The Passion of Christ
The Passion of Christ
“And He said to them, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a robber’s den.”
The word “passion” has multiple meanings. Often, it is used as a designation of the suffering Christ experienced during his trial and crucifixion. This final period of Christ’s life is called “the passion of Christ.” This use of “passion” comes from the Latin ‘patior’, which means “to suffer, bear, endure.” But there is another definition for the word. Passion can also refer to intense desires, zeal, or rage. To have a passion for something is to have a fierce zeal. It is the opposite of indifference and complacency. This zeal was on full display when Christ entered the Temple area.
As Christ entered the temple, he was confronted with the sight of money changers plying their trade in the court of the Gentiles, which was the place in the temple grounds where Gentiles could worship. According to Jewish regulations, any offering presented to the temple had to be converted into proper shekel. Because many worshippers came from all over the Roman world, they would bring different coinage to the temple to either contribute to the temple or convert the money to buy a sacrificial animal to offer in their worship. In itself, this was not the problem. There was a need for their services. The people who came from far distances could not bring the animals necessary for the sacrifice. Furthermore, the poor, who could not afford a sheep, would need to buy a dove for their offering.
The issue was not the existence of the money changers; instead, the problem was the location where they were performing their task. Not only were they turning the temple into a place of business, but they were making it impossible for the Gentiles to worship God properly. If they came to worship God and pray, they could only do so in the middle of a busy bazaar.
Furthermore, the noise from the animals and people would also disrupt the worship in the rest of the temple. In addition, they were dishonest in trading and taking advantage of the need for people to obtain sacrificial animals. The traders were more concerned about getting a profit than providing a place and means for people to worship.
When Jesus sees the misuse and disregard for worship, he becomes angry and begins to turn over the tables and cast the people out. For Christ, the passion that governed his ministry and compelled him to go to the cross was the Father's glory and honor and the people's redemption. He desired to bring people into a right relationship with God in which they worshipped and honored God and were able to bring their needs before him. The money changers revealed their true nature by being more concerned about gaining a profit than providing a place for people to connect with God. The passion of Christ was that the temple would be a place for people to encounter the living God. This is further seen in his response to the people who clamored about him as he arrived at the temple. Therein lies the irony: the chief priests were not concerned about the noise of the money changers, but they were upset at the inconvenience of the blind and lame who came to Jesus and the noise of children proclaiming the praise of God, which they thought was distracting from the worship.
This challenges us to examine our attitudes towards worship and even the church. We can become so concerned about protecting our traditions and “how we have always done things” that we miss the whole point of the church. Church is not about who runs what programs, the style of music, or the traditions we follow. Church is about being a place for people to connect with the God of the universe. It is about providing a time and place for people to pray and worship. The purpose of the church is to be a place where God is honored, and people can connect with him in a personal, life-changing way. When that becomes our focus and our passion, we model Christ to the world and reflect his passion.