Temple Cleansing

This article is adapted from a sermon preached by Adam Brock entitled Temple Cleansing.

One of the things in my life that I’m grateful for and enjoy is my truck. Now I know this sounds like the beginning of a country song, I promise we won’t be singing anything about trucks today. But my truck has allowed me to be helpful to many people over the years. You see, I don’t have a ton of skills. I don’t do carpentry, I don’t weld, I can’t repair or fix a lot of things, but I can pick up stuff. That’s really the extent of my skillset: picking up stuff.

Over the years I’ve helped pick up and move a bunch of different things with my truck. Tables, chairs, mattresses, firewood, pumpkins, and pianos. I seem to move a lot of pianos. In my first church, we had an upright piano in every classroom, and one day we decided all the old and broken ones needed to go so, we loaded them up.

Here’s the only thing good about moving a piano, someone had the genius idea of placing handles on the back. Although they are big, bulky, heavy, and awkward, they do have a handle and that had made moving the pianos significantly easier than it otherwise might be.

I say all that so that I can make this profound statement: Handles make carrying things easier. It’s true. There’s not anything particularly insightful about this but it is a reality. Having and using handles makes carrying things easier!

When it comes to sermon preparation and preaching, you’ve noticed that preachers often like to provide for you an outline, notes, or clever points. This is for a reason. There is a reason that Pastor Steve loves using alliterations. There’s a reason that I outline each message in a particular way. The reason is simple: if we can find and use some “handles” for the message it’ll help you carry that truth with you as you live your life!

I’m aware of the diminished attention spans we all have. For many years I preached to audiences of middle school students. I get it. I also know that middle school never really ends, and some adults have the same attention span. And before you think I’m picking on anyone the reality is I’ll get asked about something I preached a few weeks ago and sometimes even I can’t remember the point I was trying to make. But if we see the points, the notes, the outlines, as “handles” then, I’m sure hoping, it’ll help all of us grab ahold of truth in real ways and then carry that truth with us!

I most assuredly want my preaching to be theologically rich and doctrinally sound, but I also really want it to be helpful and memorable. And so, to provide some “handles” for today’s message I have four words that I believe you can use to grab truth.

Today’s Handles: Passion, Prayer, Power, Praise.

Our passage is found in Matthew 21. It’s a very interesting episode in Scripture where we see Jesus doing some unexpected things.“

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.“It is written,” He said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’” but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” The blind and the lame came to Him at the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things He did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked Him. "Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where He spent the night.”

(Matthew 21:12-17 (NIV)

Here we find Jesus entering the temple courts and driving out those buying and selling, overturning their tables and chairs. Jesus then provides scriptural rationale for His actions, quoting Isaiah and Psalms and alluding to Jeremiah.

Jesus was serious about serious things. Here we see Him filled with righteous indignation when it comes to sin and impurity in the lives of His followers. Jesus does not deal with sin lightly.

Passion

Notice the passion!

"Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.”

(Matthew 21:12 (NIV)

This was a deliberate act of Jesus and not a moment of spontaneous anger.

Financial corruption was likely the order of the day; animals were sold, and the money was exchanged at exorbitant prices. The Jewish leaders were misusing the temple for worldly profit. The temple was the center of all Jewish activity. No other nation had been so blessed as to have the Almighty God come, in all His glory, and live in their place of worship.

It was a dramatic gesture, a living parable, for those with eyes to see. There is no sign, nor is it likely, that any lasting reform was achieved; no doubt the tables were back for the rest of the week, and Jesus took no further action. But the point had been made, and it was not lost on the authorities.

What began as a good and helpful practice to make sure that the people could worship properly, became a stumbling block for worship. You see the selling of the animals and the exchanging of money was not in itself bad. It was instituted to be helpful. People would travel for hundreds of miles to worship at the temple and sometimes they didn’t have a spotless animal to bring for sacrifice. Other times, the animal would become injured on the journey and no longer qualify as perfect. The whole practice was originally meant to facilitate worship and not profit. One of the corrupt practices that emerged here played itself out in the way the inspectors would disqualify a sacrificial animal forcing the family to purchase an expensive one from the temple, and then when the next family came to purchase the rejected animal would be sold to them as spotless.
This was where the concept of “hidden fees” was first schemed up.

These are questions we should consider because Jesus has a passion for His house:

We must be mindful and careful not to allow any “good thing” to become a stumbling block for people.

He then goes on to say that the temple should be marked by prayer.

Prayer

He then goes on to say that the temple should be marked by prayer.“It is written,” He said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’” but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Matthew 21:13 (NIV))

We’ve got two Old Testament references here.

“My house shall be called a house of prayer” comes from Isaiah 56:7, where it is part of God’s promise that in the time to come there will be a place for outcasts and foreigners to worship. The Lord was reassuring those on the outside looking in, that when all was set right, they would be gathered into the community. In fact, the full quotation from Isaiah 56:7 is: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” This emphasized the inclusion of Gentiles. The point is that the temple was to be a place of unhindered worship for all people, not a place of commerce.

Jeremiah describes the temple of his day as a “den of robbers” (Jeremiah 7:11). This referred was not so much to what went on inside the temple as to how its worshippers behaved in daily life.

