The stirring event of the Master's career familiarly known as the purging of the temple, recounted in picturesque language and with very little variation in each of the four gospels, has long been a favorite subject with artists. It is not surprising that this dramatic episode has made a strong appeal to the imagination, for the noble figure of the man Jesus, embodying the spiritual qualities of moral courage and truth, shines out in conspicuous contrast with the carnally minded vendors and money-changers, who were startled at being suddenly arrested in their unholy enterprise, and suggests a picture which is at once inspiring and convincing.
That one man unaided, except for "a scourge of small cords," should drive out so effectually and quickly this self-satisfied throng of worldly men, verifies the Master's words, "I can of mine own self do nothing;" but "the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works;" for humanly speaking the circumstance would have been impossible. Its definite appeal, therefore, which all who have attempted to portray it on canvas have appreciated to some extent, is that this event was signally a triumph of good over evil, of truth over error, of intelligence over non-intelligence; in other words, it was not essentially the ejection of a number of people by a person physically stronger than themselves, but it was the extermination of evil beliefs from the temple of God, "the house of prayer," in which they could have no place, and of which in truth they never had been a legitimate part, though seemingly entrenched there.
The logical sequel of the incident, however, so simply told in one verse following Matthew's account, is frequently overlooked in connection with the preceding verses, and though less obvious it also presents to thought a picture radiant with victory over evil beliefs. Viewed in the light which Christian Science throws upon the Scriptures, this verse is as it were a benediction, and triumphantly justifies Jesus' stern act. It reads, "And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them." As sunshine and the song of birds gladden the earth after a dark and thundering downpour, so this verse in its happy serenity, following upon the ringing denunciation of error by the Master, is vocal with the blessing of divine mercy and goodness.
The temple, purged of impurity, craftiness, and greedy clamor, immediately became transformed into a holy place, encircling with consolation and protection all who would come within its walls. "The blind and the lame," who now apparently came so eagerly, no doubt had come at other times hoping to find relief there, but hearing the shouts of buyers and sellers they had turned away in despair, or going hopefully in had failed to receive the help they needed, since none was to be found in an atmosphere of self-interest and worldly-mindedness. Seeking bread, they were given a stone. Is it any wonder, then, that these weary ones, longing for deliverance from seemingly relentless laws, now came hopefully into the temple restored to its peaceful sanctity, or that in the faultless purity of the Christ-consciousness each recognized his true identity as a perfect child of the universal Father, and went away healed? Those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, combined with a sincere willingness to follow in the Master's footsteps of self-abnegation and obedience, cannot fail to appreciate the dual significance of the illustration.
Paul says: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." By refusing to see man as material or in bondage to sin, sickness, and death, Jesus brought to the perception of all the real man, exempt from these false laws, and was able to present himself to his followers unscathed by death and the grave. Because he recognized divine Mind as the only creator, and correlatively man as the immortal idea of infinite Mind, he restored men's bodies by the metaphysical law of health. A normal, well regulated body is the logical expression of a correct spiritual concept of man, since the body is at all times the objective manifestation of right or wrong thinking. Hence, spiritually to recognize man as "the temple of God" is to apprehend with ever increasing clearness a definite sense of man's eternal relation to God, his incorporeality, and his exemption from all evil.
As individuals we have to preserve the consciousness of this scientific unity with God for ourselves and others, that our lives may be "holy and without blame before him [God] in love." It is only through work, the activity of purifying and correcting thought, that we can keep ourselves awake, and so help to awaken others from the mesmeric dream of life in matter. In her Message to The Mother Church for 1902 (p. 18) Mrs. Eddy counsels us: "Be faithful at the temple gate of conscience, wakefully guard it." Shall we not ever be willing to go into this temple of our individual thinking, and if we find there any suggestion that "defileth," that "worketh abomination, or maketh a lie," shall we not, in the spirit of the Master, courageously drive out the carnal intruder, that the Spirit of God may dwell in us? Then the sick, and the blind, and the lame will come confidently to us in the temple of our spiritually purged consciousness, even as they came to Jesus, and it shall be said of us too that we healed them.
On page 142 of Science and Health Mrs. Eddy brings home to us today the lesson of Jesus' experience in the temple, when she says, "The strong cords of scientific demonstration, as twisted and wielded by Jesus, are still needed to purge the temples of their vain traffic in worldly worship and to make them meet dwelling places for the Most High." As workers in the different branch churches and societies of The Mother Church, the responsibility is placed upon us of keeping pure these temples of our God, that no claim of pride, of mental despotism, or any one of the many phases of mad ambition, be allowed to lodge or secrete itself there, and so prevent those who "hunger and thirst after righteousness" from finding spiritual refreshment and healing therein. Human nature as in Jesus' time is still asking for bread. Christian Science, in its spiritual interpretation and practical application of the Bible, distributes this bread by giving the scientific understanding of man's eternal relation to God, through which all our needs are met.
Knowing the priceless nature of this gift to mankind, is it not our sacred duty as church members to purge our temples of tyranny and pride, that all who will may have free access to this Science of salvation? Let us be careful first to cast the beam out of our own eye, that we may be able to discern the powerlessness of human will, seeing it as no part or element of the true, spiritual church founded upon the rock, Christ, Truth, but as merely an expression of impersonal error which attempts now, as it did in Jesus' day, to usurp the place and power of the Most High, and to crowd out the receptive thought—"the poor in spirit"—seeking entrance.
Let us be alert to deprive this phase of error of a channel, instead of personalizing and making a reality of its nothingness. As the vendors and money-changers fled out of the temple when rebuked by the word of Truth, so human will and personal opinion masquerading as divine wisdom will dissolve and disperse under the healing activity of spiritual understanding reflected individually by earnest workers who daily are striving to live the prayer, "Not my will, but thine, be done." The honest inquirers and needy ones coming hopefully into our churches, the temples of our God, will, through the power of the uncontaminated truth spoken there, and the loving atmosphere of "true brotherliness, charitableness, and forgiveness" (Manual, Art. VIII, Sect. 1), find themselves uplifted, regenerated, free, and will go away praising God for their deliverance from sin and disease.
Interested in more more Journal content?
Subscribe to JSH-Online to access The Christian Science Journal, along with the Christian Science Sentinel and The Herald of Christian Science. Get unlimited access to current issues, the searchable archive, podcasts, audio for issues, biographies about Mary Baker Eddy, and more. Already a subscriber? Log in