Witness Relocation Project part 4
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 5, 2009
“I never expected that
to happen. He just didn’t seem like that kind of guy.” And that’s how
the story goes. We’ve all seen interviews like that on TV How there’s
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... “He basically kept to himself.
Never caused any trouble before. I don’t know what happen, I guess he
just lost it.”
Maybe that’s what happened with Jesus. I mean, we
all have our own ideas of what he’s really like, right? Just think
about the images of Christ that we see so often... meek and mild,
always hanging around children or holding sheep.
POWERPOINT - Images of Jesus
how we picture Jesus. But we just read a passage from the Bible where
Jesus breaks this stereotype we’ve cast on Him. Sure, He might show a
lot of compassion. But apparently He can also unleash His wrath.
back up and set the scene. Jesus was entering into what He knew would
be the last week of His life. No one else knew it, but He knew it. He
knew it because it was all according to His plan. The Bible teaches us
that Jesus, who Himself is God, gave up all the prestige and comforts
that were His as God in order to enter into His own Creation, to be
born as a baby, to grow up, and to give up His life as the ultimate
sacrifice for our sinfulness.
And Jesus knew all that was about
to unfold later on that week. And later on this week, on Good Friday,
we’ll be gathering together here to remember that sacrifice and to
reflect on why Jesus would go through that for us.
But as Jesus
entered into this final week, He decided to travel to Jerusalem. So
He’s walking along… Jesus and all of His disciples. And while they’re
still a little ways off, Jesus turns to His disciples and tells them to
go into one of the nearby villages, they’ll find a donkey there, and
they’re to bring that donkey to Him so that He can ride it into the
Which is a little bit odd, because pretty much everywhere
Jesus traveled, He walked. But this time, as everything’s coming
together as part of His great plan, Jesus decides to ride, and He’s
going to ride on a donkey. Why? I mean, why ride anything? And if you
are going to ride something, why not a horse?
Well, I think
there are a few possible answers to that. For one thing, it was
reminiscent of when King David and King Solomon rode on mules. So
riding on a donkey could be seen as a sign of royalty. Also, riding on
a horse was for time of war, whereas riding on a donkey was a
declaration of peace. Jesus was the Prince of Peace, so this would be
very appropriate. Plus, by riding into Jerusalem riding on a donkey,
Jesus would be fulfilling prophecy written hundreds of years earlier.
Zechariah 9:9 (NLT)
O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your
king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is
humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt.
So it was
a sign of victory, it was a sign of humility, it was a sign of royalty…
it was the fulfillment of prophecy and part of God’s plan from the
Now, maybe you came here this morning and you had
never heard of that verse from Zechariah. Then again, maybe you’ve
never even heard of Zechariah. But for the Jews living in Jerusalem at
the time of Jesus, they would be very familiar with that verse. It was
a verse of hope for them, especially since at the time they were living
under the Roman occupation of their land. In fact, many Jews would have
had this verse memorized. So when they saw Jesus riding into town on a
donkey… this guy who had just recently raised Lazarus from the dead…
this guy who had performed all kinds of miracles and had been going
around proclaiming the Kingdom of God… this guy who had been building
quite the reputation for Himself… when they saw Him riding into
Jerusalem on a donkey, they understood the significance. They knew that
this was the King of destiny that they had been waiting for.
when they saw Jesus coming, what happened? Well, the news started to
spread that Jesus was coming their way. So everyone came out and lined
the sides of the streets, kind of like a parade. And they waved at him,
and they shouted praise to Him, and then they began to place clothing
and palm branches on the road ahead of Him for the donkey to walk on.
Kind of like laying out a red carpet. And that’s why this is called
Palm Sunday, because of the Palm branches that were used to wave in the
air in celebration and to lay on ground before Jesus.
huge crowd of people gathered, and they were excited and they were
cheering, and they followed Jesus all along the road. And they kept
following him and chanting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the
name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming Kingdom! Praise God in the
Highest Heaven!” They were sure something big was about to happen.
you’ve got this parade of people following behind Jesus as He
approaches the city and as He enters Jerusalem and as He progresses
through the city heading straight for the temple.
