Once upon a time, Jesus turned over tables. Or maybe twice. He walked into the courtyard of the temple, the place where the women and gentiles could go. There were people making change for travelers, people selling doves to those who would rather not bring them from home. And Jesus knocks over the tables. People scramble to pick up the coins rolling across the paving stones. Doves fly away.
Radical Jesus, taking on the status quo, sticking it to the hierarchy, taking on commercialism. It’s the perfect Jesus for our cynicism. It’s the perfect Jesus for iconoclasts. It’s the perfect Jesus for young people fed up with how other people do church. It’s the perfect Jesus for people who don’t want singers to sell CDs and books from tables in the hallway of the church.
Until he speaks.
“This place is for prayer,” he says. “All nations can pray here.”
It was a reference familiar to those who knew such things. He was quoting Isaiah, who was quoting God. It was a message assuring faithful outcasts they would find a place of worship, prepared by God.
On this day, Jesus is not endorsing violence or calling for insurrection or saying, “attack the hypocrites.” He is clearing space for prayer. After the turmoil was cleared away, people did.
Including a woman Jesus saw the next day. She put two coins in the collection box. The last two coins she had. But her offering, according to Jesus, was enough.
She didn’t need money changers. She couldn’t afford a dove. She didn’t need anything but space to pray.
By his actions in the temple those two days, and then on the cross at the end of the week, Jesus seems committed to more than social anarchy.
He’s creating space for conversation with God.
I’m considering a new series of videos. Here’s the pilot: The Bible for my Friends.