Over the next few days, we'll be posting devotional blogs for reflection as we move towards Good Friday and Easter. Today's post focuses on Jesus' cleansing of the temple and was written by Pastor Cory Currence.
The city of Jerusalem was a special city, a city that was set apart for the worship of God. During the yearly celebration of Passover, Jewish people from all around would make the journey to Jerusalem in order to worship and sacrifice to God. During this time, the city was filled with crowds of travelers and sojourners.
It was during this busy and bustling time that Jesus made his triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. The city was full of crowds from around the nation. Some of these crowds had heard about the miracles and teachings of Jesus. Some among the crowds had even seen him raise a man from the dead after he had been buried in a tomb. Many people were anxious to see him. Many had even thought that Jesus was the promised king that would once again restore the nation of Israel. (John 12:17)
The crowd gathered as Jesus approached the city on a young colt, and hailed him as the king that had come to save them. They gave him the royal treatment; some throwing their cloaks on the ground before him, and some cutting off palm branches from trees and throwing those on the ground. They shouted,” “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:37-38)
The king was here.
God’s people would be united, and his kingdom would be restored.
The next day, Jesus began to unravel their idea of what this kingdom would look like.
As he went into the temple of the city, he saw a temple of busy commerce and transactions. Some had set up tables to make money by exchanging foreign currencies. Some had set up tables to sell pigeons to foreigners who wanted to sacrifice to God in the temple. Both groups of people were charging inflated rates and making huge profits from those who traveled into Jerusalem to worship God.
The temple of God, that was supposed to be set-apart and special was being used to exploit others, not for worship.
When Jesus saw those who were buying and selling in the temple, he was filled with a holy anger. He drove out those who were there to buy sacrifices, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and flipped over the seats of those who were selling animals to be sacrificed. (Mark 11:15)
Afterwards, Jesus taught them by saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers," citing the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. (Isiah 56:7, Jer 7:11)
The pious and religious Jews had turned the house of God into a tool to exploit others and gain money for themselves. The kingdom, which was meant for all nations, had become exclusive and hostile to the foreigner and sojourner. This made Jesus furious, and he was just and right in his anger against those who were misusing the temple.
Jesus was not just flipping over tables and stools, but he was flipping over their idea of what the kingdom of God would look like. The kingdom of God was meant to embrace the foreigner and outcast. In the passage of Isiah that Jesus cited in his anger, it goes on to say, ”The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.””
The temple of God had a clear purpose; to gather all the nations together, including the outcast, to worship God. This is God’s desire. The temple was not meant for an exclusive organization of pious leaders, but rather a massy and ragtag worship gathering from people of all nations.
What does this mean for us? The Bible says that we, ourselves, are being built up as a spiritual house. (1 Pet 2:5) Those that have been saved by the blood of Christ are, in fact, the living temple of God. God has gathered all nations to himself. Through Jesus, he has gathered the foreigners, the sojourners, and the outcast. The purpose of the temple has not changed.
As we look to worship God this season, we must remember that while we have been gathered, God desires to gather others also. He desires the outcast to come into his presence. He desires the sinful to come and receive forgiveness. He desires the sojourner to find rest and family with those that he has already saved. He desires your coworkers, your family members, your neighbors, and those who are far off to worship him.
Bringing all nations to the temple of God was surely a messy job. The people were dirty and tired from traveling. People were speaking in different languages with different currencies. They had different customs and ways to worship God. Some probably liked to worship in a solemn and quiet posture, while others were loud and excited to finally make it to the temple. Some likely had better livestock and animals to offer than others.
These messes that came into he temple are something to rejoice in. God was moving all throughout the nation of Israel, and he loves to gather those to him.
You also, were once one of these messes. You were once the foreigner that had no idea how to offer spiritual sacrifices to God, and you were once the outcast that had a difficult time living into the things God has called you away from. God gathered you, and it is his desire to still gather others besides those already gathered. This is purpose of his people.