And you can
imagine the frenzy. These Jews were living under Roman rule, and they
were sick and tired of it. They were ready to rise up under the right
leader, and they were sure that Jesus was that leader. And here He was
heading straight for the Temple. Surely Jesus was going to initiate
their emancipation right there and then.
So they watched in
eager anticipation as Jesus approached the Temple, and as He went
inside and looked around… and then Jesus turned to them and said…
“Well, goodnight.” And then He headed back to one of the nearby towns
for the night. It’s true… take a look:
Mark 11:11 (NLT)
Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around
carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon.
Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples.
How anti-climatic would that be? How deflating for the crowd of people?
Do you know what this reminds me of?
PLAY VIDEO – FORREST GUMP RUNNING ACROSS THE COUNTRY
think that’s kind of what it was like on Palm Sunday. These people
following Jesus, expecting Him to do something significant, and then
Jesus decided to retire for the night. Not quite what the people were
looking for. But Jesus understood that great things would be done later
on that week… Things nobody expected or understood, but things that
needed to take place so that people could experience true freedom. Not
just freedom for Roman rule, but freedom from the rule of sin… freedom
from the bondage of guilt… freedom that only comes through forgiveness
and redemption and restoration. And He would win that freedom for us on
But on that particular day, I think there were a lot
of disappointed people. They were expecting something great, and all
they saw was Jesus taking a walk. Of course, if they had come back the
next day, they would have seen some action then. Let me show you what
happened the next day…
Mark 11:15-18 (NLT)
When they arrived
back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the
people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the
tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and
he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to
them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of
prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had
done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him
because the people were so amazed at his teaching.
exactly what you’d expect of Jesus, is it? I mean, think about those
pictures we looked at a few minutes ago. What happened to the meek and
mild Jesus? Who knew Jesus could be so… so… so assertive? In fact, I
think his actions that day would have made the news. Imagine the
Trouble at the Temple
Carpenter Creates Chaos
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
I don’t think it was any of those things. In fact,
I don’t think He actually lost his cool. I think what He did that day
was preplanned and calculated.
Think about it. What had Jesus
just done the day before? He had gone to the Temple and looked around.
In fact, the Bible says “he looked around carefully at everything.” He
saw all of the tables set up there, turning the Temple into a
marketplace. He saw how the vendors were cheating the buyers. He saw
how they were jacking up the prices, kind of like when you go shopping
at the airport.
Now understand, those vendors needed to be
there. I mean, there were people coming to offer sacrifices according
to the Old Testament law, and they needed to be able to buy the animals
for the sacrifices. But what the vendors were doing in the Temple went
beyond just providing a needed service; they were cheating people with
outrageous mark-ups. And people had no option but to pay them. They
needed the sacrifices, so they had no choice. Plus, these sacrificial
animals had to be bought with a specific currency. They had to be
bought with Jewish shekels, and not with Roman or Greek currency which
would have been much more common. So there were money changers there
who were using ridiculous exchange rates.
So Jesus saw the
price-gouging that was going on, He saw how the people were being taken
advantage of, and He saw how this was destroying the image and the
reputation of the Temple, so He decided to do something about it. So he
came back the next day ready for action. He turned over the tables, He
made a whip, and he chased all the cheaters out. And when He did that,
we’re told that’s when the religious leaders really started to conspire
against Him, and they began to plot how they would kill Him. And Jesus
knew that was going to happen and He knew it would happen later that
But on that particular day, Jesus wanted to restore the
Temple to its real purpose. The Temple was not meant to be a
marketplace. What was it meant for?
We’re going to talk
about that for the next few minutes. And I think this is relevant for
us, especially since we are now meeting in a marketplace. Understand,
Jesus had no problem with people conducting business. His problem was
with businessmen who were cheating the buyers and who used dishonest
scales and who were corrupting the purpose of the temple.
