A Devotional for Monday of Holy Week: The Cleansing

A Lenten interpretation of Jesus clearing out the Temple.

By Elizabeth Sherrill, Hingham, Massachusetts

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And Jesus…drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.—Matthew 21:12 

It was an unheard-of scandal! This young rabbi who yesterday had the whole city in a patriotic uproar, today stormed into the very temple precinct itself and created chaos. Doves flapping, men shouting, women scrabbling after the rolling coins. This fellow from Galilee, once again stirring up trouble!

But stirring-up is always what happens when Jesus enters the scene. Monday of Holy Week has its parallel in our individual journey of faith. He comes, and priorities are overturned, assumptions swept aside. The first thing He did on entering Jerusalem is the first thing He does on entering a life: He goes straight to the temple, to the place where we worship, and cleans out whatever is not part of God’s design.

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The process is called by many names: sanctification, amendment of life, getting right with God, but the meaning is the same. The recognition that with Jesus in charge, many things we used to do, say, want, are no longer okay. It’s such a common pattern that we’ve come to expect it.

And then there’s the danger in the Monday experience. We think we know what things He wants to get rid of. When my mother was growing up, the list included wearing makeup, reading novels and riding a bicycle on Sunday. Each group, each era, has its own expectations.
   
But the hallmark of that Monday in Jerusalem was surprise. Jesus knew what stood between people in those days and God. “Astonished” is how Mark describes people’s reactions to that original cleansing, and astonished is how we feel when God’s housecleaning, not the one we envisaged, gets underway within us. Prejudice. Old hurts. A sense of inferiority. Whatever blocks our relationships with Him, out it must go.
   
“What are you doing!” we cry when the Cleanser strides in.
   
“I’m making myself a temple,” He replies.

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Find more Holy Week stories and devotionals on our Lent page.