Summary: This is on the cleansing of the Temple.
Last week recap: Palm Sunday and Triumphal Entry: donkey, crowds, cheering, etc.
Mark places the temple cleansing on the next day, while in Matthew it appears to happen the same. It probably happened the next day.
Read Matthew 21:12-17.
This passage has often been misunderstood. At times churches have forbidden fundraisers based on this passage. Some have said it condemns selling on Sundays. It has more to do with how we look at God’s house, and what he wants in his house. The money-changers and animal sellers were providing a legitimate and needed service. The temple tax had to be paid in the correct currency. The pilgrims had to have a sacrifice.
1. God wants PRAYER in his house.
As Jesus is kicking out the money-changers and dove sellers, he quotes Isaiah 56:7, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Imagine trying to worship and prayer with the “cha-ching” of the cash registers, the squabbling of the salesmen and their patrons, or the bleating of the sheep and cooing of the doves. The Jewish temple had a set-up where Gentiles were only allowed in certain parts, then Jewish women could go a little farther, men a little farther, and then the inner areas of the temple was where only the priests could go. The merchants set up shop in the Court of Gentiles. Gentiles could go no farther. They were forced to worship and pray with all the commotion going on.
I remember when I was a kid that we used to have prayer meeting. As I grew, the format changed to where the prayer part was just an add-on at the end. Last Thursday, we a good prayer service. It’s hard to pray when stuff is going on. Prayer should be uninterrupted. Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” Matthew 6:6 (ESV). When we pray in private, we are more honest and direct with God.
2. God wants PEOPLE in his house.
If we read on in Isaiah 56:7, it says, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” It wasn’t limited to just the Jewish people. It wasn’t enough that the other parts of the temple were quiet for prayer. God wants all peoples. God’s house is not just for “God’s people.”
Notice too, that there were other “undesirables” in God’s house. The blind and lame came in. Children were praising Jesus. They were mimicking the praise they had heard during the Triumphal Entry. Jesus was a great friend of the blind, lame, and children. Just prior to the Triumphal Entry, Matthew tells us that Jesus healed two blind men. When the disciples tried to shoo away the children, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 19:14 (ESV).
When you think about it, we were all blind and lame because of sin. The church isn’t for the Christian only. It is also for those who don’t know God. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” Matthew 9:12 (ESV)
3. God wants POWER in his house.
It wasn’t just that the blind and lame came into the temple, they were healed. Healing comes only through the power of God. The chief priests and scribes stood there and saw all this happen. They witnessed the power that Jesus demonstrated. They still didn’t believe. A lot of people say they would believe if they saw a miracle, but that isn’t true. The ones who believed were those on whom Jesus demonstrated his power.
Jesus has demonstrated his power in our lives in that he changed us. He forgave our sins. He gave us new life. This power should be demonstrated and testified to in God’s house. That doesn’t mean that this is the only place where his power is demonstrated. Most of Jesus miracles occurred nowhere near the temple. They occurred on the road and in houses. We, as the church, should be demonstrating God’s power in our lives outside these four walls.
4. God wants PRAISE in his house.
Once the merchants were out of the way, the children were free to shout praise to Jesus. Having witnessed the miracles, the religious elite should have joined the children in praising Jesus. Jesus responded to the indignation of the religious elite by saying that infants and babes will shout praise. He said on another occasion, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” Luke 19:40 (ESV). Who is our praise supposed to be directed to? Jesus. No one else but Jesus is worthy of our praise. So often we praise others. “Sister Sally sure sang a super special song on Sunday.” Instead we should praise God for giving sister Sally such a beautiful voice.