On Sunday morning, Jesus entered the Holy City in dramatic fashion. Later that afternoon, though it is not recorded in the scriptural texts, it is quite possible Jesus and his fellows selected a lamb to be slaughtered in a few days. If so, this would have been in accordance with Exodus 12:3. However, it would have been the last time they engaged in this ancient religious ceremony. Jesus then quietly perused the Temple on Sunday evening before heading back to Bethany for the night.
On Monday morning, Jesus arose and began his trek back to Jerusalem. On the way, he did something fairly odd — he condemned and cursed a certain fig tree. [This will be discussed in tomorrow’s devotional.] Jesus then made his way to his Father’s house, but upon entering and taking notice, he condemned, cursed, and cleansed it. One can read of this account in the following Gospel texts:
Matthew 21:12–13 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
Mark 11:15–17 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
Luke 19:45–46 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”
Jesus understood it was his Father’s house. It had been designed and placed by divine edict. It did not belong to the leaders. It did not belong to the worshipers. It did not belong to the nation. It was God’s place of special residence.
Jesus understood it was his Father’s house for the purpose of prayer. It was designed by God to be the sacred space where God would specially commune with his worshiping friends.
Jesus understood it was his Father’s house for the purpose of prayer for all ethnicities and people groups. It was not to be a ethnically segregated institution. There were to be no favored people groups. It was to be the place where men and women of every country, cast, culture, and color could come and commune with Jehovah.
However, Jesus saw how men had become so carried away with ceremonialism and materialism that the Temple had ceased to be the international house of prayer envisioned by the Father. The courtyard, the only place where they allowed foreigners to pray, had become …
- A museum giving glory to King Herod and the Jewish nation.
- A flea market filled with the smells and noise of animals.
- A check-cashing store where pagan money was traded for accepted coinage.
- A short-cut for those inconvenienced.
- A country club that preferred “Jews only.”
- A den of thieves.
It was not the place of non-discriminatory, multi-ethnic, international communion needed by man and intended by God.
Therefore, Jesus felt holy rage, flexed his mighty arm, exercised his great power, and cleaned house. He fashioned a whip, turned over tables, drove out the bankers, outed the marketers, got rid of their products, prohibited the indifferent from using the Temple as a cut-through, taught the people, and condemned the leaders for their lack of love for the Father, their lack of love for their fellow worshipers, and their ceremonial and material idolatry. Yes, on Monday, “Little Jesus – Meek and Mild” was not to be found. On that day, he was more like the Son of Man coming in power and glory. He was more like the “AlMighty God – Fierce and Wild.”
For the rest of the day, Jesus mellowed out a bit. He ended his Monday by teaching the hungry, giving sight to the blind, healing the lame, and receiving the praises of children. Then he again took off again for Bethany; there he would spend another night with his best of friends.
Friends, do you know where the “House of Prayer” is found today? Do you know the location of God’s “sacred space?”
It is not in Jerusalem.
It is not the building that houses your worship services, Sunday school classes, youth groups, outreach programs, and ministerial offices.
The house of prayer is you. If you have come to hear, believe, and rest in the Gospel, and if you are connected by faith to Jesus Christ …
- You are the common place sanctified by God’s decision and power,
- You are the place where God’s Spirit dwells,
- You are the Holy of Holies,
- You are the location of his Shekinah Glory,
- You are his body,
- You are his Temple,
- You are his bride — the place where God intimately communes,
- And where two or three of you are gathered, in that group God is specially found.
Therefore, let us repent of our misuse and abuse. Let us commune with God more and more. Let us show his compassion to all our brothers and sisters — of whatever country, caste, culture, or color. Let us not be known by our ceremonialism and materialism, let us be known by our prayer. Jesus took his own wrath, condemnation, and curse upon himself. He cleansed us by his blood that we might worship him freely and rightly. He cleansed us by his blood, that we might never experience the Father’s wrath. He cleansed us by his blood that we might be his houses of prayer.