John 2.13-22; CEB: It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple those who were selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as those involved in exchanging currency sitting there. He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out of the temple, including the cattle and the sheep. He scattered the coins and overturned the tables of those who exchanged currency. He said to the dove sellers, “Get these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it is written, Passion for your house consumes me.
Then the Jewish leaders asked him, “By what authority are you doing these things? What miraculous sign will you show us?”
Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up.”
The Jewish leaders replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?” But the temple Jesus was talking about was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered what he had said, and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Jesus and the money changers. When I talk about Jesus being non-violent, inevitably this passage comes up. Someone will say, "But what about the money changers?" as if it's proof that Christ was a violent person. Of course, I don't see this passage that way. I see what Jesus did was disrupt the business for a few moments. (Besides, the passage never states that Jesus actually struck anyone.)
However, that's missing the point. There are a couple of things that stand out to me in this passage. First, the obvious reference to Jesus replacing the Temple. His just being there was to show people that they didn't need a temple! That he was God's new temple. In other words, all that the Temple provided can now be found in Jesus. Think of the impact of that statement. This was spoken to a culture whose entire existence circled around the Temple and what it stood for. It was at the Temple that their life as a nation was unified. It was at the Temple that God's presence was certain to dwell. It was at the Temple that God's forgiveness was given. All of that, and so much more, was now to be found in Jesus. The Temple, then, was only a temporary solution. It was never intended to be the ultimate reality for any one, even the Jewish people.
Jesus said as much when he spoke with the woman at the well. Just a few chapters later, we read:
John 4.19-24; CEB: The woman said, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you and your people say that it is necessary to worship in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you and your people will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You and your people worship what you don’t know; we worship what we know because salvation is from the Jews. But the time is coming—and is here!—when true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father looks for those who worship him this way. God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.”
But, what have we done? We have continued to proclaim that God can only be found in our place of worship. We bicker and fight over which religion is "right" and "proper" and "orthodox." What ways of worship and where to worship and how to worship and on which days to worship have been a big focus of much of our debates. But Jesus said that the time had come - when he walked the earth - that those types of differences would not matter. What would matter would be "worshiping God in spirit and truth." The Synod of Whitby didn't need to happen! The "Great Schism" didn't need to divide our churches. The different ways of following Christ can and should co-exist. The church is supposed to flourish with a multitude of expressions (Ephesians 3.10; Romans 14).
The second point I want to bring out is the idea of "business." Jesus said that the people of his day had made God's house a place of business. Can we say we've done the same thing? How many times do we here references to church and business. How many times do we hear something like, "We need to run this church like a business." Why haven't we learned this lesson? Why have we slipped back into the way things were then? We have modeled our churches after the very model that made Jesus burst with anger! The only account we have of him "losing his cool" was over making God's house a business and somehow we think it's okay to do that now? Why? What changed?
As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows, I believe that we have made following Jesus into something it was never intended to be. Somewhere along the way, we have made following Jesus a religion and not a way of living. People used to meet in each other's homes (Acts 5.42; 16.40; Romans 16.5). If we continued that today, we wouldn't have to worry about salaries or budgets or extra bills or what not. Think about that for a minute. No building funds. No borrowing money from the bank. No need to purchase extra space or land. If we took a collection it would go to people in need within our local community. Or, better yet, instead of taking a collection, we could encourage people to give to local charities or shelters. With smaller, home based fellowships, we could actually learn how to minister to others by learning how to minister to each other. When the home based fellowship got too large, it would break off and continue in someone else's home.
There are a couple of great resources for this type of community. The Teaching of the Twelve by Tony Jones shows how a small group of people in Missouri are living out the way of Jesus described by the Didache, an ancient Christian document that predates some of the letters of the New Testament.
Another book is The Church Comes Home by Robert & Julie Banks. The Church Comes Home is like a guide book for those wanting some helpful tips on how to "do" a home church.
I think there is real need for this type of community. With so many people in our communities today who don't want anything to do with "organized religion," the opportunity is tremendous for just these types of fellowships. There are people who attend traditional churches who are missing the intimate connections that can only be found in small group settings. We are at a place where we can re-image, again, following Jesus as a way of living in small, inclusive, intentional, home fellowships. Where people are encouraged to live out their lives on whatever path they find themselves on.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC