Marcus Ackerman served on Camp Fowler staff as a wilderness guide and currently works as a teacher in Minto, Alaska.
This scene in Jesus’ life breaks from all previous narratives describing comfortable living with his family. Jesus is beginning his ministry and this is the first defining moment where we realize who Jesus is fighting for. “In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves” (v. 14). This practice seems benign—doing a business that is needed for worship. Travelers cannot carry a baby lamb hundreds of miles to sacrifice. Coins must be traded in to comply with worship customs. One certainly does not have access to doves on a regular basis, thus creating a demand. Unfortunately, the demand comes largely from the foreigners and the strangers to the religion—those who travel to reach Jerusalem, the outsiders. Jesus sees this and reacts violently, in a way that most Christians would say could be inappropriate. But I believe this is a defining moment in his journey toward the mission of Christ and the church. At this moment we see that the Jesus’ mission is for the heart of the people. Jesus is fighting for those who do not have the authority (v. 18) to fight for themselves.
The disciples who witness this have a very interesting analysis of the events. Being disciples, they have memorized the entire Torah and more, so an interesting line is brought forth from those scriptures to describe the event: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” When first read, it is puzzling; why is this verse, of all verses, brought forth? But when you look at the word “Zeal” (קִנְאָה)(qin·ʾā(h), it is the same word that is used for jealousy, envy, or a feeling of ill will based on a desire for an exclusive relationship. It is the anger or envy of a woman or man who has been cheated on. Jesus has so much passion and anger toward the mistreatment and neglect of the outsider that he is willing to endure the low status (חֶרְפָּה)(ḥěr·pā(h) or scorn (Psalm 69:7-10) in order to create a space in the temple for a relationship with the people he came to save.
Our lives are not that much different. Having recently entered the workforce, I realize now more than ever before that there are demands and—dare I say—predators of our time. Lent is about preparation, as Jesus began his ministry by preparing a space for worship with such “zeal” that he was willing to endure taunts, dishonor, and disgrace that such a passionate pursuit of the spiritual world will bring. Let us this Lenten season occupy that same zeal, no matter what the scorn. Let us pursue the heavenly world with such passion that the earthly world cannot understand it. Let us refocus our ministry from the politics of the church, cultural disputes, and social debates. Let us pursue the undeniable call that Jesus began at the temple. We are called to the heart of those who cannot enter the church, those who have not entered the church, the burdened, and the travelers. This begins with the cleansing of our lives with passion for the eternal life.
So, this Lenten season, think about what you value, who you are striving to please, who is in your heart. Is it the people Jesus has so much passion for? Create a space in your life for these people. A time to serve, a few dollars for a cup of coffee, or maybe just getting to know your church’s neighborhood.
Prayer: Jesus, I long to feel the passion that you had at the temple. The passion that knows no obstacle that can keep me from you. I want to experience the zeal you had for your people. I know many will not understand, so please give me perseverance. I long to be with you Lord, so please help me while I am here doing your work. Please open up an opportunity to serve by __________________________, so I may have another chance to know your heart even more. Amen.