3rd Sunday of Lent (Ages 3-6): A Place Set Apart
(for the 3-6 yr old, just verses 13-16)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, to celebrate the Passover meal, the most holy meal for the Jewish people. He goes to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover because Jerusalem is the most holy city in Israel. It is holy because on the highest hill is the Temple, and in the Temple is God.
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.
For us, when we go to church, we do not often find animals there. Sometimes a bird will fly in. Sometimes people who need them bring their guide dogs to help them. In some places, dogs wander in and out of church all the time!
For Jesus, it would not be strange to see animals in the Temple, because people offer animals as their gift to God. But it is strange that there are people selling animals in the Temple. Is the Temple--the most holy place in all of the holy city of Jerusalem--a store? What will Jesus think of this?
Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
Jesus drives people, sheep, and cows out of the Temple. We remember that there are no cars or trucks at the time of Jesus. Instead, we know that driving out means Jesus makes those people and animals go. They know he is serious.
Why does he dump out the coins and turn their tables over? He is making quite a mess. Sometimes when we are very upset, we will make a big mess. Sometimes we dump out all our toys. Sometimes we knock things over. Is Jesus having a temper tantrum? I don't think so. But he is certainly upset. He is not pleased.
But Jesus also uses his words. He tells the people,
“Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
Jesus is not pleased because the Temple is his Father's house. His Father, we know, is God, and God is in the Temple. Is it good to turn God's home into a place to buy and sell things?
Jesus knows that the Temple is holy. It is set apart for God. Even though we can say that God is everywhere, when people step into a holy place, they know God is with them. People come to a holy place, a place set apart, to pray--to be with God.
We know that we, too, can set apart a place to pray. We set apart a special place in our home where we go to pray, to be with God. Have we stopped to think that our prayer table, our prayer corner, our special place is holy? When we come there to pray, we know God is with us.