The Day Jesus Got Mad
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 13, 2003

 

Main Passage: Matthew 21:1-17

ďI never expected that to happen. He just didnít seem like that kind of guy.Ē And thatís how the story goes. Weíve all seen interviews like that on TV How thereís some random act of violence, and come to find out it was the quiet guy living next door. News teams and reporters interview the neighbors and the statements are often the same... ďHe basically kept to himself. Never caused any trouble before. I donít know what happen, I guess he just lost it.Ē

Maybe thatís what happened with Jesus. I mean, we all have our own ideas of what heís really like, right? Just think about the images of Christ that we see so often... meek and mild, always hanging around children or holding a lamb.

POWERPOINT - Images of Jesus

Thatís how we picture Jesus. But we read a passage earlier in the service where Jesus breaks the stereotype weíve cast on Him. He had just been welcomed into Jerusalem by a crowd of people shouting his praises, hailing him as King. He had ridden into town on a donkey, a sign of peace and humility. But his next actions would shock the people and infuriate the religious leaders.

Lynn read about it earlier in the service, but now see for yourself what happened when Jesus entered the Temple in Jerusalem.

VIDEO CLIP Ė CBS Jesus Mini-series

Not exactly what youíd expect of Jesus, is it? In fact, I think his actions would have made the news. Imagine the headlines:

Trouble at the Temple
Carpenter Creates Chaos
Menacing Messiah
Rabid Rabbi


Something set Jesus off. But what was it? What caused Him to lose His cool? Was it just that he had some anger that had built up over the years and something just had to give? Was it a result of some traumatic experience he had as a child? Was it something that could be blamed on His parents?

Iíll tell you what it was. It was the fact that the temple was being used for purposes other than it was intended for.

 

What Was the Purpose of the Temple?

 

So what was the purpose of the Temple? Well, to find that out letís take a look back into the Old Testament.

1 Kings 5:5 finds King Solomon talking about the Temple.

1 Kings 5:5 (NLT)
So I am planning to build a Temple to honor the name of the LORD my God, just as he instructed my father that I should do. For the LORD told him, `Your son, whom I will place on your throne, will build the Temple to honor my name.'

1Kings 6 finds God talking to Solomon, saying:

1 Kings 6:12-13 (NLT)
"Concerning this Temple you are building, if you keep all my laws and regulations and obey all my commands, I will fulfill through you the promise I made to your father, David. I will live among the people of Israel and never forsake my people."

The purpose of the temple? It was a place to communicate with God. It would represent the presence of God among the people and it would serve as a place to pray to Him and worship Him.

So what was it that Jesus saw when he arrived in Jerusalem that day that upset Him so much? He saw a marketplace. He saw people conducting all kinds of business there. He saw money exchangers cheating the people on their rates. He saw people more concerned about making a buck than encountering God.

You see, the Jews had a bit of a dilemma. Part of what happened at the temple was the offering of sacrifices, and the animals to be sacrificed were supplied by the temple. And the people could buy the animals right there on the premises. But, they could only purchase them using Jewish shekels and could not buy them using Roman or Greek currency. Since Israel at the time was under Roman rule, people did not always have easy access to shekels. So money exchangers started conducting business at the temple. This wouldnít be so bad if they were simply providing a necessary service, but they were out to make a substantial profit, to the point that they continuously raised their rates and cheated the people. Kind of like the price of gas around holidays.

And from this a whole marketplace seemed to arise in the outer court of the temple. Letís take a look at the temple so we can have a better idea of what was going on.

POWERPOINT -

This is a map of what Jerusalem supposedly looked at this time of history. You can see by the size of the temple that it was a very important part of the Jewish community. In fact, a lot of time and money had been put into building it. The temple had originally been built by King Davidís son, Solomon, around 966 B.C. It was an extremely prestigious building that was to be the visible dwelling place of God on earth and housed the Ark of the Covenant, the chest that contained the stones that Charlton Heston brought down from Mount Sinai. But the original temple was destroyed by the Babylonian Army in 586 B.C. who took the Israelites into captivity.

When the Israelites returned from captivity to Jerusalem 50 years later they tried to rebuild the temple under the leadership of a man named Zerubbabel. But this time they didnít have the money and the people to rebuild it right, and it became quite an eyesore. Especially for the people who were old enough to compare it to the grandness of the original temple. It stood, though, for nearly 500 years before it was torn down and replaced with a magnificent structure built by Herod the Great. Herod already had a reputation for building fantastic structures, and he ordered the rebuilding of the temple in order to increase that reputation and to win favour from the Jews. He was, after all, quite an egotist and was very concerned about what people thought of him.

And this is the temple that Jesus would enter that day. In fact, the temple was still under construction. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the building project, Herod started building the temple 46 years earlier and it would continue for another 30 years. Unfortunately, this temple was also destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 just seven years after it was completed. And it hasnít been rebuilt since, although there is always talk of it.

So the temple isnít there anymore, but we do have some idea of what it may have looked like.

