Monday of Holy Week: when everything inside is overturned.

Each day this week, Holy Week, we’ll follow Jesus with a meditation by KariJesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; He returned on Monday to cleanse the temple.

Monday’s Reading: Matthew 21:12-22, Mark 11:12-19, Luke 19:45-46, Luke 21:37-38

Jesus entered the temple.

Matthew 21:12

Jesus arrived in Jerusalem and entered the temple. It is not a sweet and peaceful scene. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus is not “nice.” He’s ferociously loving. He’s viciously jealous. And in this scene He’s enraged, overturning tables and chairs, driving out the peddlers, refusing to let anyone carry anything through the temple. Why? Because, as He said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers.” God intended the temple to be a place where man and God commune. Where they interact. Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 56:7 where the prophet speaks for God and says,

“I will … make [my people] joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Do remember Leviticus 6 and the altar always burning? The temple was the physical place where that always-burning altar would be kept. This “house of prayer” would house their burnt offerings and sacrifices, would house all that was laid upon the altar. The purpose of the temple was to provide a place to offer the continual sacrifices and interact with God.

Our bodies now provide this place.

Since the once-and-for-all sacrifice was paid by Christ we now live the continual sacrifice, the living sacrifice. And what exactly are we to give to God as our living sacrifice? Romans 12:1 says,

“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Your body is the holy temple and the holy sacrifice. A sacred space to worship and commune with God.

But instead of worshiping and communing with God, Jesus found that people had defiled the holy temple seeking selfish gain. What was meant for worship was marred by mercenaries. Jesus says they made it a “den of robbers.” What’s that all about? He’s referring to Jeremiah 7, where the prophet speaks sharply for God:

 “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’–only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?”

Do you see why Christ was indignant? Here He had a sacred temple, called by His name, where His heart and eyes would always be, and the people were filling it with filth.

So Christ came and cleansed.

This is what happens when Christ comes on the scene in our lives, and why we so often battle with our bodies. They were created to be the holy temple of God, the sacred space to commune with Him, but we still struggle with the sinful flesh, the money-changer in us which clutters our body with filth. But gratefully, Christ comes in and cleanses. Sometimes it feels like He’s overturning tables and chairs, driving out sinful habits and destructive patterns. Many of us have faced some battle with our bodies and left feeling beaten and bruised. Allowing God to cleanse our bodies isn’t easy business, but as He continually consecrates them we will experience, in ever-increasing measure, the glory of His presence filling our lives.

The next time you feel like everything inside is overturned, perhaps ask Christ if He’s doing some cleansing? He wants to be sure His glorious temple is clean.

[Excerpt from Kari’s forthcoming book Sacred Mundane]