One of my most vivid memories of my trip to India includes our trip to the Temple on the day the public went, their version of Sunday if you will. It was a very popular temple (for the life of me I don’t know which god we were there to observe), thus it was a crowded affair. The temple was high atop a mountain, the entire journey an upward progression.
While you were making your way to the inner courts, it was nothing short of a county fair on the path. Booth after booth lined the way, offering garlands and bouquets of flowers or other trinkets you could purchase and then offer as sacrifice when you took your turn inside. I must add, those selling the offerings brought to mind the county fair feel, just as much as the midway setup.
I understand the roots and how this came about; if traveling from a far, your homegrown offering flowers might get a bit wilty. Or the trinket could break in the rickshaw while en route. So someone thought, I could make these things available at the temple gate, and perhaps even make a buck for the convenience.
India in 2005 wasn’t much different from Jerusalem in 00. When heading to the Passover Feast, if coming from afar, you’d find a level of difficulty in bringing several goats, sheep, ox and doves. So the locals played to the expedience factor and offered Sacrifices on the Go. And perhaps made a buck for the convenience.
But Jesus seemed to take issue with the whole process and showed up with whips, driving out the product and spilling the profits. “Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!” Peterson’s translation says.
I’m sure commentaries take this in numerous directions, and honestly I haven’t read one of them yet. I lack credentials to offer commentary, only speculation. I wonder what Jesus was so upset about?.. several thoughts come to mind::
1. Did convenience make it possible for people to miss the point regarding sacrifice? So few of the worshippers went out to their own flock and chose their best to offer to God. Instead they just made a quick purchase in the courtyard. I wonder if it’s like the old cash vs. credit card argument – that when you see it leave the wallet, it gets to the heart a bit deeper. But modern conveniences allow sacrifice to simply be a purchase, another bill to pay in order to keep the lights on and the Big Guy happy.
2. Was it the profiteering? The fact that people, probably Jewish themselves, made their living by shortchanging others’ experience? Even though it was perhaps initiated with good heart and reason. But prospect of profit likely changes the game for everyone involved.
3. Was it that the focus on stuff took away from the purpose of the gathering? Now it came about having the right stuff as opposed to presenting yourself to your God. Did this sense of cattle-buying play out in how the least-of-these worshipped? Did they simply resist showing up for the festival when they couldn’t buy the right kind of sacrifice? Did the extravagance of some stand in the way of the heart desire of others?
There was more, especially in Jesus’ summary statement about tearing down the temple… pair that with Paul’s comment that we are Temples of the holy spirit… and we have a new sense about sacrifice. But 2 of the 3 children are awake and I need to get them out the door. So I’ll just have to put this on pause for a moment. But before I go: Lenten admission. I bought a t-shirt yesterday. It’s not for me or even my purposes – Husband needed it as a gift for his guest speaker. But I was out and about and it saved a trip (and he’s still hobbling significantly). He offered to get his credit card in order to make the purchase, but I wasn’t sure how that really changed things and didn’t want to be accused of using a stolen card. I don’t feel a lot of guilt in the purchase, but it does go to show difficult to live commerce-free.