Jeremiah 7 is a sermon that Jeremiah gives, and it includes a formal accusation for those that felt they could live life however they wanted, then come into the temple and because they followed the procedure, would be right with God.

What was true then remains true today: Worship + Disobedience = Sin. Plain and simple, if we indulge sin in our lives, God will not accept our worship.

Now there is a ton of Scripture being referenced in this short passage and we’re not even done pointing them all out yet, but here’s something I want you to see. Jesus uses Scripture in this moment because it’s an intense moment, and when the battle is raging is when you most need your weapon. Remember the Word of God is referred to as the Sword of the Spirit in Ephesians 6 for a reason.

Yes, this moment was intense, but Jesus had every right to cleanse the temple based upon His ownership of it. He said, “My house…”

Since He is co-equal, co-eternal, co-existent with God Almighty, and being the promised Messiah, the Son of David, the only, unique, one-of-a-kind, Son of God; the temple was His house. Jesus, from the beginning, had a desire to see the temple as a place of purity, used as a place of prayer and holiness. But that’s not what He saw so He drove out those who had perverted its purpose. And his purpose for us today is similar. The temple in the Old Testament is a picture of the Christ-follower in the New Testament.“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, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)

There is a real danger here for us. We so easily can be a house of busyness, a house of religion, even a house of good and helpful things. But we are called to be distinctly a house of prayer. Far too often we set up “tables” that distract us from this purpose.

If you’ve allowed tables of bitterness, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, malice, selfish ambition, dissension, gossip, to set up and establish themselves in your heart, then it’s going to interrupt your communion with God, keeping you from being a house of prayer. Jesus wants to come into your life and overturn those tables.

This is a great moment just to remind you that there are several ways you can let us know about prayer requests you have. You can text them to 337-427-8455, you can fill them out on the prayer card, or you can email us at communications@tbclc.org.

Power

“The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.” (Matthew 21:14 (NIV)

Jesus’ righteous anger is equally matched here with divine compassion.

The blind and the lame were excluded from God’s house by an Old Testament decree from King David, but the Son of David (v. 15) welcomes and heals them in the temple. As the only recorded healing by Jesus in the temple this is significant. Jesus is bringing a new era in which the old ritual barriers give way to God’s purposes of restoration.

It was nothing new in Matthew to see Jesus performing healing miracles. But it was even more fitting that the Messiah should fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 35:5-6.“

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”

The lame and the blind came to Him, I believe they were physically disabled, and Jesus healed them. I also believe they are a picture of the fragmented lives that we see all around us, who are crippled by sin. And as soon as the barriers were removed, people started being restored.

If we get serious about removing the tables of sin, we entertain in our lives, then we too will see the power of God on display. We’ve tasted that here, but I believe we have no idea how much God desires to move in power through the Lake Area and the world if Trinity Baptist Church will submit to Him.

Praise

All of which leads to the only logical conclusion: Praise!

15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things He did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked Him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where He spent the night.”

(Matthew 21:15-17 (NIV)

The Jewish leaders did not miss the implications of what was happening. They saw the triumphal entry, the messianic praise of the crowd, Jesus’ authoritative cleansing of the temple, His pronouncement of judgment, and His healing miracles. Even the children were proclaiming praise to the Messiah, the Son of David. It was too much for the leaders of the day. They became indignant.

We must be careful that when we too are confronted by the truth of God that we don’t respond harshly. This is common for all humanity, to be resistant to that which we are struggling to believe. Therefore, if when sharing your faith, you encounter someone who is hostile, you don’t give up or become discouraged. Remember even if they lash out at you, the real issue is not you, it’s unbelief. Don’t ever forget that people aren’t the enemy, they’re the mission, even people who don’t agree with you.

Assumptions concerning Jesus’ identity led the chief priests and scribes to believe that pointing out the children’s “error” would cause Jesus to be horrified at their actions. Surely, He would command the children to stop?! Only the Messiah would accept such praise, and to claim to be the Messiah was equivalent to blasphemy. But the Son of David saw no problems with the children’s praise. When His attention was drawn to it, He affirmed its appropriateness, supporting it with a quote from Psalm 8:2.

Then He says, “have you never read,” revealing His enemies’ lack of understanding of the Scriptures, on which they were supposed to be experts. Jesus used the children’s praise to show how obvious it should have been that He was the Son of David.

You know, it’s the obvious stuff that seems to trip us up the most. From time to time, we find ourselves lost in the commotion, like the money changers in this passage.

Jesus Overturns

Will you be willing to let Jesus come in today and overturn anything that is keeping you from following and worshiping Him?

Read Hebrews 12…“…but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

No discipline by God is enjoyable while it’s happening, but at times it is necessary. God wants to produce a harvest of righteousness through you that reaches out and touches the spiritually blind and lame. But we must let Him have His way in our hearts.

From today’s passage we see that Jesus is serious about the temple, His people, being holy. He has a passion for it. We ought to be a people and a place where prayer happens, where people’s lives are changed by the power of God, and where praise permeates all of our life.

My prayer is that you will hear God speaking to you in this moment!