Summary: Creating a house of prayer often brings disruption and disturbance to a lifestyle that is unacceptable to the Lord. How do we respond to or resist Him?
Holy Week Service
Church of the Atonement
March 21, 2005
“A Place of Prayer”
INTRODUCTION: The next day after the trimphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus went to the temple. What he found there was anything but a house of prayer.
Picture in your mind the confusion with all the people rushing around to buy supplies and animals for the sacrifices. Listen to the clanging coins on the marble tables as they exchanged their money into the local currency for the temple tax. Hear the merchants and money changers talking and laughing loudly as they went about the business of the day. Imagine the bleating animals and the cooing birds smelling up a sacred place of worship. There was no way the people could concentrate on God and on prayer. The sellers were carrying merchandise through the temple court as a shortcut between the city and the Mt. of Olives. (Mark 11:16). It had become a lucrative business, and they weren’t about to stop it. The money changers charged a high rate to change the pilgrims’ money into the local currency. This was not the first time that Jesus had found these abuses in the temple. At the beginning of His ministry, He had driven the merchants out with a whip; but over time they had made their way back into the temple gaining a strong foothold.
1. Why Did Jesus Bother?: Here it was the last week of Jesus’ ministry. He would soon die on the cross. Why bother to do anyting about the problems he faced in the temple that day? Why didn’t he just let it slide? Too late to make changes now. Can’t do much about it. Why disrupt things now and experience more opposition? Don’t rock the boat.
One reason He got so upset about it was because the Gentiles were being cheated out of their rightful place of worship. They were being treated as second class citizens and ignored. Hundreds of years before, the prophet Isaiah looked forward to a time when the temple would be called a “house of prayer,” but now at the dawn of the Messianic age, Jesus finds it to be “a den of robbers.” (Isaiah 56:7).
The temple service required provisions be made for getting what was needed for sacrifices--animals, wood, oil especially for the pilgrims. Money changers converted the standard Greek and Roman currency into temple currency in which the half sheckel temple tax had to be paid (Matthew 17:24-27). It seemed to be a logical thing to do. Although the merchants had once performed a useful service for out of towners, it had become corrupted.
APPLICATION: Many times we find that our lives have become in many ways like the situation Jesus found in the temple. We allow sin to creep into our lives. At first it doesn’t seem so bad. It may have seemed like a good idea in the beginning. We justify it by saying, “I didn’t have a choice” or “this is just the way things are. This is just the way I am.”
I Corinthians 6:19 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.”
As the clutter and the confusion becomes more intense in our lives, we recognize that things are not as they should be, but we don’t know what to do about it. We know that we are being cheated out of what God intends for our lives. We go about the business of our lives trying to do the best we can--running through the days with our load of responsibilities. We have somehow learned to “cope” with life that is packed with noise, confusion, and lack of purpose running from one thing to another. We look at dreams and hopes that have been lost in the shuffle of daily living and wish things were different but think, “What can I do about it now?” Sometimes we pick and choose habits and sins that we want to hang on to.
The pilgrims who were trying to worship God in the noisy temple may have been every bit as frustrated by the distractions surrounding them in the temple. Could Jesus ignore these people? Can He ignore us? I don’t think so.
2. Jesus Walked In: Jesus walked into a messy life situation. His very presence was disturbing to anyone who was there that day. People who saw Him would ask, “Who is this?” (vs. 10) and people recognized him by saying, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (vs. 11). He focused on BOTH buyers and sellers who were abusing the area. He OVERTURNED the tables of the moneychangers scattering the coins. He disrupted things as they were in the area. It was a disturbing moment for all of them. It was evident that he had authority and power to do it. His goal was to create a sacred space--a place of prayer especially for the Gentiles who were being denied this.