Passion Week Devotional: Jesus Cleanses the Temple

04/06/2020 - By Pastor Todd Nathan

Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey with a great sense of triumph as the Galilean Jews shouting with loud proclamations that their deliverer, their King had finally come to set them free. Jesus weeps over the city (Luke 19:41-44) and then curses a fig tree. Then we read these words in Matthew 21:12-13, "12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” The Gospels of Mark and Luke also record this significant event (Mark 11:12–18; Luke 19:45–48). Why was Jesus so angry? What caused Him to react in such a strong way that led Him to overturn tables and drive both sellers and buyers out of the Temple? Was His anger justified? Remember, Jesus is about to give His life as the all-sufficient perfect sacrifice! The Temple represented the center of worship life for the Jewish people and the place where God's glory dwelled. Every Passover, if possible, Jews from the surrounding area would make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem and offer sacrifices at the Temple. Few had the ability to travel with an animal that would be sacrificed so they would purchase one when they got there. Obviously, those selling animals for sacrifice were not only price gouging, but they were selling inside the Temple walls in violation of Temple standards. People had lost sight of the true significance of the Temple and its sacredness as a holy place set apart to the Lord. But is this what made Jesus angry? Look closely at Jesus' words. "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers.” He is quoting Isaiah 56:7 and the gathering of the nations the Temple of God, and even more, to God Himself! Jesus saw had far the worship life of the Jews had sunk. He saw the abuse of those who were selling the Temple sacrifices, who were using it for their own personal gain. He saw how far the hearts of the people truly were from God. The coldness and shallowness of their religiosity. Instead of the Temple being the place where people go to meet God, it became a place of business opportunity and religious ritual. His anger was righteous anger expressed in a way that demonstrated His authority over the Temple and all it involved. Jesus, the Messiah, was making a clear statement - "My house shall be called a house of prayer." This is what it's about - meeting with God, worshiping God, focusing on God. But instead, the people had made it something very different. So Jesus took action. He knew that the physical Temple would be destroyed by the Romans in the not too distant future. He knew that His life would be given up for all. He knew that believers would no longer go to a place to worship God and find His presence, but rather they would now worship God in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:23-24). He wanted it to be clear to those in the Temple that day - regular Jewish people, business people, Temple leaders, and the religious authorities (Scribes, Pharisees) that they were offensive to God and made God's house something it was never intended to be.

It's not hard for us to understand Jesus' strong emotion. You may look at the church in America today and wonder if it's truly what God designed it to be. You may feel righteous anger when you see churches embrace current day ideologies or practices that dishonor God. You may feel strongly about the way the way believers live their lives in clear hypocrisy. You may even make strong judgement statements about churches and believers that you feel are not about God's glory and righteousness. But remember, Jesus was perfect even in His anger. He has authority over all things and was making a clear statement of what our lives are to be about - worshiping God (prayer) and glorifying God, and what our churches are to be about - worshiping God (prayer) and glorifying God as we gather together.

One more thought: Think about the Apostle Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. He is making a strong statement to the Corinthian believers and the way they were living their lives. He concludes this way, "19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." Take some time to meditate on Paul's words as a personal application of what we just talked about. Think in terms of small steps. Your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit - the place where God's Spirit now dwells. Are you glorifying God in your body? Are you honoring Him in the way you live your life in your body? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God already did His cleansing, redemptive work in your life and has declared you righteous, holy and pure. So now you are to live every day for Him and His glory.

Dig deep this week! Pray often. Give thanks and praise always. May God be glorified in the way we live for Him!

Striving together to please the Lord,
Pastor Todd