The cleansing of the Temple narrative tells of Christ expelling the merchants and the money changers from the Temple courtyard, and occurs in all four canonical gospels of the New Testament.
In this passage Jesus quotes Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Psalms. As a result, the traditional interpretation of the cleansing of the temple is it happened in order to fulfill Jewish prophecy.
However, there is much more of significance here than simply fulfillment of prophecy. By this action, the Christ is saying to us that no special, consecrated sacrificial offerings are needed for us to be united with God.
The painting shows a variety of sacrificial worship items (doves, coins,etc.), the broken parts of the money changers’ tables, and the whip that was used to drive out the merchants involved in their pagan trade.
The teaching of Jesus in this instance is important to us today because many of us have been led to believe that special sacred objects, emblems, good luck medallions, instruments of worship, and even gestures, etc. have special powers that will enable us to draw closer to God.
However, Jesus is warning us that we should shun all these materialistic objects and present ourselves simply, just as we are.
I don't have a problem with art or decorations that serve as symbols, study and worship aids, and reminders of Jesus and our creator God. That is not the issue. We are talking about objects which in themselves are regarded as sacred. Objects are not sacred; people are.
Jesus's warning can also include forms of ritualism and legalism where the performing of prescribed rituals and/or obedience to laws are thought to bring us closer to God.
Indeed, Jesus taught that using these things is missing the point. In fact, they can actually rob people of a clear vision of the way to God. I believe that Jesus is clear in his teaching that God is in us, and we are in God. It is each one of us who is sacred -- not inanimate objects, rituals, or laws.
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Copyright, James Bennett 2021