The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Eternal God, give us insight
to discern your will for us,
to give up what harms us,
and to seek the perfection we are promised
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
The temple was arranged as a series of courts inside one another. The innermost court was the holy of holies where only the high priest on duty was permitted to go. Outside that one was the court of the priests which speaks for itself. Beyond that one was the court of Israel, where Jewish men could go and beyond that one was the court of women. These were not times of equality! Surrounding them all was the largest court – the court of the gentiles. Yes, we were invited, even if it was to the outermost court.
Unfortunately, it was in that outermost court that the animals for sacrifice were sold and the moneychangers were at work. It was a place of noise and chaos. A market for trade and profit. Not a place for worship. This is the situation that Jesus confronted. Jesus began his ministry in Galilea, He widened it to the whole of Israel, and during his ministry he became more and more open to the wider world. This reminds me of the words of Simeon that we read at Candlemas – ‘A light to lighten the Gentiles’, indeed the theme of a welcome for the whole world is found throughout the Old Testament. That is why the court of the gentiles existed in the first place.
It is the casual exclusion of those that God has invited that Jesus responded to.
We must never think that our churches are reserved for people ‘like us’. That we know who are suitable, who are appropriate. We welcome all because Jesus welcomes all and God forgives all. He even forgives us!