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My Father’s house

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2: 13-17

This man John – who, around AD 90, wrote the fourth biography of Jesus Christ (Jesus the Messiah) – see bold above – is held in very high regard in Jersey in 2015.

You may well ask, “Why?” The answer is simple. At the majority of funerals which take place every week-day in Jersey, folk hear the words of Jesus recorded in chapter 4 of John’s biography. 

These are the words which folk have heard this week (several times) and will hear every week in 2015. They are the words of Jesus in the closing week prior to his death on the cross: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Yes, when death assails us it’s to these words that we turn. “In my Father’s house there are many rooms...... I go to prepare a place for you...” They were spoken to Jesus’ close followers.
‘This world is the land of the dying; the next is the land of the living.’ (Tryon Edwards, minister and publisher, 1809-1894)

Not many folk connect this amazing promise of the near-death Jesus with his actions in Jerusalem at the beginning of his public life (see bold above). Yet in both Jesus refers to “my Father’s house.” In this beginning case he seems to be referring to the Temple in Jerusalem but is that really so? In fact, if one reads it carefully, the actions of Jesus were upon people. It was on “those who were selling oxen and sheep...” and on “the money-changers sitting” and on “those selling the pigeons.” These people had to be removed from “my Father’s house.” 

What wrong were they doing? Jesus said, “do not make my Father’s house a house of trade…” The original Greek word which John used – now translated “trade” – was not quite that. It was emporiou. It strictly means buying and selling. Surely there’s nothing wrong with buying and selling? Maybe not but what Jesus spoke about was “a house of buying and selling”; a whole world made up of it.

What do you think? Was Jesus merely concerned that buying and selling was being done in a magnificent building erected by King Herod in an act of self-aggrandisement that attempted to conceal his murderous nature? Was Jesus really anxious about profaning this particular building which he said was to be destroyed – and which was completely destroyed in AD 70?

Or was there something inherently wrong with buying and selling – something totally the opposite of what “my Father’s house” was all about? Was buying and selling also something quite alien to the “my Father’s house” within which Jesus is preparing a place for those who truly follow him?

Those whose life was spent supporting the Jerusalem temple in Jesus’ day were supporting buying and selling. John records that they did more direct buying and selling. They bought Jesus himself for 30 pieces of silver. They paid that to Judas so he would give Jesus to them. They then had Jesus disposed of – killed. What a bargain. They gained.

Truly, as Jesus’ followers recalled at the beginning, Jesus’ zeal for “my Father’s house” would, as prophesied centuries earlier, consume him – eat him up.

When we buy and sell, do we not consume one another? The buyer thinks he has done well over the seller. The seller things he has done well over the buyer. We all buy and sell so as to make money – money for us to consume at the expense of others.
‘Everyone will get to heaven who could live there.’ (Anon.)
Somehow, it seems to me that such profiting and causing loss to others (however willing they may be) is indeed out of place Jesus’ “my Father’s house”. There are “many rooms” there – but they’re not for buyers and sellers.
The rooms are for those whom Jesus calls, even today.
Richard Syvret

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