I have this image in my head I can’t quite shake: Jesus as action hero. Besides Legos, my sons had two other favorite toys: Transformers and Masters of the Universe. I could never keep up with the names and their special super hero powers, but they certainly provided hours of imaginative play. That’s the image I have of Jesus, a blend of Masters of the Universe and Transformers, when he walked into the temple in Jerusalem.
Jesus wasted no time when he arrived in Jerusalem for what was to be his final week. His first stop was to the temple. The temple was the center of Hebrew life in Jerusalem. I imagine it being the original mega-church vying to have a say in all things community and specialty “ministries” for whatever will bring people in the doors. Because Jerusalem was under Roman occupation, there was a complicated, cozy relationship between the religious leaders and the politicians. Hmm. Seems that not much has changed in 21 centuries.
Purchasing animals for sacrifice was part of temple commerce. However, Roman and Greek money needed to be changed into money acceptable for temple purchases. What Jesus saw, however, were the rich and powerful taking advantage and exploiting the poor. It demonstrated a forgetfulness of the proper purpose of the temple. Meek and mild Jesus became Rambo Jesus on a “cleaning” spree of the religious and economic practices in the temple. I think it’s fair to say he was a wee bit agitated by what he saw going on in a place designed to be a house of prayer:
[Jesus] 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 21:13).
Jesus may have been angry, but underneath the anger was sadness. I’m thinking Jesus must have been incredibly sad to see what temple life had become. Instead places of sanctuary and worship, the temple had become a place of exploitation and business. Those who had nowhere else to go now had nowhere. Those who came to pray and worship were turned away because they didn’t move in certain economic circles. Those called to lead and watch out for those in the margins were wheeling and dealing with political powers in order to maintain their status and keep their doors open. If the religious weren’t going to advocate or care for the poor, the sick, the orphaned, the widow, who was?
Everyone needs an advocate. Nothing gives greater hope than knowing someone else understands and cares about what you’re going through. Those who are beaten down from being down-sized out of a job, struggling to make ends meet, finding a safe neighborhood for their children, and a whole slew of other life realities especially need to know they are not alone. Sometimes a caring human is the closest someone may feel to a caring God.
Jesus understood this. We aren’t masters of our own universe, but we can be transformers. The question I’m asking myself to day is: How can I be transformed in order to become an agent of transformation for someone else?