Wednesday, January 4, 2012

This is a "No carrying zone!"

"Then they came to Jerusalem.  And (Jesus) 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 moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple."  (Mark 11:15-16)

Today I read something I was sure I'd never read before... which is false, of course, because I've read through this passage from Mark 11 numerous times.  But until today, I'd never really noticed this particular sentence.  It's from the story of Jesus driving out the moneychangers in the temple.

The temple in Jerusalem had a couple of sections to it.  The outer court (aka "The Court of the Gentiles") was used for people to buy and sell animals needed for sacrifices.  It was also a place to exchange money - turning Roman coins (with the head of the Emperor on it) into Jewish coins (without graven images) for offerings.  Both were necessary for worship.  But Jesus took exception with this, and cast them out of the temple.  He cited Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11, chastising the merchants for turning God's "house of prayer" into a "den of robbers."

All of that I'd read before.  What was new to me today was verse 16: "And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple."  That seemed strange.  Was this referring to the vendors and moneychangers?  Meaning, they couldn't set up their wares?  Or was he also prohibiting the worshippers from bringing anything into the temple?  If so, why?  And dos this mean no sacrificial animals were allowed (even if they were brought from home, not "bought" in the temple?)?  What would Jesus' reasoning be here?

It could be that he wants people to focus just on God and none of the other trappings that might get in the way (or take focus away from God).  When the focus is on animals or sacrifices, then it becomes something to "do" to "earn" God's favor (kind of like a bribe to get God to give us something).  Instead, we bring nothing to God that God needs... except ourselves!  Nothing.  God's love, grace, mercy & forgiveness comes as a gift - not the result of bribes.  Maybe people had lost that notion.  So Jesus' restriction on "no carrying" was put into effect.

Or maybe Jesus wanted to restore the outer court to it's original purpose.  It was called the "Court of the Gentiles" precisely because it was the ONE part of the temple that non-Jews could enter.  The other areas were restricted to those 'in the faith.'  But this outer area was open to all.  It was where they could experience God themselves.  So it could be a "house of prayer for ALL THE NATIONS," as Isaiah had prophesied.  Maybe Jesus worried the vendors, moneychangers, and sacrifice-bringing folk were getting in the way of those non-Jews being able to connect with The Holy?  So come with nothing in your hands.  Come just as you are.

As it should be...

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