The Readings for the Day
found at http://www.io.com/~kellywp/CalndrsIndexes/Calendar2011.html
For the full psalm: http://bible.oremus.org/ and search for Psalm 36.
How do You See It?
by Marjorie George
All three Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – have the story of the cleansing of the Temple as occurring on the same day as Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem or on the next day. (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48. John gives the story earlier in his Gospel at 2:13-16.)
So in our Holy Week narrative, we will look at the episode known as the Cleansing of the Temple. Mark has the most complete account (Mark 11:15-19, search for the gospel at http://bible.oremus.org/ ) and tells that on the day following his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and was infuriated by what he saw. God’s house was to have been a “house of prayer for all nations,” but what Jesus saw was “a den of robbers.”
Specifically, Jesus saw pilgrims being taken advantage of. Every Jew had to pay a temple tax, so pilgrims came to the temple from all over, usually having with them the currency of their region. This had to be changed into the acceptable temple shekels, for which the money changes charged an exorbitant fee equivalent to as much as half a day’s wages.
Worshippers also had to make a sacrifice of an unblemished animal, often doves. Doves could be bought cheaply enough at the local market, but temple inspectors were sure to find a blemish; and worshippers were advised to buy only the temple doves, at perhaps 20 times as much as at the local market.
In his anger, Jesus was not condemning temple worship or Jewish laws; but he saw that what had been meant to be God’s sanctuary had turned into a commercial enterprise that, worst of all, took advantage of those who came to worship, often those with the fewest resources. That which God had given for good had become perverted.
In the words of Psalm 36, those who profited from the unjust system had “no fear of God” (vs 1). They flattered themselves with their cleverness, and in their words was “mischief and deceit.” They ceased “to act wisely and do good,” but were “set on a way that is not good” (vss 2-4). Why? Because they began to look at their actions with their own eyes, not with God’s eyes. They convinced themselves that their actions were justified, even sanctioned by God. They distorted the truth for their own benefit.
It’s so easy to justify our own truth. “I see it this way,” we say. But do we see the hurt in the eyes of those we offend but who do not have the authority to say so? Do we see those who turn away because they are not part of “our truth”? Do we see the walls going up between us when we disagree? Do we bother to discern if our truth is, in fact, God’s truth? Or would we just rather have our un-confronted comforts?
Psalm 36 reminds us that God’s love is available for everyone to take refuge under (vs 7). God desires to give us feasts of abundance and drink from the river of his delights (8). He desires for us to “see the light.” And he reminds us that we will only be able to do that when we look through his light (vs 9).
Questions for Reflection:
1. What decisions are you facing just now? Are you able to see the reality of the situation through God’s eyes instead of your own?
2. If you are in a position of authority – at work, in your church, in your family – think about whether you might be taking advantage of those with less power than you. Take a mental inventory.
3. Are you moved to anger when you see God’s gifts being distorted? What might you do about that?
4. Are you being called to confront a situation in yourself in which your truth has taken the place of God’s truth?
Take-with thought: If you want to see the truth, you have to see it through God’s eyes.