A while back I preached a sermon from the first half of Matthew 21, a section that contains the account of the cleansing of the temple. Matthew does not give many details, but simply relays a concise account of the events. It is a very interesting story and can be considered from several perspectives.
From the standpoint of biblical theology, we are led to think of the return of YHWH to the temple, and to Zion, and the attending notions of the defeat of Israel’s enemies (usually the Babylonians) and her freedom. Of course, if we take this line of interpretation we have to the ask the question just who the Babylonians are in this story.
In light of Jesus use of role reversal (“the first shall be last”) the answer is predictable.
Role reversal, by the way, is a very common theme in Matthews’s gospel and once you are aware of it, you see it everywhere. It is especially the case in the text at hand for after the “rich and famous” are thrown out of the temple, who does Jesus then receive but the blind and lame, just as the revolutionaries who were turning the house of praise into a den of robbers are replaced by children singing Hosanna to Christ. Jesus then quotes Psalm 8 in justification as the cries of the children still the objections of the enemy and avenger.
So again, we find an idea that keeps on repeating itself in the gospel. Setting things right (that which Jesus has been doing) involves putting the “top rail on the bottom and the bottom rail on the top” or as Luke relates in Acts “turning the world upside down”.
That is exactly what the Gospel is about, the proclamation that sinners can be justified, the dead raised to life and the rich and famous left out in the cold.
Good stuff, don’t you think?