POWERPOINT Ė LEGO

In reality, it probably wasnít quite that colorful. (Sometimes itís just scary what you can find on the Internet.) Actually, there is a scale model of Herodís Temple that has been built and is on display in Jerusalem that looks like this. (If you look closely, you can see some people standing in the background.)

Letís take a look at the layout. Here is the floor plan for the Temple. The innermost section of the temple area contained the temple proper. Only priests were allowed to enter this building. In here was THE HOLY PLACE which contained certain sacred objects, and THE HOLY OF HOLIES where only the chief priest was permitted to enter. This area contained nothing at all. It was intended to house the Ark of the Covenant, but it had been either lost or stolen centuries earlier. Of course, anyone who has watched Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark know that the Ark is actually buried deep in some government warehouse in the States. So the Ark of the Covenant wasnít in the Holy of Holies, but the Holy of Holies was still the visible dwelling place of God on earth, and was separated from the rest of the temple by a huge double curtain, that was someplace between 60 and 90 feet high.

Outside of the temple proper was the COURT OF PRIESTS which again could only be entered by the priests. Here the priests made ritual sacrifices on the ALTAR. They also made private sacrifices for the people who brought animals to them. Animal sacrifice had been a part of Judaism since the earliest days and was practiced as an acknowledgment that all life belongs to God. You may wonder why we donít still offer sacrifices today. In Hebrews 7:27 and again in Hebrews chapter 9 and chapter 10 weíre told that Jesus was the sacrifice for our sins once and for all. It is no longer necessary to offer sacrifices because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.

Overlooking the Court of Priests was the COURT OF MEN, which could only be entered by Jewish men. This is where the men would wait and watch as their sacrifices were being made. To get to this area, the men would have traveled through the COURT OF WOMEN. This was not a place reserved only for women, but it was the stopping place for them. It was really kind of a social gathering place for both Jewish women and Jewish men. Even the Romans respected the restrictions that only Jews could enter this part of the Temple area, so people could talk freely. There you would find scribes and scholars holding debates and teaching people, and in many ways this area was the heart of the Jewish community.

Then we have the rest of the Temple. Herod had included in this outer section a FORTRESS, an area called SOLOMONíS PORCH, and the COURT OF GENTILES. This was the only part of the temple open for non-Jews to come and offer sacrifices. It was also a bit of a tourist attraction... People all over heard about Herodís Temple and wanted to see it firsthand. This area is also where the money exchangers would have been busy at work exchanging local and foreign currencies into shekels, the only acceptable coins for temple offerings.

This is the section where Jesus would have entered that day, since He would have to go through here to get to the rest of the temple. Now, remember that the purpose of the temple was to be a visible dwelling place for God on earth and a place for communication with Him. But what Jesus saw that day was a whole lot of religious activity with no real communication with God. In fact, he saw people using religious excuses for taking advantage of people. Thatís why He said:

Matthew 21:13 (NLT)
He said, "The Scriptures declare, `My Temple will be called a place of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves!"

The temple was being used for purposes other than it was intended for, so Jesus decided to take action, as weíve already seen.

Now catch this. Up until now Iíve been doing a lot of teaching, talking about history and religious customs. All of that is the backdrop for an incredible event that took place later that week. On the day Jesus was crucified, just a few days after the events of this passage, something happened. In the innermost section of the Temple, in the Holy of Holies... The place that represented the most intense presence of God... The place that was separated from the rest of the temple by a huge double curtain, something happened. That huge double curtain, which measured someplace between 60 and 90 feet high, was torn in two from top to bottom. And it wasnít torn by human hands, but by the hand of God. It was a symbolic event meaning no longer would His presence be confined to a room separated from His people. The barrier had been removed.

Thatís why you donít have to go through me to get to God. Thatís why our faith isnít based on a building or ritual sacrifices. Thatís why you can know God personally.

Listen to this:

1 Corinthians 3:16 (NLT)
Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)
Or don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

If you believe in God and have a relationship with Him, you are now His temple. And just as the original temple was built as a place for worship and prayer and communication with God, they need to be an integral part of your life, too.

So let me ask you, if Jesus were to arrive in His temple today, what tables would He overturn? Would He look into your life and be pleased with what He saw, or would He see you getting so wrapped up in religious activities and your own ambitions and the busyness of everyday life that you neglect your most important purpose... To live in communication with God. To worship Him, to pray to Him, to be the visible presence of God on earth.

When Jesus drove the business people out of the temple, He told them:

Matthew 21:13 (NLT)
He said, "The Scriptures declare, `My Temple will be called a place of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves!"

Just for the next few minutes I want to talk with you about some of the things that will make Sunrise a place of prayer and make each of us people of prayer.

 

What Makes a ĎPlace of Prayerí?

 

1. A focus on community, not exclusion.

Help me out. What are some things that help build community in a church?

PARTICIPATION (worship, prayer, social events, opennessÖ)

What are some things that hurt community?

