Jesus’ Last Week: Jesus Clears the Temple

Good morning Journey.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here at Jammy Church.  that’s right – we officially changed our name to Jammy Church.   We hope you are all well.  We miss you very much!

Last week we began a new series about the last week of Jesus’ life before the crucifixion.  Did you know that the four books of the Bible that record the life of Jesus – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, – the first four book of the New Testament – and the only four books in the Bible that detail the life and ministry and death and resurrection of Jesus – these four books dedicate anywhere from a quarter to half their book to this last week of his life.   One half of the book of John zeros in on the last week of Jesus life.

What did Jesus do during these last days?  What does Jesus want his followers to know and understand during these last days together?

And we started with what we now call Palm Sunday – where Jesus announced that he really is the king – though a different king than they were expecting.  they wanted a great political savior to lead their country – and Jesus knew that it wouldn’t be enough.

What we really needed was a King that would reign over our souls.  Jesus knew we needed a new kind of King to reign over a different kind of kingdom – one where we need not fend for ourselves – filled with different – recreated – kinds of humans beings – the kinds of human beings who lack nothing and who fear nothing.

And Jesus knew that in order for those things to happen – he needed to walk through the valley of the shadow of a crucifixion itself.  And so the Sunday before his death on a Cross – Jesus rode into town announcing he is the King of Israel.  He Is the king of all kings.

Now – we are picking up the story – it’s Monday.  He will be crucified on Friday.  What does Jesus do on Monday?  And what he does here on Monday is – shocking.  It’s straight up one of the wildest stories about stuff Jesus did.   Jesus did what?

We will turn to Matthew chapter 21:12-17 to read about it.  (Now in case you are wondering – Matthew doesn’t tell us it’s the next – Mark 11 tells us that it was the day after the triumphal procession.  Why doesn’t Mathew tell us this?  Apparently it doesn’t matter to Matthew if it happened on Sunday or Monday – he just tells us it happened.  But Mark mentions that it happened the day after the triumphal entry.)

12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. Okay – do you know how he drove people out of the temple area?  the book of John tells us that Jesus grabs some cords and makes a whip and starts  – get on out!  I told you this is wild!  What is going on?!

He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”

Can we talk about this?  Listen – sometimes we get into this habit – if we’ve been following Jesus for a while we read this and we’re like – oh yeah- this is the time Jesus make a whip and drove people out of the temple.  We become so familiar with something it loses its power, frankly.

Others of you are hearing this story for the first time and you’re like, Jesus did what?  I mean – This seems like a very unJesus thing to do.   Is this the same guy who – healed the sick and raised the dead and showed compassion and mercy at every turn.

Flipping over tables – driving people out of the temple with a whip?  Has Jesus lost it?  Has the stress over the impending crucifixion put Jesus on edge?

So this is the question we want to address this morning.  Why is Jesus angry when he goes into the temple?  Because that’s what he is.  He is angry. He is upset.  Why?   This story demands that we investigate why he gets so angry.

That’s what we are going to do now – and to understand why Jesus is so upset – we need to step back a little bit and understand what was supposed to be happening at the temple.

The deal is that Jewish people – wherever they lived – whether it was in Israel – or around the world – they were required to go to the temple in Jerusalem to attend at least one of the three major festivals a year in Jerusalem, and when they came, they had to do two things.

One – they had to pay a temple tax of half shekel, according to the temple currency.  So people who traveled from all over the world, brought the money with them – currency from Rome and Greece and Egypt and Persia.  All this money had to be exchanged.

Second:  Travelers to the Temple offered sacrifices for their sins.  And the animals that they used for sacrifices had to be perfect animals – and if you are a Jewish person traveling from Rome, you don’t want to have to pack up a lamb or a dove in your items.  Even if you did, there is no certainty that it would be accepted by the temple priests, and so, people just bought the animals when they got to the temple.

So, you can imagine there might be problems associated with the system.  It’s ripe for abuse, first of all.  Like first century tourist traps…  Travelers might pay a premium for the convenience of exchanging money at the temple, or buying the sheep at the temple.  It could easily become a den of robbers. It would be like doing your food shopping at a Convenience store – you know you are going to pay more for it – but it’s worth the convenience to know you can just do it there.

