A reflection for Lent III 3rd March 2024 by Canon Dean Fostekew

You might not believe it but I can get quite grumpy at times over certain things! I suspect that you might be similar - our Lord certainly was! 

Imagine coming home to discover that a relative had set up shop in your drawing room without permission. You’d be quite cross. I know that I would be. It must have been a bit like that of Jesus that day in the Temple when he entered the holy place (his Father’s house) to pray and discovered it to be like a market place with all sense of sanctity gone. 

Part of the Jewish worship practice at the time involved blood sacrifice for sin (you can see the parallels in Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross). Worshippers were encouraged to buy an animal for slaughter that would carry their sins for them and with its ritual death purify the sinner. The animal became the ‘scapegoat’ sacrifice. 

The bigger the sin, the bigger the animal needed to sacrifice. It became big business for the Temple as those wishing atonement were unlikely able to travel very far with the required animal sacrifice. Hence the presence of those selling cattle, sheep and doves. It was lucrative and again hence the presence of the money-changers. Nothing came free. You had to buy the animal and you probably had to change coins to do so and were charged an exchange fee, just as we are today when buying foreign currency. A lot of people got rich on the needs of others. No wonder Jesus was furious. This wasn’t how it was meant to be.

In over-tuning the tables and whipping the money-changers Jesus won no friends in the Temple hierarchy. He threatened their living and where money is involved people will sometimes go to extremes to keep it. If his preaching hadn’t been radical enough this act of righteous anger in his father’s house basically sealed his fate. As we know the authorities acted quickly and within days Jesus was dead on the Cross. 

I indicated earlier the parallels between the sacrificial animals and Jesus who would become the sacrificial Lamb of God. The animals were seen to take away individual sin; Jesus being God, however, takes away all the sin of humanity for all time. 

If we jump back to the reading from Exodus we can read the laws by which God says he is pleased if we follow them and in keeping them that he will bless us until the end of time. Simple commandments to follow but not always easy to keep. But, none-the-less guidelines to help us live our lives. God knows that we will struggle to keep the commandments but hopes that we will at least try to do so. 

Paul, reminds us of the power of the Cross and of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins (as mad as that might appear to some). How could one man’s death save us from ourselves? Well, when that man was fully God as well, we get the answer. 

God in Jesus paid the ultimate price once and for all time. His death did away with the need for the blood sacrifice of animals and we are reminded of that every time we receive Holy Communion. Jesus’ sacrifice freed us from all costs. We do not have to pay to have our sins forgiven we just have to freely repent .

In cleansing the Temple of what Jesus knew was unnecessary and in giving his human life he wiped the slate clean for all of us. Every day he offers us a new start so long as we can acknowledge our mistakes and repent of them. He is the eternal blood sacrifice that we do not have to buy because his sacrifice was not bought with coin, it was bought with love and freely given away to us.