PARTICIPATION (Gossip (truth or lies, teller or hearer) snobbery, resentment, bitterness, unresolved issuesÖ)

 

2. A focus on participation, not observation.

Weíve talked about it before: Church is not a spectator sport. You donít come, listen to some music, hear somebody pray, and watch me preach. No, your aim should be to enter into worship yourself, to seek God, to encounter Him, to join with us in prayer, and discover ways to apply the Word of God to your life. Church isnít a show, itís an experience. Itís believers coming together to encounter God together.

 

3. A focus on calling, not ambition.

Itís not about what we want, itís about what God wants. We are at a critical stage at Sunrise. It would be easy for us to focus on building a beautiful building someday, or to try to impress people with a service where everything is polished but nothing is genuine, or become preoccupied with our stats to the point where numbers matter more than people. Thatís ambition, but our calling is to introduce people to Christ and help them grow. Someday a building may help us do that, but thatís secondary. In doing so, our numbers will increase, but thatís secondary. Our ambitions can never be placed before Godís calling.

 

4. A focus on being real, not being perfect.

Weíre talking about being a place of prayer. Well, prayer requires honesty. It means you admit your sins and your weaknesses; it means you acknowledge your fears and your doubts; it means you take off your masks and allow God to see you for who you are. God knows everything about you and loves you anyway, so why try to hide it? And when you pray, just be yourself. Thereís no reason for you to pray in ďTheesĒ and ďThousĒ if thatís not how you normally talk. Youíre talking to your closest friend, so be yourself.

 

5. A focus on relation, not religion.

In the video clip we saw at the beginning of the service (CBS Jesus Mini-series, Palm Sunday), you may have noticed some people standing back scowling at everything that was happening. They were the religious people. They were the oneís caught up in appearances and protocol and rules and regulations. In contrast, the people who were worshipping Jesus and welcoming Him into Jerusalem were the ones who wanted a relationship with Jesus. My goal as pastor of Sunrise is not to make you look a certain way and act a certain way and talk a certain way. My goal is to help you get to know Jesus better. Simple as that.

Let me try to put this into perspective for you. There are certain things that I do for my wife. If sheís had a long day at work, we have a footbath/massager at home that Iíll pull out and get ready for her. If sheís out and her favorite show is on TV, Iíll set the VCR to tape it for her. Every once in a while Iíll surprise her with a present or Iíll take her out for dinner or to a movie. Are those things Iím supposed to do as her husband? Yes. But are they things I do solely because Iím her husband? No. I do them because I love her and I want to do things that please her.

Religion tells you the things you have to do and the things you shouldnít do. Relation means you love God, and your actions will naturally flow out of that.

 

6. A focus on pleasing God, not pleasing self.

I was reading a book a couple weeks ago that talked about the word ďserviceĒ as it refers to a church service. And it commented about how when services were first called services, it was a reflection of the desire of believers to offer their services to God. But the book went on to discuss how these days the word ďserviceĒ means that people are looking for what services are being offered to them.

Ralph Moore talks about how people these days are tuned into the radio station WIIFM. (Whatís in it for me?)

I was at a conference last year at Moncton Wesleyan Church. For those of you who arenít familiar with Moncton Wesleyan, it averages about 1600 people each weekend and is the largest evangelical church in Atlantic Canada. The senior pastor there is L.D. Buckingham and he has been there for over (I believe) 35 years. So heís getting closer to retirement, and it may surprise you to know that at Moncton Wesleyan they sing many of the same songs we sing here.

Pastor Buckingham grew up in a very conservative church and doesnít particularly like the new music being written today, but he has said that heís willing to put his own preferences aside in order to reach more people for Christ. Besides, he says when he gets to heaven heíll have all the time he wants to enjoy the music he likes. He knows itís about pleasing God, not himself.

 

7. A focus on transformation, not information.

Weíre in the business of life-change, not education.

The apostle Paul went from being the greatest persecutor of the Church to the greatest hero of the Church. Peter went from being a cowardly fisherman to being a bold leader preaching to thousands while risking death. Mary Magdalene was a demon-possessed hooker who became a model of faith, love and devotedness.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!

 

As a believer, you are Godís temple. Are you living in communion with Him? Do you worship and pray to Him regularly, privately and publicly?

Iím going to ask you to close your eyes. I want to give you an opportunity to respond to the message this morning. Iím going to give you a couple of ways in which you can respond.

First, youíre here and youíve got a relationship with God, but you want it to be more than it is. You sense within yourself a desire and a need for better communion with God. If thatís where youíre at, I want to pray for you. Just slip up your hand and let me know thatís where youíre at. Iím not going to mention you by name or embarrass you in any way... Iím just going to pray for you.

All right. Secondly, perhaps youíve thought that all that was important was that you go to church, do religious activity, and go through the motions. And perhaps that curtain has been torn for you today. Iím here to tell you this morning that God wants to have a personal relationship with you. If thatís where youíre at and you want to begin that relationship today, Iím going to ask you to raise your hand.


 

 

 

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