There is this really cute story in the Bible where Jesus freaks out in the temple, throwing over tables and cracking whips like Indiana Jones. He walks into the temple with the disciples and sees people exchanging money and selling sacrificial animals to the people who come to the temple to get their sins cleansed. You see, before Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice for all eternity’s sins, people would sacrifice pure innocent animals to have God forgive their sins. I don’t think God liked this system very much, so He sent Jesus. Anyways, Jesus walks into the temple and people are selling these animals to the people who had been traveling for long periods of time and to those who didn’t have animals to sacrifice. Other people were exchanging money, because inside the temple there was a special temple currency and since these people had traveled from all over the surrounding areas with all kinds of currency, the moneychangers charged a crazy exchange rate on the temple cash. Jesus walked in; saw this going on and (excuse my language) flipped shit. In one of those “Jesus really was human” moments, Jesus Christ, you know the Son of God, starting flipping over tables and yelling and screaming.
Why did this offend Jesus so much?
Part of the problem is the people doing the selling and exchanging, but I think Jesus really had a problem with the people using the system as well.
You see the problem the users of the system had are the same problems we have today, thousands of years later. They wanted the quick fix, the easy loophole, and the quick and painless method of redemption. They wanted to walk in the temple carrying nothing to show, and have their sins forgiven. Why would you raise a pure animal for a year, feeding it and picking up its crap, only to have it killed? Why wonder if your animal was pure enough for sacrifice when you have certified pure animals for sale inside the temple? In our case, why live a Kingdom life when you could just go to church and have them punch that card for you? Why would we get our hands dirty and our minds blown when we could just go with the current of life? We may not be buying animals in the temple, but we are all looking for the easy way out, or the easy way “in”, right?
I really think that if Jesus walked into my soul, He would flip shit just as He did in the temple. If He walked into my heart, He would find ATMs and band-aides over wounds that were never healed. He would flip over tables of memorized verses and maps to an easy life with Jesus. He’d walk right up to me, look me in the eyes, and curse me.
Luckily I don’t let Jesus in my soul too often.
But maybe my soul needs a good disruption.
The way I like to clean my room or house is to actually start from a mess. A good deep clean and rearrange starts with complete chaos. Everything needs to be out and visible so you can know where to properly put it, and nothing can be over looked. Same with my soul, things need to be out there in the open, and tables need to be flipped over to the ground and only then can the things begin to be put in the right place. I’m sure Jesus was really upset and angry in the temple that day, seeing as it was His father’s house that all this was going down in, but I think Jesus was so upset because He knew of a better way. This better way was the better way He had come to die for. This better way was the better way He spent years teaching about all up and down and around Jerusalem. This better way was the better way that He was living and breathing, and this better way had nothing to do with animals and money in the temple and everything to do with redemption found outside the temple.
Books about the easy way to live, sermons about wishy-washy Jesus, and formulas on how if you do 2+3 God will give you 5 are all items to be thrown on the ground along with the tables.
Before I sound too bitter here, I must confess…
I am one of those kinds of people I guess, one of those people who want to find the widest road possible into heaven. One of those people who would love to cash in on Jesus in the waning moments of my half-lived life and act like I lived the entire time. I have given God the 2’s and 3’s and watched Him give me the 5’s but I can see in His eyes that there is something more, some sort of different kind of math that reaches out in poetry and stories. I want to live that life where I am exhausted all the time, irritable most of the time, and fully redeemed and redemptive at the same time. I know what this life feels like and looks like because Jesus has shown me, and I have even lived it in brief spurts throughout these 24 years.
Redemption called for a sacrifice, and while God could have continued the sacrifice of animals for a few more years, He decided His son’s death would be a little bit more redemptive. Instead of people cashing in on redemption just steps away from the point of sacrifice, Jesus’ death would change that. But now, people are cashing in on redemption just steps away from the point of sacrifice, and pretty soon I think God is going to send His ticked off Son to let us know how He feels. We can continue traveling on wide roads filled with bright lights and billboards of products to make life easier, or we can spend it running through the forest with our survival instincts and grace keeping one foot in front of the other. When we get cut on the wide roads we take our exit to the nearest super store to get band-aides and ointments, but in the forest, when we cut ourselves, we can only find healing from something/where/One else. On the wide road when trouble comes we will take our exits to shrinks and psychologists to tell us what’s wrong with us and how to cope, but in the forest, nights are spent lonely and confusing and the voices inside our brain only remind us of the comfort of having a label to put on our longing for intimacy with Christ. On the wide road the road leads to a dead end that we think is the destination but is actually just a dead end, miles away from where we should be. The forest trails lead us to what we think is nowhere, but we have actually been walking across God’s shoulders, sliding down His robe, climbing the canyons of His eyes and the mountain of His nose, swimming in His tears, and finding our way magically into His heart.
Oh, and getting lost in His beard, because I like to imagine god having a pretty wicked beard.
And all the while, when we thought we were chasing rumors and whispers and fairy tales of a god, we were actually living and journeying with God. We were breathing in the oxygen He has already breathed and it gives us the energy to continue, while back on the wide road the air is too smoggy to survive.
While planning a vacation recently I discovered that I could find out everything I need to from the device I am sitting in front of as I type this. I bought my plane tickets, made living arrangements, can rent a car, and find out all of the hotspots to visit while I am there, all in one sitting. I can even see pictures and videos of the places I want to see, thus taking some of the magic away once I actually see them. I have this sheet of paper of the things I want to do while I am there, and I lost the other day because I realized that I want to be surprised when I get there. I want the city to take me in and reveal herself to me, because like dating the first few dates are always the most fun because when you know zero percent of someone you have no choice but to learn. So while on vacation I will have days of not knowing where to go or what to see, but I will see what I need to see and do what I need to do. If I plan out too much I might miss what the city has planned for me.
The wide road is like a travel agent or vacation itinerary, its nice to have a plan and all, but let the trails in the woods lead you to places off the map instead. Go stub your toe on the root of a tree, go sliding down a trench, let the adventure of a difficult journey lead you to a place where God has no choice but to say, “Well done, you crazy and faithful adventurer.”