Witness Relocation Project part 4
Jesus Cleans House
by Greg Hanson
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

That’s 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.

Let’s 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 city.

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)
Rejoice, 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 beginning.

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.

So 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.

So this 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.

So 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)
So 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

I 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 the cross.

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.”
When 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.


Not 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 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?

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 week.

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?


Our Meeting Place Should be a Place for…

1.    Meeting with God

Have 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 among them.”

But 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 to it.

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

In 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.

But 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 high.

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.


2.    Communicating with God

The 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.”

So 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.

What does 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.


3.    Worshipping God

What 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.’”

The 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…

In 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.


So the 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 alone deserves.

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.

Because 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?

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. 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…


4.    Building up His Church

The 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)
Some 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.

Every 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 came in.

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.

That’s 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.



 

 

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