So for us here at Sunrise, as we meet in a Mall, how do we maintain the
integrity of this Church?
Meeting Place Should be a Place for…
Meeting with God
you ever walked into a Church building and immediately sensed the
presence of God? I mean, I hope you can sense the presence of God here
this morning. After all, He is here. And remember what He promised…
Matthew 18:20 (NLT)
“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there
sometimes you really feel a sense of His presence, so much you can
almost taste it. I think that’s the ideal. That’s the way it should be
as we gather together. We should become acutely aware that we’re not
here alone… God is right here among us. And we can talk with Him, we
can learn from Him, we can be changed by Him.
Listen, we do come
here to meet with each other, too. And we’ll get to that in a few
minutes. But we primarily come together to meet with God. If that
weren’t the case, then we’d be nothing more than a social club. And
while it might be fun to get together, there’d be no real significance
But the truth is, we come together to meet with the
Creator of everything that exists, the CEO of the cosmos, the Almighty
God. And we’re not doing it on the odd chance that we might get an
audience with Him; we do it at His invitation and His promise to meet
here with us.
And it doesn’t matter if we meet in a medieval
Church building, or in a modern cathedral, or in a community centre, or
in a shopping mall… wherever we come together as the Church, there God
is among us. I know of churches that have met in bars and airports and
hotels and schools and fire stations and on beaches and in restaurants.
The actual location is not important. What’s important is that when we
come together we are meeting with God.
Let me give you a little
bit of history. There were actually three different Temples used by the
Jews in Jerusalem. The first Temple, built by Solomon in 966 B.C., was
destroyed about 400 years later when the Babylonian army invaded and
took the Israelites into captivity. About fifty years after that, a man
named Zerubabel headed up a project to build a new Temple. But they
didn’t have sufficient funding and the Temple they built was kind of an
eyesore. But it stood for about 500 years until it was torn down and a
new Temple was 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 at the time. 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, this time by the Romans
in A.D. 70, just seven years after it was completed. And it hasn’t been
rebuilt since, although there is always talk of it.
So the temple isn’t there anymore, but we do have some idea of what it
may have looked like.
POWERPOINT – LEGO
reality, it probably wasn’t quite that colorful. (Sometimes it’s just
scary what you can find on the Internet.) Actually, there is a scale
model of Herod’s 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.)
In all three Temples, there
were different areas that were used for different purposes, and there
was one room in particular that was most important. It was the
innermost room in the temple, separated from the rest by a huge
curtain, and it was called the Holy of Holies. In the Holy of Holies,
it was meant to house the Ark of the Covenant… the container that was
built at the time of Moses to house the tablets with the Ten
Commandments on them, plus a few other sacred relics. And this room
more than any other represented the presence of God among His people.
by the time of this third Temple, this room contained nothing at all.
The Ark had been either lost or stolen centuries earlier. Of course,
anyone who has watched Indiana Jones knows that the Ark is actually
buried deep in some government warehouse in the States. But even
without the Ark, the Holy of Holies was still the visible dwelling
place of God on earth. And it was separated from the rest of the temple
by a huge double curtain, that was someplace between 60 and 90 feet
In fact, this Holy of Holies could only be entered by the
High Priest, and he could only go in once a year. That’s how much
reverence they had for the presence of God. So when people when to the
Temple, they knew they were going there to meet with God.
Communicating with God
Temple was not just a place to go and be in the presence of God; it was
a place to communicate with God. And allow Him to communicate with you.
How did Jesus put it?
Mark 11:17 (NLT)
[Jesus] said to them,
“The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer
for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
the Temple was to be a house of prayer, which is of course our way of
communicating with God. Now, we can each pray on our own and we should
do that. I hope you spend some time in prayer each and every day. But
this is to be a place for all of us to come together as the Church… as
the Body of Christ… and to gather in prayer together.
it mean to pray? It means we express ourselves to God and we allow Him
to express Himself to us. It means we seek His guidance and His
leadership. It means we focus our love and our trust on Him. It means
we have an open line of communication.
