Not only Luke, but also Matthew and Mark also record the time when Jesus drives out those who choose to make the Lord’s temple “a den of thieves.” In one sense this is a classic “three-peat.” It is not uncommon to see all three synoptics report what they consider to be critical teachable events. But I’ve wondered how to read this pericope as it pertains to me. After all I haven’t recently been seen in public buying and selling in a way that defiles the Lord’s temple. Nor is my picture posted along with other notorious photos in the post office. Could it be that I am naive enough to think that Jesus was angry with the “bad guys,” but that obviously does not include me? Perhaps I am just missing the point of this gospel passage.
Was Jesus not concerned in this case for “all things” that one finds in a den of thieves? And perhaps Jesus also was directing me to look inside for those things that defile in subtle but less obvious ways. For example how many times have I been so busy with my own day’s agenda that I failed to be present to the very persons who regularly come in and out of my life? Does this not defile in some muted but nonetheless debilitating way? Was Jesus not also suggesting that I need to be concerned about the private den within? After all is said and done, do I not have a responsibility for keeping my own temple sacred and holy? So, if Jesus is teaching every day in the temple, in my temple, do I hear his voice…or am I distracted by my own self preoccupation?
—Jack Goldberg is a retired trial attorney. He and his wife Barbara live in Cincinnati. Jack is the moderator of the Moot Court competition team at St. Xavier High School, Cincinnati, OH, and an alumnus of St. X.