"The Passover of the Jews was near," John tells us, "and Jesus went up to Jerusalem." The first passover was celebrated when they were still in Egypt, as they gave thanks for the sparing of their own first sons and for the opportunity finally to escape slavery to the powerful Egypt (Exodus 12:1-20). They were instructed to continue to keep passover as a festival, holy convocation, a time of making offerings to the Lord (Numbers 28:16-25).
In Jesus' time, the Passover offerings were brought to the temple in Jerusalem. How jarring it must have been to have a holy day set aside to be grateful for liberation and to come to an occupied city to express their gratitude. Allen & Williamson, their Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews, write:
Anyone walking to Jerusalem from Bethany or Bethphage, crossing the Mount of Olives and looking at the temple from across the Kidron valley, would have seen the Fortress Antonia, home to the Roman Tenth Legion, standing next to the temple and Roman soldiers posted on the parapets of the fort and on top of the wall surrounding the temple complex. ...The people were in exile in the land of promise.
We still wrestle, or maybe we don't, with the need to recognize our gratitude to God and to give allegiance to the nation that governs our lives.
In the synoptic gospels, Jesus accuses the sellers of turning the house of prayer into a den on robbers, combining references from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. In John's gospel, Jesus tells the ones selling the doves to stop making his Father's house a marketplace. This may be an allusion to Zachariah's prophecy of the final victory, a time when "there shall no longer be traders in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day" (Zechariah 14:1-21).
We may be more comfortable with the ban on robbers than the ban on marketplace. Churches need to collect money for Sunday School material, youth trips, and meals. Some congregations interpret this rule that all commercial transactions must be kept out of the sanctuary but are allowed in hallways and vestibules.
Lectio Divina: Psalm 51:9-13