On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those whoIn the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:14-16)
The annual Christmas tradition of people declaring that Christmas is under siege has begun! It is the most wonderful time of the year!
Some would dare say that they are being “persecuted” because of the secularization of Christmas.
I think one of my biggest pet peeves is American Christians claiming they are persecuted. Persecuted!! In the Good Ol’ US of frackin’ A!
There are people being killed for professing Jesus as Lord. But, no, we’re actually being persecuted because we can’t hear a cashier wish us a “Merry Christmas.” (And then a few of us go and put signs on our businesses letting Muslims know that they’re not welcomed).
We are so comfortable and privileged that anything that makes us uncomfortable, we’ll label as persecution.
Then when we really look at the life of Jesus, particularly the events after his birth — like fleeing their country for the safety of their lives — we decry that the church is making a political statement because it ruins the sanitized and romanticized version of Christmas we love and propel.
So I started to think about what made Jesus angry.
You may be surprised to read that most of Jesus’ anger wasn’t directed towards the “sinners” but to the religious leaders.
Jesus’ harshest words and anger were reserved for people like me. For reference, click here.
And of course, there’s the passage I quoted at the beginning of this.
But really, what made Jesus mad?
It was because the Temple system was taking advantage of the poor.
People brought animals to the priest to be sacrificed for atonement.
There were specific requirements and regulations for the animal-to-be-sacrificied.
Some people traveled from afar to come to the Temple. They couldn’t bring their animals on the trek because by the time that animal made it to Jerusalem — it wouldn’t be without blemish anymore.
So the Temple sold their own animals — except at a marked up rate.
Last month, we got the awesome opportunity to go see the Rockets play the Warriors. I’ve always wanted to see the Warriors (as much as I despise them). Curry was out, but I got still got to see KD, Klay, and CP3 (who I never got to see play as a Clipper). Anyway, the tickets were graciously gifted to us about 2 hours before tipoff. We didn’t have time to stop for dinner, so we decided to eat at the game. We shared a corndog, an order of fries, and 2 drinks. I mean — out in the real world, how much is that? 10 bucks? Well, inside the Toyota Center it came out to be 35 bucks (was a good corndog, though). We’re familiar with this practice because we’ve all been to an airport, movie theater, stadium/arena, and/or amusement parks and been subjected to really high food prices.
Same concept for the animals sold within the Temple.
These animals were Temple-certified and guaranteed that it would be pleasing to God. Of course, you could risk it and try bringing your own animal, but there’s a chance that the priest would find something wrong with your animal. So better safe than sorry.
Another layer to this story is that in order to purchase the Temple-Certified animals, you couldn’t use the Empire’s currency. On the coins would be the image of Caesar. You could not have anything that bore another image of gods inside the Temple. So in order to purchase the animals inside the Temple, you’d have to exchange it for “temple currency.” And that’s where they got you too. The exchange rates would favor the Temple rather than the one looking for the exchange.
Jesus focused on the dove table. Why? Because the doves were the only animals that the poor could afford to offer as sacrifice. And here is the House of God oppressing the poor even further. The God who consistently has a heart for the poor; who consistently gave orders for God’s people to look after the orphans, widows, and foreigners — the most vulnerable — and here’s the House of God taking advantage of the most vulnerable.
I think/feel/strongly believe that the humanity of Jesus wouldn’t really be able to relate to the upper-middle-class-white-suburban-Evangelical-Christians.
I think it’s easy to forget that Jesus was poor. That he was homeless for the “Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
I think he’d understand the plight of the migrants more than those who deployed tear-gas because his parents were refugees.
I think we forget that Jesus’ didn’t come with power or in power but came to serve — particularly the poor.
I mean, if you’re going to start a revolution, you’d want to pick the brightest and best people you could find. Jesus picked the uneducated and the outcast. Think about that. If Jesus were to walk among us today (…what if God was one of us…),he wouldn’t choose professional religious folks — he’d choose the people where we’d all (both the conservatives and liberals) look at Jesus and be like “HER?!” And then Jesus would have very choice words of the likes of us.
What made Jesus angry was the people of God not looking after the poor and not only not looking after the poor, but exploiting them and taking advantage of them.
But we, in general, get angry at (in the big picture of things) surface level things.
When I was working at a church that was well into their decline, we were talking about ways to be relevant to the community that surrounded us. Many people were convinced that if we repainted the church building and changed the landscape of the property, that would bring in the young people. Which led to these thoughts.
It’s the idea of changing something without really changing anything.
Not being allowed to pray in schools is something that riles many of us up. But really, being angry at that allows us to defer our call to be the presence of God to the people within the schools. I’m doing my Christian duty by being outraged at this act of persecution of not being allowed to pray in the public schools. So I can check that off on my list…
But why can’t we also be outraged about kids in our public schools (in ‘Merica) who can’t afford lunch? And then instead of just focusing on prayers and thoughts — let’s help these kids (and their parents) encounter the grace and presence of Christ by adopting a school, ensuring that every kid can eat lunch.
Instead of being outraged about retailers not wishing you a Merry Christmas, how about we actually put “Christ” in Christmas by not making Christmas about us and all the presents we buy and remember that it’s Jesus’ birthday? And ask ourselves, what is the best way to celebrate Jesus?
Also, guys, it’s not Starbucks’s or Macy’s’s or Best Buy’s or Costco’s or Apple’s job to make Christmas about Christ. Their business is to separate fools from their money (and they do a number on me, believe me). They’ll do anything (in their legal rights — hopefully) to make sure that they continue the business of taking your money. Stop deferring the responsibility of sharing the message of Christmas to retailers. It’s on us; it’s on you to share what Christmas means.
And if we really want to put Christ back in CHRISTmas:
But I get it. I really do, because it’s easier to be at an uproar over little things and then feel proud that we’re doing Godly work rather than being an agent of change, restoration, and reconciliation. It’s easier to focus on changing things that doesn’t bring about real transformation in us and in our community.
It’s easier to be God than to love God.
It’s easier to control people than to love people.