And as I said, we can and should have that in our own personal lives.
But we can also have that as a Church.
is worship? Well, our word for “worship” is actually a shortened form
of an old English word, “worth-ship”. When you worship God, you are
acknowledging His worth. And you’ve got to understand, there is no one
and no thing with more worth that God. He deserves our utmost worship,
given in all integrity and sincerity.
So we come together here
to worship God. And we do that in a variety of ways. We worship through
music and signing praises to Him, we worship by approaching Him with
reverence and a sense of awe, we worship by letting His love flow
through us to each other, we worship by being generous as He is
generous, we worship by adopting the same heart He has for people who
are far from God.
Going back to the Old Testament, you can read
about why the very first temple was built. 1 Kings 5:5 finds King
Solomon talking about building that Temple, and this is why he was
going to do it…
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 had
instructed my father, David. For the Lord told him, ‘Your son, whom I
will place on your throne, will build the Temple to honour my name.’”
Temple was to be a place where God was honoured… where He was
worshipped. And you see that among the very first Christ-followers…
Acts 2:46 (NLT)
They worshiped together at the Temple each day…
fact, remember what Jesus said? He said the Temple was to be a house
of… what? Prayer. That’s what it says in the New Living Translation of
the Bible. In the Contemporary English Version of the Bible, that same
word that the NLT translates as “prayer” is translated as “worship.”
Prayer and worship go hand in hand. You can’t truly pray without
worshipping, and you can’t worship without praying.
Temple and our meeting place here should be a place to meet with God,
to communicate with Him, and to give Him the worship that He and He
Before we get to the fourth purpose, I want to
make sure you understand something. Today, we don’t need a Temple to
meet with God. We don’t need a church building to communicate with Him.
We don’t even need rental space in a mall to worship Him.
at the end of that week, something incredibly significant happened. At
the very moment that Jesus died on the cross, something happened in
that Temple where Jesus had been just a few days earlier. That area
called the Holy of Holies, the area that was separated by that huge
curtain… well, at the moment Jesus died, that curtain ripped in two
from top to bottom.
And it wasn’t 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. His presence is now among His people, regardless of
where they are.
That’s why you don’t have to go through me to
get to God. That’s why our faith isn’t based on a building or on ritual
sacrifices. That’s 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 (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 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. Not just the place we meet on Sundays,
but wherever you are each and every day. Walk with God, communicate
with Him regularly through prayer, and worship Him in the way you live.
Okay, with that said, we do still meet together as His people… as
Christ-followers… and we meet every week with the purpose of…
Building up His Church
building is not the Church; we are the Church. But the place where we
meet should be a place where we grow, where we encourage each other and
build each other up, where we look into the Word of God and learn from
it, where we are transformed by the power of God, where we introduce
new people into a relationship with God, and where we leave here
equipped and empowered to live as Christ-followers.
Hebrews 10:25 (CEV)
people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must
not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since
you know that the day of the Lord's coming is getting closer.
Romans 14:19 (NLT)
…Let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
week that we come here, you should leave changed. You should be
challenged, you should be encouraged, you should be motivated, and you
should leave having grown just a little bit more than you were when you
But in order for that to happen, you need to come ready
for it to happen. As you’re getting ready in the morning or as you’re
driving here in your car, you can be preparing yourself for what God
has in store for you. You can be praying and asking Him to do His will
in your life. You can be inviting Him to work deep within you,
transforming you to become more and more like His Son.
An as we
come together and as we worship God and as we encounter Him together,
we can open ourselves up to Him and we can experience Him in His
fullness. We can discover the profound truths of His Word. We can learn
how His Word is alive and active today, and how He uses it to instill
character and integrity in those of us who take it seriously.
what I want you to experience when you come here on Sundays. That’s
what I want every person who comes here to experience. It’s not about
where we are, it’s about who God is and what He’s doing in and through
us. And I’ve got to tell you, I believe He has some incredible things
in store for us in the days and weeks to come.