Summary: Jesus’ challenge to make His Father’s House a house of prayer
The theme of this morning’s service is the challenge of Jesus. And we are looking in particular Jesus’ challenge to make God’s Temple a House of Prayer.
1. Gentle Jesus meek and mild
Our reading this morning blows a hole in our comfortable view of
“Gentle Jesus meek and mild.”
Question: Any idea which hymnwriter wrote those immortal words?
Ans: Charles Wesley, the greatest of all hymn writer. Even he got his theology wrong occasionally!!
Jesus was anything else but meek and mild.
And we saw Him this morning clearing out the moneychangers (the loan sharks as one modern version of the Bible calls them) from the Temple.
And we read in verse 15 how Jesus made a whip of chords to drive them out and said:
"How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market".
Why was Jesus so violent?
Story: Can you imagine Jesus getting anywhere by going up to the moneylenders and saying:
"Excuse me, fellows - this is not meant to be a house of merchandise. Would you mind closing up shop and moving on!"
I don’t think they would have taken him too seriously. It needed firm action.
But notice - Jesus’ anger was not out of control. It was more like a fiery outburst. Something to encourage the moneychangers to give some serious thought to removing themselves.
“I want you OUT” Jesus said “And I want you out NOW!”
2. The Abuse of the House of God
Question: Why did Jesus blow a fuse?
Answer: Because of the abuse going on in the house of God – the Temple.
The Temple should have been a place
i) where people could come to commune with God,
ii) where they could learn from the teachers of the Law how God expected them to live and
iii) where they could bring their sacrifices for their sins.
And the pilgrims were being ripped off in the House of God.
i) well, firstly you weren’t allowed to sacrifice any unblemished animal or bird. You could only sacrifice an animal or bird that had been bought from the sellers in the Temple Courtyard. It was a closed shop! And
ii) secondly you could not use everyday money to purchase the bird or animal. You had to buy the animal or bird with special Temple money.
The pilgrim was being doubly ripped off -
firstly with the exorbitant prices of the closed shop prices of the sacrifical animals and birds; and
secondly with the exchange rate.
Our reading this morning does not tell us what Jesus thought about the proper use of the Temple should have been.
But St. Matthew, in a parallel passage does.
When Jesus cleansed the Temple, He said:
It is written ’My house shall be called a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves’" (Matt. 21:13)
The Temple should have been a house of prayer and not a market place - a house of merchandise.
It should have been a house of prayer – yet the Temple authorities had used it to line their own pockets:
Here were people, who professed to love God, making a killing from pilgrims who had come to worship God. It was cynical.
3. Corruption in Judea
There was a lot of corruption around in Judea at that time.