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Readings

Reading: Matthew 21:12-13

Supplementary Reading: Isaiah 56

Devotional

One of my favourite summer pastimes is to visit Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham to watch a game of cricket. While watching Warwickshire play a county championship game there is no issue with social distancing as between 500 and 1000 diehard fans rattle around in a stadium designed to host 25,000. Each year few games, such as international games featuring England, tend to be sellouts with every seat filled and queues required for everything from the bar to the toilet as the stadium’s infrastructure struggles to cope. 20,000. This captive audience not only pays exorbitant entry prices they get fleeced by sky-high prices for a simple burger and a pint as the organisation spot an opportunity and try to maximise revenue from their captive audience.

Now think first-century Jerusalem with an estimated population of around 80,000 swelling, according to historian Josephus, to a staggering two million-plus as Jews made pilgrimages to the Temple for Passover, the annual celebration of Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. To comply with purity rituals these pilgrims had to arrive at least seven days in advance. I’m sure that accommodation was as pricey and as scarce in Jerusalem at Passover as it is when Formula 1 visits the Silverstone Circuit just north of Milton Keynes. Restaurants were fully booked well in advance and every spare room was listed on Airbnb.

The leadership team at the temple did not want to miss out on this money-making opportunity so filled the outer courts with market traders selling everything needed for the Passover ritual and experience from which the temple would take its cut from the sky-high prices. Greed led them to sell vastly more pitches than they had. The end result meant the outer courts, the area into which non-Jews could visit, was filled to overflowing leaving virtually no room for the ‘Gentiles’.

This was far from God’s vision for his temple and Jesus quotes that vision from Isaiah 56: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, foreigners would join (Isaiah 56:6), and the outcasts would be gathered with his people (Isaiah 56:8).

As Jesus looked at the moneychangers and merchants, preying on the pilgrims and excluding others a holy zeal and righteous indignation welled up within him. Jesus overturned the tables and chairs of the moneychangers, throwing out the merchants and refusing entrance to any who carry goods for sale.

The question for us 21st-century followers of Jesus do we have room for the misfits, the outcasts, the marginalised, those different to us in our church, in our homes and in our lives? Let us step out of our comfort zones driven by the righteous zeal of our saviour to see the Apostle Johns glimpse of the throne room of heaven whilst exiled to the Greek Island of Patmos:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! – Revelation 7:9-10

Prayer

Thank you, heavenly Father, for inviting me into your family and adopting me as your child. You welcomed me even when I really did not deserve it. I am grateful that you sent the Holy Spirit to speak to my heart and convict me of my sin. Through the finished work of Jesus on the cross you wiped my slate clean and I need never feel condemned again. Help me always to make room in my life for those who do not know you and have never felt your love.

Based on today's reading, what is one thing God is saying to you?

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