“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 moneychangers 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)
God is not safe. He is not to be toyed with or used for personal gain as we see the sellers and dealers doing in the Temple. In Jesus’ ministry He had the most condemnation for religious hypocrites, the rulers of the Jews and their cronies. These not only led people astray with their legalistic prescriptions, but they also used the things of God to line their pockets and make their own lives easier. Jesus’ response was to clear the Temple of those people who saw worship as an opportunity to make money or relied on worldly methods to worship God. They had no zeal for God, though they probably couched their sales as pious and devout attempts to facilitate the worship of the masses, making it easier for them to buy the materials for that worship. Jesus’ zeal is frightening.
There is s story that, as a child, Teddy Roosevelt was reluctant one Sunday to attend church. He told his mother that he was afraid of “the zeal” which he imagined to be a monster who was ready to pounce on and devour him. As it turns out this gospel lesson had been read the previous Sunday.
Well we should be wary of God’s zeal expressed in His intense hatred of sin in general and religious hypocrisy in particular. It will make us fearful of Him for God is not safe. His zeal will consume all who abuse His name. And yet His zeal will also consume those who repent and accept the grace of faith. Such zeal allows the faithful to place the things of God and His Kingdom first above material and personal gain or reward. Zeal will enable the Church to worship God purely, free from the ideas, ways and methods the world or the ego uses to obtain favor or gain.