Before there was New Testament (as a composite of apostolic letters), early believers were encouraged to watch how their leaders lived and imitate their faith (Heb 13:7). For example, Paul urged the believers at Corinth to “imitate” him (1 Corin 4:16). Throughout history believers have been challenged to reflect in the way they live what it means to be a child of God. What I have been doing in these blogs on Jesus is to watch how he acted in various life situations and suggest how that should work out in our 21st century world. I knew that before long I would arrive at that dramatic moment when Jesus entered the temple and saw how religious leaders had turned it into a commercial enterprise. It is one of the very few episodes that occur in all four gospels.
What met the eyes of Jesus when he went into the Court of the Gentiles was appalling; animals were being sold for sacrifice, money was being exchanged, God’s “house of prayer” had been turned into a “hideout for thieves.” So Jesus took some pieces of cord, twisted them into a whip and began to drive the animals out of the Court. He turned the tables of the money changes upside down scattering coins in every direction. “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market place!” he demanded. One thing we must accept and that is that he did it in a “Christ like” manner. I know, that is a strange picture, but Jesus was the Christ whose life we are called upon to imitate. I ask, how does this work out today? What are the “temples” we are to cleanse, the demands we are to make, the zeal for righteousness that stirs us to action?
The first thing to find out is what exactly was it was that he was opposing. It is clear that the religious leaders were profaning the house of God and using it as a source of revenue. They were secularizing the sacred. Do we see something like that going on today? At the risk of alienating some I would suggest that the “worship service” of many a contemporary church is for all purposes a secular musical concert employing Christian words. I see little difference between the musical score of the service and what was happening the night before at a local rock concert. Both are highly emotive, designed to create a certain sensation, and anything but worshipful in the traditional sense. Worship is an awareness of the presence of Almighty God, perfect in love, righteousness and power. I do not find this in what passes as sacred music today. We are all familiar with the role of music in supporting the scene in a movie. Light and happy music says one thing, a slow sensuous beat, something else. Each plays its distinct role. But the God I know, if he needs a musical setting, is great beyond words, infinitely pure and righteous, kind beyond description. How should he be represented musically?
Back to my point about application. When I enter the “temple” of church music do I take a whip and drive out the musicians, upset the communion table and demand that the organist play Bach only? Would that be Christ like? Why not? I am going to leave the answer open to you, yet suggest that it should not remain open for good. And should we agree on an answer to that “temple activity that may need cleansing,” what can be said about the host of other related areas