In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus enters the city to much fanfare. He precedes to the center of religious and political life and flips over the tables used to exchange foreign currency and purchase animals for sacrifice. He causes quite a scene, this Jesus guy.
None of the tables he tosses are necessarily bad or immoral. In fact, they were needed services for the system at hand. We don’t know for sure if those selling and exchanging were being greedy or deceitful, though it is often understood this way.
What we do know is Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all people.” The passage Jesus quotes (Isaiah 56) says this house will include foreigners, eunuchs, and “still others” who do not yet belong.
We read in Matthew’s account that after the tables are flipped and people scattered, the “blind and lame came to Jesus” and children’s voices filled the temple.
This Holy Week it would do us well to focus on those filling the void Jesus created. To give attention to the small in stature and status, the dependent, the marginalized, the folks who likely couldn’t or didn’t participate in the system.
It would do us well to ask if we ever get so caught up in how things are working for us that we fail to notice how they aren’t working for other folks. Might we fail to realize that crowds and status and affirmation lull us into a false sense of faithfulness? Might even our goals of bigger and better naturally exclude those most in need of community and wholeness and good news?
It might do us well to ask if our structures and systems have become so central that they’ve become the mission itself. So central that we allow them to devour our resources and our neighbors. So central that we will proceed and protect them at any cost. So central that we miss the point entirely.
Have we missed the heart of God while pursuing good things? Have we excluded those who God intends to include? Do we rob ourselves of glimpses of the the world God intends while we chase after comfort, security, and prominence? Have we built barriers that Jesus would rather tear down?
This Holy Week, may we find some tables to flip or wrenches to throw into the machine. May we refuse to get so caught up in the process that we neglect its purpose. And may we discover ourselves smack dab in the middle of God’s dream for creation, surrounded by all the “others” and finding our salvation all wrapped up together.