Today’s Gospel story is often called ‘Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple’.
In other versions, he says the money changers were a “den of thieves”.
He yells, upsets the tables, runs off the animals, and dumps out the money on the floor.
In all that we know about him, it’s maybe the most angry we’ve ever seen Jesus.

So we need to know what’s going on here and understand what got him so ticked off.

First - what is going on was a pretty normal and typical activity at Passover time.
In Jerusalem, where the Temple was, the people were called to come and sacrifice.
So each year Jews (and even some Gentiles) made pilgrimage to the holy city.
And there they made animal sacrifices to purify themselves from sins against God.

That was was what their religion said because God had commanded it in the bible.
Early Old Testament passages tell of God asking for animal sacrifices for sins.
The idea was that when people sacrificed (gave up) something of value, this showed their willingness to be sorry for what they had done before God.
The spilling of blood signified life/death and so the animal’s life lost substituted their’s.

If this concept bothers us, we have to remember (in our sterile modern world where animals are pets), that, in those days, animals were valued property and their death was an every day thing to witness.

Later on, many of the prophets criticized the sacrificial system practice saying that it had mostly become an empty ritual and that what God really wanted was a contrite heart and a change of ways.
Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah and even a some Psalms said so.
But like many things the prophets said, the people and their leaders didn’t listen.

Still, Jesus never really seemed outspokenly critical of the animal sacrifice system.
Eventually, his followers saw his death as the once and for all ultimate sacrifice.
That, in connecting with him, that sacrificial death grants us the forgiveness of sins.
But, right here, the animal sacrifices do not appear to be much of an issue with him.

What does seem to bother him a great deal is the commerce part of what’s occurring.
Not that commerce itself is bad, but two aspects of it here were in Jesus’ eyes.
One was how vendors were selling animals to be used for the sacrifices in the Temple.
Cattle and goats and sheep and doves and so on were all on sale for the pilgrims.
But what often happened was price gouging of the travelers who had no other option.

The other type of commerce was money changers exchanging currency for people.
People from other places exchanged their local coins for those used in the Temple.
It’s like if we take a trip to Europe, then we’d have to change US currency for theirs.
But what these money changers often did was charge a high fee in order to do this.

So both practices likely had Jesus upset because it exploited the vulnerable people who had traveled so far to get to this sacred place and get right with God.

But the other thing that bothered Jesus was where this was being done.
The area right outside the Temple’s sacred inner sanctum became like a flea market.
Even if Jesus was OK with the sacrifice practice and with commerce in general…..
this was all being done within the sacred space that was reserved for things of God.

So two big problems here for Jesus -
Anger at the injustice and exploitation of helpless people seeking to be right with God.
But an even greater anger at the flagrant disregard of sacredness regarding God.
Jesus, rightfully, said that the Temple area was a sacred place reserved for God.

This idea of sacred time or space reserved for God is still true for us today.
Sunday has always been reserved as a special sacred day for Christians.
Churches have been recognized as sacred spaces reserved for the things of God.
There are even places and things within the church deemed to be reserved and sacred.

But the larger question for us then is;…Do we reserve sacred places in our life for God?
One clear example is Sunday mornings when we come to worship.
Do we focus our minds or drift to other distractions or look at our smart phones?

And what about during the week or when we can’t make it to church?
Do we reserve a time to read scripture or a devotional or just to talk to God?
A time (and a place) where we remove all other distractions to pray to God in Jesus.
Or set aside a sacred space in our week to serve God volunteering in the community?

Anything that distracts attention and reverence we are suppose to have for God compromises our attention to and our love for God.
In other words, when God has to share space and time, He usually gets the short shrift.

A few weeks ago I got a ticket for talking on my cell phone.
Regardless of the circumstances, the truth is I was guilty as charged.
But the law is such to encourage people to devote their attention to just driving.
Not talking or texting on cell phones, not putting on make up, or other things.
It’s the same with the time and attention that we give to God.

The merchants and money changers in the Temple area were doing the rituals and practices that were part of the requirements of their religion.
But the interest in commerce compromised their devotion, reverence and love of God.
Instead of having a reserved and sacred place, God had to share it with other things

God never gives us half his love or devotion or divides his attention to us.
And, through Jesus, we know that nothing matters more to God than you.
When it comes to his love and forgiveness and attention to our needs,…..He will never give us short shrift or compromise devotion to us with other things.
Let’s do the same for God.