Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, ‘Is it not written,
“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”? But you have made it a den of robbers.’
And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
It seems amazing sometimes how differently people can react to what is going on around them. They read and hear and see things in opposite ways. Of course, it all depends on where you are standing and what your life experiences have been like. Do you see life from a place of comfort and privilege or one of vulnerability and pain? Last year’s Black Lives Matter protests challenged us all to look again at where we are coming from and the attitudes and assumptions ingrained within us.
Jesus’s dramatic protest action in the temple raises just such a variety of reactions among those involved. For the sellers and money changers his actions must have caused outrage. For those exploited by the Temple systems, it must have raised a cheer. For the religious leaders it caused fear – and fear is perhaps one of the most potentially destructive emotions around. Fear can lead people to do inhuman things – to remove what they fear, rather than to ask themselves why they are afraid. The leaders felt threatened and their response was to plot to destroy the troublemaker.
The ordinary people – the whole crowd – were ‘spellbound.’ It’s perhaps not the most literal of translations (with its overtones of magic) but suitable all the same (with its sense of childlike wonder). What holds you spellbound? Is it even possible in our tired and cynical times? – In his history of the world, the great novelist and atheist H J Wells described Jesus as ‘like some terrible moral huntsman digging humankind out of the snug burrows in which they had lived’ and humanity as dazzled by ‘the white blaze of the kingdom’ Jesus proclaimed. Are we spellbound, dazzled, brought to our knees by this Jesus who speaks even now, pointing to a better way?
Lord Jesus we are dazzled by your light, exposing the wrong in our world and our hearts, stirring up hope and renewing vision, a vision of justice and inclusion for all. Help us to stand with you in your love-filled struggle for the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
The Rev’d Terry Hinks, Minister of Trinity, High Wycombe and Cores End URC