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The Day Jesus Threw God Out of Church

One day, Jesus went into the temple and began throwing people out. Or, is this a story of the day Jesus threw God out of Church?

Check it out for yourself.

In Luke 19:45-46, we read…

The Day Jesus Threw God Out of Church

The Day Jesus Threw God Out of Church

   “Going into the Temple, he began to throw out everyone who had set up shop, selling everything and anything. He said, “It’s written in Scripture, ‘My house is a house of prayer.’ You have turned it into a religious bazaar.”

Jesus would hardly need to throw out anybody out of church today. They’re leaving the church on their own. And, actually, for many of the same reasons.

The Day Jesus Threw God Out of Church

When I was a young minister, the meaning of this text was misunderstood by almost everyone as a Divine prohibition to fundraising of any sort within the church. Bake sales were discouraged. Spaghetti dinners as youth fundraisers, as well as church wide yard sales, were almost universally condemned. A Christian artist who wanted to sell t-shirts and CD’s following their concert was regarded as a clear violation of this Bible story of Jesus overturning the moneychangers tables in the Temple courts.

We took our Bible stories quite literally in those days.
Some still do. Which is why the point of such stories was, and is, almost universally missed.

What was it that so infuriated Jesus that he would react in this violent fashion? I would suggest it was not so different from what would infuriate him today were he to go in almost any church.

Jesus was infuriated over what had become a very corrupt religious system…a system that had placed boundaries around access to God. Some people were actually excluded from having any access to God at all, while others were included but only because they submitted to arbitrary religious rules and practices.

The Day Jesus Threw God Out of Church

Just in case you did not know, the Temple had several chambers within it. There was the innermost chamber, for example, the holiest area, where God’s presence was believed to have resided. It was entered only once a year and then only by the high priest himself.

Then, there was the congregational area where Jewish males gathered. Yes, you have read this correctly. There was an area just for men.

Why?

Most believed God was a male, so men quickly concluded they were obviously the preferred sex. Which could only mean, according to these men, women must be second-class citizens. They did not quite measure up.

Nor do they now. Just ask almost any Cardinal in Rome. Or, Southern Baptist leader in Nashville. Or, some Anglican leaders in Great Britain.

There was another chamber still, one where Gentiles gathered who were unquestionably unqualified to get any closer to God than the outer areas.

The outermost area was that place where the money-changers sold sacrifices to arriving worshippers.

Since most worshippers traveled great distances to Jerusalem, carrying an animal sacrifice on a long, sometimes very hot journey was anything but convenient. Sacrifices, therefore, were sold at the Temple and, depending on what you could afford, a kind of pecking order eventually developed separating those who could afford the more expensive animal sacrifices from those who could not.

You can probably guess which seats the purchase of better and more expensive sacrifices got you and your family.

It’s not so different today, is it?

The notion that God is off-limits to those who do not measure up.

The notion that God is more available, or closer, to those who do.

Almost every church I enter these days declares, for example, “Everyone is welcome here.”

Look around, however, as I do, and you’ll likely want to ask, “Really?”

“Is everyone genuinely welcome here? Or, are there really some underlying, spoken or, more likely, unspoken standards of admission? Boundaries around full access to God?”

“Is God off-limits to some because of their gender? Sex? Orientation? Would a hefty donation put some in a little better standing?”

“Among the clergy in your denomination, does God favor one sex over another? And, in some churches, will participants be made to feel that God actually prefers one political party over another?”

The Day Jesus Threw God Out of Church

What tables would Jesus likely overturn were he to show up in almost any church in America today?

I think almost everyone reading this would fall into two groups, when attempting to answer that question: those so offended by what I’ve implied in my interpretation, they would immediately write this off or, more likely, write me off as a lost liberal.

And then, there’s almost everyone else.

Which includes you…those of you who intuitively know the answer to the questions I raise about the 21st century interpretation of this text. So, it is to you and for you, I write.

If you have ever felt excluded…as if you might never be fully accepted as you are…

If you have ever felt as if you were not quite good enough or, perfect enough…or, deserving enough for entry…

If you are one of the many who has had to leave the Church to find “the one true Church,” — that “temple not made with hands,” (Acts 17:24)…

I have some good news for you…

This is a story, not about Jesus throwing the moneychangers out of the Temple. This is really a story about Jesus liberating God from those who would incarcerate her. Or, him. Or, it, since God is none of the above.

Saint Paul got it right, when he concluded…

    “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

It is to you, I say, this is the day Jesus threw God out of the Church.

“Welcome to delicious!”

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10 Responses to The Day Jesus Threw God Out of Church

  1. Brent Bennett September 12, 2016 at 10:02 AM #

    ” This ” is OBSURD ! My Sanctuary , IS NOT to be used for ANYTHING else, other than WORSHIP ! NOT selling and buying ! That’s WHY, I upset Their tables ! You , Steve , are spreading FALSE interpitation , of what actually happened. JESUS , Son of GOD ! “

  2. Richard Palmer September 12, 2016 at 11:17 AM #

    Most confused, inane interpretation of the so-called “Cleansing of the Temple”. Why surround the basic meaning with so many details that are rather irrelevant to the basic message of rejecting the Jewish exclusivity of God with the obvious message of the universality of God. I learned all this including a complete outline off the Temple precincts and the whole system of animal sacrifice when I was in sixth grade Sunday School.

  3. Larry September 12, 2016 at 3:55 PM #

    What’s “Welcome to delicious!” mean?

    • Dr. Steve McSwain September 13, 2016 at 10:33 AM #

      That’s just the slogan a fast food company uses. I’m just borrowing to make the point. Thanks for asking.

  4. Richard Edmondson September 16, 2016 at 11:22 AM #

    Do you really believe Jewish money lenders are God? Because, metaphors aside, that seems to be in effect what you are saying. I am going to write a response to this. If you want to have a discussion about it, please contact me at the email address provided.

    • Dr. Steve McSwain September 25, 2016 at 1:45 PM #

      Thank you. But it seems you’ve missed the point. Entirely.

  5. Maurice Degarennier September 19, 2016 at 7:32 PM #

    Steve, I entirely agree with your point of view. I live in a quiet part of England and have found the local congregations exactly as you have. My big problem here is I have never felt I belonged to any of them. They are all like little cults on their own. You have to be a “member” to have the right to be called a “Christian”. If you don’t “go”, you don’t “belong”. I sympathise with you over the quite vitriolic comments you have received from others on this subject. But I think you have got to them through your other articles which is probably a good thing. From my point of view the Church cannot exist if it is divided, and how many times has it been divided over the years? In his time Jesus must have felt very much alone speaking out as he did. He had to climb mountains to get away from the clamour in order to commune with the Father. Maurice.

    • Maurice Degarennier September 19, 2016 at 8:06 PM #

      Just to clarify my own position on what kind of being God is. I use the word He because I’m human and that’s what I’ve been taught and I think Jesus called Him that, or Jehovah maybe. I like to think of God as a very powerful Person who is ultimate Good. With respect to your own point of view Steve.

      • Dr. Steve McSwain September 25, 2016 at 1:42 PM #

        Beautiful Maurice. Thank you for your comments.

  6. Dan Snavely October 13, 2016 at 12:47 AM #

    I left you a response, but it is a bit lengthy. Germane though, I suspect. It’s a blogpost of mine: ‘Being Godly Correct in a Politically Correct World.’ Hope you have the time to take a look. Thank you for your thought-provoking point of view.

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