1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59
Then Judas and his brothers said, “See, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it.” So all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion. Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-eighth year, they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering that they had built. At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them. So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and joyfully offered burnt offerings; they offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving offering. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and fitted them with doors. There was very great joy among the people, and the disgrace brought by the Gentiles was removed. Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.
1 Chronicles 29: 10bcd-12
“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, forever and ever.
Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty;
For all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.
Riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.
In your hand are power and might;
And it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all.
Luke 19: 45-58
Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, “It is written,
‘My house shall be a house of prayer’;
but you have made it a den of robbers.”
Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.
The greatest act of anger that we see Jesus enact, is anger over people being restricted from worshiping Him. The temple was structured so that the innermost courts contained the ark of the covenant and was known as the “holy of holies”. Only the highest priest, or those chosen, were allowed to enter the holy of holies on specified times of the year. From there there were several outer layers of the courts and people of different social and spiritual standing were allowed in based on their status. The outer most courts, where Jesus found a makeshift market, was designed for foreigners and Gentiles to come and to pray. By having market stations set up in that space, those most estranged from the faith were blocked from praying and exploring God.
Jesus's anger rises up against this and we need to pay attention. His actions mirror, yet are the inverse, of the actions of Judas and his brothers. For Judas, the sanctuary had been desecrated by the Gentiles and needed to be rebuilt. The space was cleaned from those disrespecting God, and was rebuilt to honor Him. Sacrifices were offered in atonement and the Gentiles were not allowed in. Yet when Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, the temple was being desecrated by the religious leaders by denying the foreigner entrance. The Gentiles were blocked not out of fear of disrespect, but out of desire for selfish gain, and Jesus cleaned the space of those failing to uphold His law. Christ then becomes the sacrifice of atonement for all the variety of people who have disrespected Him, profaned His name, and desecrated His house.
Christ's act of clearing the temple both creates the pathway for Gentiles and foreigners to seek Him, and humbles the pride of corrupt religious leaders by treating them the way the Gentiles were treated in the reading from Maccabees. In this, Jesus calls the foreigner unto Himself, and levels the playing field between those who know the law and those who do not. It is a foreshadowing of His sacrifice that creates the pathway for all to come to Him, and for reconciliation between people. In order to be truly reconciled to God, we need to humbly accept how we have hurt our relationship with Him. In order to truly be reconciled to one another we need to humbly accept how we have behaved and hurt one another.
While only God can judge the weight of sin, all of humanity is called to examine one’s own actions, appropriately repent, and humbly receive others in the midst of their short comings. Today let us ask the Lord to help us enter into deeper reconciliation with Him, and with one another.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, in many of the same ways that people have sinned against me, I have sinned against you. Lord forgive me for my shortcomings and the ways I have hurt you, and please give me the grace to forgive those who have hurt me. Heal me of the wounds of sin through your precious blood that I may live in freedom to love and be loved. Amen.