When I read the story of Jesus clearing the temple I often wonder about how all those money changers got in there. Certainly no one walked up one day and said, “I have a great idea…let’s fill this place up so full of merchants that we will forget why we came here in the first place!” John points out that they are not in the temple proper. Rather, they are in the temple courts. The sounds of worship could easily be drowned out by the hustle and bustle of what, from a purely economic point of view, would be the perfectly placed market. The desire for profit quickly outgrew the desire for worship and the call to be emptied of self was replaced by the eager desire to fill their pockets.
How often do we stand in the presence of the divine and settle to be filled with the temporary? How can that happen? It happens when we stand in his presence for so long that we lose our sense of wonder. The extraordinary becomes the ordinary and before we know it we are peddling our faith as if it were on level with a watch or a new suit. It is little wonder that the same ones who failed to understand the awesomeness and majesty of the God and whose temple they stood in the shadow of also failed to recognize his glory when he hung on the cross.
We have a serious problem when we begin to trust the place more than the person and when we elevate religious practice over relationship. This was not a new problem. It had been repeated over and over again in Israel’s history (see Jer 7:1-15) and it still happens today. I hope that the senatorial investigations of certain ministries do not find that several high profile ministers in America have fallen into the ever common trap of having lost their sense of wonder. Although less visible, it is certainly no less significant when it happens in the pews rather than in the pulpits. Let us renew our sense of wonder by respecting God and remember that although we hear the message over and over and although he is present with us even today it does not lessen the significance of the fact that God is truly awesome.