Reader: “My Temple will be called a house of prayer”
Response: “for all nations.”
Scripture: Mark 11:15-19
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.
That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city.
Reader: This is the word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.
We mentioned yesterday concerning the unity of the whole of Scripture. One of the ways this happens has to do with passages from the First Testament being quoted in the New Testament shedding light or fulfilling a prophecy. One of the things to remember about Jesus’ day was that ordinary Jews knew the Old Testament extremely well, far better than the average Christian today. Jesus knew it inside and out, not because he was God, but because as a young boy he studied it. “He grew in wisdom and stature.” The fact that Jesus “grew” speaks of his humanity as a human boy. He hadn’t arrived on earth in full wisdom. Afterall, the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
So in this pericope, Jesus quotes Isaiah (Is.56:7) in regard to the Temple being a house of prayer for all nations, and he quotes Jeremiah (Jer.7:11) in condemning the moneychangers for making it a “house of thieves.” The Temple had become a place of commerce and dishonest commerce at that! The priests were involved in the process of buying and selling and earning commissions in the transactions. The purity of the Temple as a place of worship that Hezekiah had tried to re-establish during the time of Isaiah had once again fallen into disrepute by the time of Jeremiah some 70-80 years later, hence Jeremiah’s comment about it being a “house of thieves.” Notice how Jesus reiterates the true purpose of the Temple from God’s perspective. It was a place to reach out to all nations (Gentiles!) while condemning man’s utilitarian greedy design for the Temple.
As often happens, when the position of the arrogant elite leadership is threatened by someone from the “outside,” the reaction is often a vigorous attempt to destroy that person; in Jesus’ case, kill the one who would dare challenge the ruling class. The elite’s problem was that the lowly people, all those who were not elite, loved his teaching. Though that was not his purpose or point, Jesus had power far greater power than the elite. Did you notice what Jesus did after “cleansing the Temple?” He left town! So clear to all, his point was that the purpose of the Temple was a place of worship and prayer for all people: period. He did not seek power to establish a kingdom. He was never after earthly power. Even after the resurrection, the disciples did not understand. And just prior to his Ascension, the disciples again asked if he was going to establish his kingdom now. They could not conceive of a leader who was not after power. To them, Jesus was incomprehensible. In every age, the elite thirst for power and control, then and now.
The Temple is central throughout Scripture which makes Paul’s statement in I Cor.3:16 all the more astounding when he says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” Lent is a season for reflection on the cleanliness of our own temples. Is there anything you need to throw out? Any “moneychanger” sins you’re hoarding? May our world learn to be about building God’s kingdom rather than striving for power.
Music: “Miserere Mei, Deus” Tenebrae Choir Exquisite!!!!!! Psalm 51
This is a setting of the confession text of Psalm 51. You may want to turn to Psalm 51 in your Bible as you listen and watch. This is why God designed the human voice. . . to sing his praise and confess our sin and to know the joy of being forgiven!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, our Intercessor, may our hearts be open to you, to see as you see. May we be obedient to your voice. May we learn to be quiet and listen to you. May your voice become more and more familiar to our ears. May our life of prayer with you multiply many times throughout the day. We ask that you’d bring things to our minds during the day that need prayer. May we be free to pray with those in need as we go through the mornings, afternoons and evenings of our lives. In all of this, may you receive glory. Thank you for praying for us continually. And thank you for beautiful music. Forgive us for abusing this glorious gift. We pray this in your tender name. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp