Taking His place

The gospel for today is a very short reading from the Gospel of Luke:

Then Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’” And every day he was teaching in the temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words. (Luke 19:45-48)

These verses follow immediately upon what we remember as the Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem. Now that Jesus has arrived at Jerusalem, the drama will move quickly toward its divinely planned climax. Jesus goes to “take possession” of the temple as its legitimate teacher. In this setting the conflict with the Jewish leaders will heighten (chapter 20). He will speak of the last days of Jerusalem and of the world (chapter 21). Then will come the days of his Passover (chapters 22–23) and the victory of God in his new exodus (chapter 24).

In our verses, Jesus arrives at the temple. Luke’s account of the cleansing of the temple is the shortest among the Gospels. It is one of the few episodes recounted by the Synoptics that also appears in John, where it occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry rather than at the end (John 2:13–17). Luke has played down the violence and gives no description of the activities Jesus objects to, letting the quotations from Isa 56:7 and Jer 7:11 be reason enough for expelling “those who were selling things.”

Luke is more interested in showing the reason for the cleansing as the preparation for the true teacher to take his seat in the place designed for him. From now on Jesus makes the temple the center of his Jerusalem ministry. Jesus will take that authoritative place as soon as Luke 20 and will be immediately challenged by the religious leaders.

In the verses that conclude this section of temple teaching (21:37–38), Jesus is described as teaching daily in the temple, while spending his nights on the Mount of Olives, by implication in communion with his Father as the days of fulfillment draw near.

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