in their impact or in their scope. He was disrupting a very lucrative commercial system, and He was also calling upon both the operators of these businesses and the officials of the temple to change these firmly entrenched ways of conducting the operations of the temple. All of this would involve big changes in their plans and in their practices, and we all know that change, especially big change in institutions like the church, is never easy to implement or to accomplish.

For most of us, when we read or hear this account of what Jesus did that day in the temple in Jerusalem, we form a Sunday school image of a scene from the distant past; so, this event is set far back in time and far away in place. Yet, the point of this story is not the first century temple or even the nature and the character of the Jewish temple officials then; rather, it is all about the way that people in all times and dwelling everywhere engage in our gathered in worship of God. Jesus cares about our focus and our intent, and He is saddened when God gets lost in the business of doing church so that prayer is made subordinate, singing praises becomes an obligatory time filler, and engaging with the Spirit led study of God’s Word is set aside for the sake of appeasing the clock. Additionally, Jesus is truly angered when what we do and the attitudes that we portray hinder people who are seeking to find God and desiring to get to know Him in the context of the love and care of His body are hindered from that quest in much the same manner as were the Gentiles in Jesus’ day. No, the bake sale is not the same as the example of the pigeon sales that so infuriated Jesus; unless, its purpose and intent are something other than worship and praise for the Lord who provides all, loves, everyone, and sustains all hope.      

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