"Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain."
// Psalm 127:1
Twice the Gospels record Christ entering the Temple – once at the start of His ministry and once when He was near its end. Both times when He entered He overturned tables, drove money changers and salesmen out with a whip, and lamented what had become of worship there.
I think, in our reading of the Gospels, that we forget a crucial detail, one that can open up great truth: Jesus was a carpenter by profession, not necessarily a preacher. He was not trained at His local Jewish “seminary” to enter the ministry or be a Rabbi at a synagogue. Though many called Him Rabbi or “Teacher”, He was not a trained professional. So what does that have to do with “cleansing the temple” those two times, as scholars term it?
Psalm 127:1 asserts that The Lord alone must build the House, and it's no accident that Jesus came to earth to be a carpenter – He came to build up His Father's House. He challenged the whole temple system to reveal one thing: God is moving because this house – the temple with its rituals and religious trafficking in its constant addressing of sin – no longer suits Him. He's on the hunt for a new Home, a house not made of stone (the physical temple) with its stony-hearted, religious worshippers. Jesus came to build His Papa a new House, made of flesh and bone, with flesh-hearted worshippers bringing to the Father true worship in Spirit and in Truth.
If we try to worship God as if we still have stony, religious hearts, we will never touch that promised true worship described in John 4. Ritual and religion sickened Him, so He moved! If we approach Him through religious rote, we must recognize that He abandoned that kind of house – He's not, nor was He ever, “at home” there. Now it’s just a vacant “building” or empty system. We will not find Him in religious rituals anymore, so we too must abandon them.
Instead, we worship Him where He's most at home, among heart-fleshed people who are His true worshippers. When we join our hearts with others in worship, when we love our neighbor, when we value Him by valuing community, this is when we draw near to becoming the true worshippers that He has sought for, those whom Jesus came to build together into a living Home for His Father.
We must allow The Lord to build us up through others’ love just as we seek always to edify and encourage others with His love flowing through us. Be a builder, an encourager and a lover – be as the Carpenter who lives within you, so that our communal activities aren't in vain.
// Samuel Nicolosi