Two thousand years ago Jesus “found in the temple those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves” (Jn 2:14). Reading through the lens and context of today, it is possible to defend those responsible for the merchandise in the temple by claiming that money generated by concessions will be used to fund church activities throughout the year. We rationalise it, because “it is for God,” so it must be all right. Lent warns us to stop doing right things in wrong ways (Jn 2:13-16). The truth is that, the more we fall in love with God, the easier it is to obey Him. The Lord comes to us at Lent to reshape and deliver us from “a marketplace” religion where things other than God have become primary and pride.
The trouble is that when the merchandise, our comfort and pleasure gained more popularity, approval, and practice than the essence and purpose of coming to the temple to worship God in truth and Spirit, it amounts to idolatry. To help and guide us, God provided the Commandments that we might avoid the very things that turn us against God. God gave the Ten Commandments written on two stone tablets to Moses for the people (Exd 20). The people were expected to follow the commandments as signs of showing gratitude to God for rescuing them from slavery in Egypt and also to show peoples desire to live right before God. The Ten Commandments were not given for God’s benefit but for the sake of the people. The Ten Commandments as ten guidelines to happiness suggests that we are the gainers when we obey and we remain the losers when we disobey. The commandments rather than acts of restrictions to our freedom warns us against autonomy from God’s presence. The first commandment warns against the worship of false gods, yet in our bid for autonomy, we have created other gods to suit our pride, ego, self-rule, self-sufficiency, and individualism. Beyond the bondage of keeping the law for the sake of the law, true freedom and not just autonomy is obedient to the law out of love for God and respect for others. Enough of desecrating God’s house in the name of ‘a marketplace’ religion. The commandments and cleansing of the temple are the vital necessity for our way of life as Christians especially in Lent.
Obedience was required to remain in the promised land (Dt 4:1,14). Jesus Christ, his disciples and the leaders in the early Church verify that these Commandments still serve as rules of conduct for New Testament Christians (Matt 22:37-39, Rom 13:9, Gal 5:14). Christians obey all of the Ten Commandments as we express a complete love for God and an unselfish love for others. Obedience to the commandments is far more than just following rules because sincere obedience reveals right desires, motives, attitude, and actions. Lent reminds us that God’s law requires an inner spiritual righteousness expressed by outward acts of moral character and holiness.
The merchandise in the Temple as ‘a marketplace’ continued until Jesus’ unexpected visitation (Jn 2). The reflection is, today, what is the buying and selling ‘a marketplace’ that is going on in our lives, churches and nations? Sadly, the merchandise in the Temple was under the oversight of the corrupt Temple priests. Indeed, the greatest damage to the church today is within, that is, the refusal to repent and acknowledge that we are sinners in need of mercy and repentance. We need Christians to make Christians. The state that Jesus met and saw the Temple 2000 years ago is not so different from the state of the churches today, as a place of prestige and power. Beloved, Jesus Christ ‘comes to each of us to rid the temple of our own body of the idols to which we have foolishly given power and pride of place.’
The lockdown has taught us that worshipping God is not about the physical Temple or just ‘a marketplace.’ God is concern about you and I as His Temple. Lent calls us into a moment of honesty so as to humbly know and acknowledge that there are elements and practises ‘a marketplace’ that need to be cast out in our lives and churches. Beloved, ‘sin is a part of our human condition, and all of us have fallen short of God’s grace in our thoughts, words, and deeds.’ We know that if the Lord were to come into our hearts he would discover secrets and fears that keep us from God and one another.
Lent invites us to welcome Jesus Christ again into our lives. Lent calls us not to fear the darkness in our hearts because we can offer it to the light of Jesus Christ. As mentioned yesterday, the Scriptures reminds us that we are a temple and within this temple there is sin. The Scriptures tells us, not only that Jesus has the power to drive out the evil, He will also make a place to dwell within our hearts. Obedient is better than sacrifice and one man’s obedience makes the many righteous. Let us join Harry D Clarke as we prayerfully sing:
Come into my heart, blessed Jesus,
Come into my heart, I pray;
My soul is so troubled and weary,
Come into my heart today.
Into my heart, into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus;
Come in today,
Come in to stay,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
2 Come into my heart, blessed Jesus,
I need Thee thro’ life’s dreary way;
The burden of sin is so heavy,
Come into my heart to stay. [Refrain]
3 Come into my heart, blessed Jesus,
O cleanse and illumine my soul;
Fill me with Thy wonderful Spirit,
Come in and take full control. [Refrain]