But I don’t think Jesus is throwing over the money changing tables because he doesn’t want to pay too high a fee.  And it’s NOT just that people had turned the temple into a profit center…  that certainly is on Jesus’ mind – when he says – you’ve turned this place into a den of robbers – but that’s not the only thing that is irritating Jesus.

It’s where these things where going on.  It’s where the money changers and shop keepers had set up their shop.

They set up shop in the place – the only place – set aside for non-jewish people to worship God.  They set up shop inside the court of the Gentiles.  The Outer court.

The temple was a large area, and it was partitioned off.  The outer courts was called the Court of the gentiles.  Gentiles are the general term for everyone else on earth who is not Jewish.  The Court of the Gentiles was the place set aside for all non-jewish worshippers of God.

The money changers and the shop keepers had essentially taken away the place – the only place – the special place set aside by God for people of all nations to worship him.

See, sometimes people say – why did God chose the Israelites?  Why did he show favoritism?  Well, in the OT God chooses the Israelites to be his own special people through whom God was going to bless all nations.

In fact – can I show you something interesting – Jesus here in Matthew quotes Isaiah 56:7.  “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord,
who serve him and love his name,
who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest,
and who hold fast to my covenant.
I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem
and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer.
I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices,
because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

So Jesus walks into the temple area – And he walks into the place set aside for all nations to gather to worship and instead sees that His people – the Israelites – had made it nearly impossible for people from all nations to be able to gather to worship.

And so here’s Jesus – he is on his way to the cross in order to make a way for anyone – for whosoever wishes – to be able to walk into a loving relationship with God.  He is making it possible for all nations – to be able to enter into a special relationship with God through faith in Jesus.

And he sees his people – blocking access to the Father- and I’m telling you!  If you want to get Jesus riled up!  This is how to do it…   Block people from being able to worship Him.

It’s interesting to me the kind of people Jesus hung out with.  Tax collectors?  No problem, bring them to me.  Prostitutes, now problem, okay with Jesus.  Thieves?  No problem, let’s have dinner at your house.  Naked demon possessed guys – okay with Jesus.

But the one group of people that Jesus clashed with over and over again, were the religious leaders. Why was Jesus always clashing with the religious leaders in Jerusalem?

We get a clue in Matthew 23:13, when Jesus says 13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.

As I’ve thought about this passage this week – it seems to me that this story of Jesus driving people out of the temple serves as both an encouragement to some people, and a warning to others.

First – the encouragement.  This story should encourage any of you who are searching for God.  You are right now listening to me but you have not yet decided whether Jesus is worth following.  You might be skeptical about the existence of a good and loving God and you might be pretty cynical about churches especially.

Well, Jesus has your back.  Jesus loves you and respects you enough to go to bat (go to whip) for you.  Jesus is cleaning the temple out to make room for YOU!

You are deeply loved by God.  He has been at work drawing you to himself.  Because he knows how much you would love life in His Kingdom.

You might have spent the majority of your life stiff arming God – you might think that Jesus would take the whip to YOU for the things you’ve done.

Well guess what, you’re right – in sense.  We all deserve the whip for our rebellious ways – the wages of sin is death – the bible couldn’t be clearer.

And yet- we must remember why Jesus is in Jerusalem.  He’s there to take the whip for us!   We deserved it – he took the punishment for our sins upon himself.

Remember – one of the two requirements was – what?  One was a temple tax.  And another was – a sacrificial animal.  And when Jesus walked into that temple area- he was walking into a place where for centuries – Year after year, month after month, day after day – people walked into the temple with a lamb in their arms.  And they would place that lamb on the altar and pray – Lord, take the sins of me and my family and please place them upon this innocent lamb.

Lord, let me swap places with this lamb – his innocence for my guilt.  And they would sacrifice the lamb and the man walked away cleansed and free.  Year after year day after day – until one day – John the Baptist looks across the Jordan River – and seeing Jesus – says – behold – the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Jesus paid the ultimate price to show you just how much you are worth to him.   Jesus the lamb of God went to that cross and took death in order that we might have life – and life abundantly.

