There’s something about Jesus’ cleansing of the temple that is startling. It seems out of character with Him, but it’s not. It’s simply out of character with the Jesus we have created—the One who accepts everybody and everything and makes no demands on anyone. Let me suggest if Jesus was really like that no one would have bothered to crucify Him.
But they did.
Why was Jesus so upset that He fashioned a whip out of cords, turned over tables and benches and drove the money changers out of the temple? He was angry that the temple—intended to be a place of prayer for the nations had been turned into a place of price-gouging and merchandising. The high and holy purposes of God had been prostituted into buying and selling. In a word, it was the epitome of irreverence.
Irreverence is always in vogue. It is always easier to mock things than to build them up. Reverence is more difficult because it requires that you believe in something.
Reverence is to live with a consciousness of God’s infinite, eternal glory. It is Paul on his knees on the road to Damascus. It is Isaiah in the temple. It is John on the island of Patmos. It is Moses taking off his sandals.
Reverence involves fear, but it is the good, healthy kind of fear. It is the kind of fear that keeps you alert as a driver. It is the awareness you exercise as a parent in taking care of your children. It is the humility you show when you seek help from professionals about an electrical issue in your home because you recognize it is something you don’t know enough about to deal with on your own. It is the profound gratitude you feel toward your own parents. It is the awe, mystery and wonder you feel when we think about the size of the observable universe being 93 billion light years or that there are 37 trillion cells in the human body. It is the praise you feel when your child is born and then born again. It is the joy you feel when you look into their eyes. Reverence is all that and yet more because it has to do with the Lord God Almighty.
Peter says we are to “live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear” (1:17). This is not a cowering, cringing fear, it is a cleansing fear of people who have entered into covenant with God. Reverence is to holiness what sunlight is to plants. It goes right along with joy (v. 8), grace (v. 13) and love (v. 22). It gives God glory and us dignity.