United Presbyterian Church of West Orange


“The Temple”

March 3rd, 2024

Commissioned Pastor Rose Sheehan



Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. Then Jesus drove all out from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.


When Jesus cleared out the Temple, that event contributed to his problems on this earth. The leaders of Jewish people were already suspicious of him; the Romans were concerned about the crowds that he was attracting, so those moments in the Temple certainly added to Jesus’ fate.


Why was the Temple so important? Well, the Temple was the center of Jewish worship. It was the focal point and a place where people felt God’s presence. The synagogues in the different towns throughout Palestine were places where the Torah was studied, and where you can hear people praying, especially praying or singing the Psalms and the Temple was where people celebrated major feasts and offered sacrifices to God. 


It is estimated that on the days of any feast, the city of Jerusalem could have as many as 100,000 people and possibly over 1 million people.


So, you can imagine the number of people that were working on any feast day, and employed by the Temple to accommodate these celebrations, and also the number of priests, scribes, guards, and other officials.


There were 61.2 thousand people at this year’s Superbowl and we all heard about that and how much preparation that went into that and how much revenue it generated. Thanks to TV and social media, we all know about what went into that one day and it probably was all over in about 4 hours.


The only other event to break that record of being over 100, 000 thousand was a crowd at a concert; it was the Grateful Dead concert at the Raceway Park, Englishtown, New Jersey on September 3, 1977. That concert was attended by 107,019 people.

On any given Temple feast day, the temple could surpass that number.


Like the Superbowl and the concerts, the Temple feast days were a source of income and a major source of revenue and taxes for the Romans. When Jesus challenged their entire system with clearing out and cleansing the Temple, he was making a statement of major significance.


By his words and actions, Jesus is calling into question the purpose of the Temple and it shows how the people of that time and also how we - today, sometimes relate to God.


The Temple sacrifice system was built around offering animals, like lambs at Passover, to show to God what the people of that time thought was genuine worship, they also offered sacrifices to get God’s forgiveness, or win God’s favor for some family member or members or for their personal needs. 


After buying an animal for sacrifice, you would bring it to an altar for a priest to offer it to God for you. The assumption was that the better the animal, the better the sacrifice and the more God would favor you. Can you image, going to buy a sheep or a lamb and saying “I want the biggest one you have, so we can slaughter it for a sacrifice.”


The people standing in line at the Temple, mostly men, might be saying “my lamb is bigger than your lamb.” This is an early example of a class system, where the wealthy could afford to buy or trade for the best or biggest animal.


It created a quid pro quo agreement and attitude toward God: if your offering pleases God, you would win God’s favor. It was this system of quid pro quo that Jesus found so disturbing: it turned God into a dictator, granting favors to those God deemed worthy.

For Jesus, this was not the way to think about God!

God is responsible for the sun rising but God does NOT make the sun rise on just the good or the bad or cause rain to fall on only the unjust or the just. And Jesus knew, God wasn’t a dealmaker!


God is not interested in us trying to win God’s love with the best sacrifice. We can’t win God’s love! We can’t earn God’s Love! God’s love is always there for us and always free!


When confronted in the Temple; Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”.” The leaders replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 2 But Jesus was speaking about the temple of his body, the new Temple!


To reveal this, Jesus sacrificed himself on a cross. He offered himself totally, not to prove our worth to God but to show us Jesus and God’s unconditional love and forgiveness for all.

God continues to offer us the same unconditional love every day. We can’t buy that love or prove our love for God.  The cross and resurrection showed us all that and so much more.  “Nothing can separate us from God’s love! Nothing and no one can separate us from God’s love!”


By relating to Jesus, we are entering into the Sacredness of God and to where “the word is made flesh.” 


It is also why the Lord’s Supper is important. It’s a remembrance of God’s divine love. By surrendering ourselves to it, we share God together as part of the Body of Christ, we are loved by God and part of God’s Kingdom -on zoom or in person, wherever we are and wherever we go, God and God’s love is with us, for us and in us!

May we have communion with God in our hearts, to tomorrow and always!