And so – for those of you who have not yet made the call – maybe today is the day you get off the fence and choose to walk into the gates of heaven that have been swung wide open for you – and you do that by deciding to place your faith in Jesus.  It’s never too late – to think highly enough of Jesus to trust him with your life.

this story serves as an incredible encouragement to anyone searching for God right now.  Jesus drove people out of the temple in order to make room for you.  And he went to the cross so that nothing can keep you from finding Him – even right now as I speak.

This story serves as an encouragement to some.  And it also serves as a warning to others.

So WHO is this a warning to?  Well – this is a warning to the Church.  And when I say church I don’t mean organized religion – I mean you and me – all of us who have placed our faith in God.

In the OT – God chose the nation of Israel to be his special people – his ambassadors chosen by God to represent God to all nations.

Well, did you know that now YOU are those special people?   1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

2 Corinthians 5:20  We are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

So I believe this story serves as a warning to the Church – to all of us who have placed our faith in Jesus.

Okay – so then WHAT’s the warning?

The warning?  Don’t forget what we’ve been called to do.

The Israelites religious leaders – they lost sight of what they were called to do – of who they were called to be.  We must not make the same mistake.

So – listen – the Israelites – it’s not like they intentionally made the decision to abandon their call to bless the nations – and no church ever intentionally decides to forget their calling.

Most churches don’t vote to become obsolete.  They usually sleep-walk into it. And so our prayer at Journey is that God would keep us on track – keep our vision clear – and make us aware early of anything we are doing that is obstructing people from being able to discover the real Jesus at Journey.

And so – with that hope in mind – let me share some promises I am making on behalf of Journey Church.

Now – listen – I’m making these promises, but YOU have to keep them.  Because YOU are the church.  And if you aren’t going to keep these promises then all of this is just bluster.

  1. Journey will always care about bringing Jesus to all nations. It was Jesus who told us in Matthew 28 to be the kind of people who make disciples of all nations.  And we are committed to doing just that.  Haiti?  Mali?  Togo?  When we first started Journey we said we’d go to the toughest places on earth to bring the good news of Jesus.

And so – we will always care about bringing the good news to the most difficult places.  It’s why we feed orphans in Haiti, and plant churches in the DR, and build health centers/churches in Mali and Togo.

We will never stop. I mentioned that recently we were speaking to a bank about the building project – and the bank asked us – “How committed are you to this missions stuff?”  And we were like – we were genuinely speechless.  “All the way.”  They were not picking up what we were laying down about our church.

  1. We are committed to loving our community.

We speak at Journey about being the best church we can be for our community.  Our immediate community is Gretna – a little larger in Omaha.  It’s why we serve at Heartland Hope and will continue to look for ways to bless our neighbors.

  1. We will always be a place that demonstrates grace. We must not allow Journey to become a church for people who have their act together.  We’re the church for misfit toys.  For the skeptic and the cynic and the follower of Jesus who loves being around people on the beginning side of their walk with God.  And we too will be like Jesus.  We will be able to hang out with anyone without entertaining a thought that somehow we are above them.

We are all messed up – we all have our issues – and we are bound and determined to be people of grace.

Because graceless religion has shut the door to the Kingdom of Heaven in peoples faces all over the place.  And maybe that’s why YOU are on the fence – maybe there was a time when you were part of a religious organization that mad you feel somehow that you didn’t belong – that you weren’t measuring up.

That it was

That said – we are bound and determined to tell the truth.  Sometimes we talk bout Grace – and people say -oh your one of those kinds of churches.  Afraid to tell the truth.  No – that’s not grace – Jesus was doing these people a favor when he made a whip.  It’s never grace at the expense of truth.  It’s always – let’s receive the truth in the context of love and grace.

The story of Jesus overturning the tables in the court of the Gentiles is both an encouragement to those who are searching for God – he is making sure there is always a place for you to be with Him.

And it serves as a warning – make sure we don’t sleep walk into becoming the kind of church that closes the door to the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces.

Instead, Journey church – let’s work together to be a place where people discover the real Jesus – because we think when people discover the real Jesus – they will find him irresistible.

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