In the first of two events covered by these verses, Jesus interrupts His triumphal entry to have a good cry. Gazing out over Jerusalem, he stops to weep over her. The city that failed to recognize Him for who He was will not last. He looks ahead to see its beloved streets and lanes in ruins, the temple collapsed, and its inhabitants destroyed. There in the dust of the road, He grieves over pending horrors that could have been prevented.
Continuing on to the temple, he surveys the scene there; as he does, his grief changes its expression. He’s angry now, and it shows.
Recalling Dan’s talk on anger from earlier this season, I wondered about the connection here between Jesus’ anger and Jesus’ love. Surely his anger is righteous; now what is it that He loves? For starters, He loves the city and its people. The Matthew account of this mourning for Jerusalem includes an expression of tender longing, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…!” He also loves the temple.
But today, His father’s house looks like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange—plus livestock. His anger is kindled, and decisive action is swift to fall. Driving off the animals and turning over the tables of the money changers, He makes himself heard over the din of business as usual. There will be no more deceitful exchanges or untruthful valuations. There will be no more purchase of sacrifices. There will be no more compromised access, no more chaos in courts meant for intimate conversation.
The one who will be scourged until He’s bloody makes a whip of cord and chases out what does not belong. The one who will become the sacrifice freely given for all drives off the over-priced cattle, sheep, and birds. Very shortly, His people will no longer come to him through a house of stone but through His own flesh. His body, which he once referred to as the Temple, will be violently torn down. . . . He has not come to cleanse only the Jerusalem temple but the hearts of men. His dream and plan for us is that we will become temples of the Holy Spirit.
But my temple is crowded. I am obsessed with all manner of things: with errands and cleaning, with work and with earning, with easy outrage and potential improvements… . I bustle and hustle in the service of parenting demands, worries, fears, and with dreams and hopes both relevant and irrelevant to holiness. I too am a marketplace. What would Jesus drive out of me if given the opportunity?
Lent is the time for these kinds of questions.
“When He drew near to the city, He wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace.” Lord, help us, even us, to know what will make for peace, to come to you in response to your love, and to trust you enough to allow your work.
Rob and Ellen celebrate 23 years of marriage this summer. They and their son Corin enjoy pastry counters immensely.