Summary: Above all, the flavour of the church should be prayer.
A Most Amazing Jesus
June 21, 2003
One of the most amazing Jesus actions is recorded in the gospel of Mark, where we looked last week to see some of the ways he cares for us and for us to know what we can take to him for help. This action seems most unexpected and, even, out of character with all the helpfulness that we see in Jesus’ ministry. But this action is fundamental to our understanding of how we, and the church, need to be.
Mark 11. 15-18- the key phrase is: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
I believe the 12 disciples were as stunned as the crowd- nothing is said about their helping in this. All by himself, Jesus started pitching over the tables, blocking people who were carrying things, and saying, ‘Get out of here with that! You can’t bring that through the courts.” He stormed to the merchants of oxen and sheep and doves, saying, “Out! Get your business out of here!”
What made Jesus so agitated? His house was being prostituted for something other than what was intended. As the feathers were flying and the coins were clattering to the pavement and the businessmen were shouting of the police, Jesus said above the roar, “This place looks and feels more like a mall than a temple.” He reminded them of Isaiah’s word about the real point of this building- to be a house of prayer for all nationalities and races.
This action pulls us all up short and has to make us all think about what we do in God’s house. What and why we do whatever we do is something we have to consider. Jesus declared that the atmosphere of God’s house is to be prayer. The aroma around the Father must be that of people opening their hearts I worship and supplication. This is not just a place to make a buck. This is the house for calling on the Lord. We have to remember that God no longer centers his presence in one particular building, like he did in the Jerusalem temple. In the NT, we are now his dwelling place- he lives in his people. How much more important, then, is Jesus’ message about the first place of prayer in our lives?
What is supposed to distinguish Christian churches, Christian people, and Christian gatherings is the aroma of prayer. The house is not ours- it is the Father’s. The Bible speaks of the need for preaching, music, and the reading of the Word. These are important. But they must not override prayer as the defining mark of God’s dwelling.
We’ve just celebrated Pentecost- the anniversary of the beginning of the church. Have you noticed that Jesus launched the Christian church not while someone was preaching, but while people were praying? In the first two chapters of Acts, the disciples were doing nothing but waiting on God. As they were just sitting there- worshiping, talking with God, letting God shape them and cleanse their spirits and do things that only the Holy Spirit can do, the church was born. The Holy Spirit was poured out.
In Acts 4, when the apostles were unjustly arrested, imprisoned, and threatened, they didn’t call for a protest or reach for some political leverage. Instead, they headed to a prayer meeting. Soon the place was vibrating with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 4.21-31- the apostles’ instinct was: when in trouble, pray. When intimidated, pray. When challenged, pray. When persecuted, pray.
Quote: J. B. Phillips- after completing his work on Acts:
“It is impossible to spend several months in close study of the remarkable short book…without being profoundly stirred and, to be hones, disturbed. The reader is stirred because he is seeing Christianity, the real thing, in action for the first time in human history. The newborn Church, as vulnerable as any human child, having neither money, influence nor power n the ordinary sense, is setting forth joyfully and courageously to win the pagan world for God through Christ…
“Yet we cannot help feeling disturbed as well as moved, for this surely is the Church as it was meant to be. It is vigorous and flexible, for these are the days before it ever became fat and short of breath through prosperity, or muscle-bound by over organization. These men did not make ’acts of faith,’ they believed; they did not ’say their prayer,’ they really prayed. They did not hold conferences on psychosomatic medicine, they simply healed the sick. But if they were uncomplicated and naïve by modern standards, we have ruefully to admit that they were open on the God-ward side in a way that is almost unknown today.”
When Saul was converted and God needed a believer to minister to him, when no Christian wanted to go within about a couple of kilometers of him, God coaxed Ananias along in an interesting way: