I participate in a weekly Bible Study by phone with a group of chemically ill friends, and we were recently asked to write our thoughts on John’s account of the cleansing of the temple. We all see the world through the lens of our personal experiences, and my experiences with chemical illness affect how I view scripture, as well. Here’s what I wrote.
Although there was segregation built into the design, the temple was intended to be a place of worship for everyone, both Jew and Gentile. In the Mark account, Jesus specifically says that it was to be a house of prayer for all nations. I understand, however, that the money changers and animal vendors had taken up residence in the court of the Gentiles. What was it like to attempt to worship there?
Were there many Gentiles who worshipped Jehovah in those days? Did they keep coming and trying to participate, even after the court was repurposed? Or did they just give up?
How many of the Jewish worshippers realized there was a problem? Did they not see the issue, not care, or just not think there was anything they could do? Did they shut their eyes to the plight of their Gentile neighbors because of the convenience of having easy access to money changers and the ability to quickly purchase what they needed?
I feel the plight of the Gentile would-be worshippers deeply. Those of us with chemical illness know what it’s like to be shut out of worship. We know what it’s like when people in charge prioritize things other than the ability of everyone to access a worship space. We know what it’s like to be on the outside looking in, longing for what so many people take for granted.
I love Jesus’s passion for the issue. I love that he cared so much that he made a whip and used it. I love that he’s on the side of the marginalized, ignored, and shut out.
What’s the counterpart for today? There are so many temples that need to be cleansed of chemical barriers to worship. Lord, please open the eyes of people who can make the changes. Please help those who can freely worship in communal spaces care about those of us who can’t. Thank you for the reminder of how much you yourself feel our pain.