13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 So the Jews said to him, “ What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Here we are right…right now, in this place. As I write this I am sitting in our sanctuary. A few hours from now, I will be joined by a handful of people who come together to pray.
Every time I walk into this sanctuary, I feel different. I feel the spirit moving. It’s like he is always here. I know that he is with us every day, in all our lives… But here… This place…. There is something different. I feel the weights of everything out there lifted off of me when I come into is place.
A lot of people struggle with this set of scriptures that I just read. Jesus throughout most instances in the gospel has been so peaceful… Almost to the point of a pacifist… Yet here he is making whips and driving people out of the temple… Something must have struck a nerve with him to suddenly make such a shift.
Here is what was happening in the temple.
The temple is the place that a person goes to be forgiven. The sin offering was usually a perfect goat or a lamb. And some people would travel long distances to get to the temple.
So imagine you have sinned… You need forgiveness.
But the temple is in Toronto.
A far away place.
Also a place with a different form of currency from here.
And you don’t have a car…
You are like Dawn and I and you ride your bike everywhere… But how do you carry a lamb on your bike?
In a car that’s about a four hour drive… According to Google maps, walking, it would take approximately 3 days (and 2 hours) via the Bentpath line.
That’s without dragging a lamb with you.
It would be much more convenient to take your money with you and buy the sacrifice in Toronto, than it would be to take the lamb all the way from Detroit with you… That would slow you down terribly.
So people were doing that, they were traveling long distances, from other countries even, and taking money rather than sacrifice. And that’s ok, because at the temple, you could buy the sacrifice.
The only problem was, you couldn’t use your foreign currency.
Say you are from Rome, and you want to use a Roman Denarii… Well this coin was unacceptable in the temple because it had pagan symbols and images of emperors…
But you could exchange your money, for money that was acceptable to buy the sacrifice… At the temple.
So not only had the church become a store…
It had also become a bank.
There is speculation as to whether or not the rates were fair, or if the priests were ripping people off… And it is also questionable as to if the church should be offering these sacrifices in the first place… Essentially monetizing the forgiveness of sins when it was really only intended to be an altar for it.,, But Jesus came in and said… Nope. This can’t happen. This is my fathers house. It’s not a store. It’s not a bank. Stop now.
The 95 theses
Perhaps some of you have studied or are familiar with church history. But essentially, the Protestant reformation and the split from the Roman Catholic Church essentially happened over a very similar issue.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed what is now known as the 95 theses to the door of the castle church in Guttenburg. This famous list was a slap in the face to the Catholic Church, and really a declaration of war against them… He went after the sacred cows…. He called them out on all the things they were doing that were not like Jesus… Possibly the most significant being the selling of indulgences.
People would come to the church to confess a sin, and then the church would place a price… An actually monetary amount, that it would cost for that sin to be “forgiven.”
They were monetizing forgiveness.
And everyone either accepted this, or turned a blind eye to it…. Until Martin Luther came along.
He said “this is wrong.”
You guys are robbing people. What does the bible say? If you confess your sins I am faithful to forgive you… Not if you pay for your sins with dollars and cents…
Jesus already paid for your sins.
But the Catholic Church had veered from that. They had gotten off track. It had become about something other than grace….
It had become about money.
And Martin Luther said no!
He almost sounds like Jesus.
When it says he made a whip of cords (v15)… A more accurate translation is “a rush”
A rush is a Reed… It’s completely harmless. It’s s plant. He made a whip out of a plant. He wasn’t hurting anybody. He was not intending to hurt anybody. Which actually makes for a fascinating point…. One that these people in the temple make clear in verse 18.
They ask him “what sign do you show us for doing these things?” But in verse 15 it says they were driven out by him. What were they asking him? Essentially, they were saying… What happened back there? Why did we feel like you had the authority to do what you did?
Because they couldn’t possibly have been afraid of being hurt by Jesus… No..
Yet they still left. They rushed out. And they didn’t know why.
They were convicted. So they asked for a sign… They ask him, where did you get this authority…
We felt it…
But it doesn’t make sense to us. Why do you think you can take control of the temple… You aren’t the priest…
And that’s what makes Jesus response so fascinating.
He answers them….
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”
What’s he saying? He’s saying i am the temple.
Why do I make the rules in the temple?
Because I am the temple. You’ll see, when you’ve thought you destroyed me.
“who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.”
Who can stand in his presence, and not be refined by it?
Here is where it hits home.
Was Jesus upset because people had turned the church into a kind of market?
Yes. But that’s more just annoying than anything. We are talking about the savior of the world…
He knew he was going to die for all this junk… All this greed. For All these people who were only looking out for themselves….
And that… is… the point.
He was going to die. The sacrifices that were being made were mere symbols of what was to come…
What was to come ON HIM.
When he says “you have made it a house of trade” the Greek word he uses is the the enporion…. It literally means market or emporium.
But think about it. Think about you when you are your worst. When you did the things that you would give anything to distance yourself from that sin… It was that moment that Christ died for… “He made him who knew NO sin” to be YOUR SIN….
He knew this was coming… He knew this was a big deal… And these people did too.
But they were cheapening it.
When the Israelites in the Old Testament would take a lamb to the altar… It was a real moment for them… It was a real exchange. There was reflection… There was thanksgiving.
Because it should be them on that altar. The wages of sin is death… And it’s their sin that cost the lamb it’s life.
And suddenly, in the temple of all places, it became a nonchalant thing.
Everything had a price tag. And that’s what they are thinking about. When you make a sacrifice like that… It should do something to you… Because it should be you on that altar. It should fill you with praise and adoration and thanksgiving toward God… Because nothing about this exchange is fair but God accepts it anyway..
But by monetizing the process… You have created a new system for forgiveness.
when you go into a market place, somewhere like the mall… You expect an even exchange… If you spend fifty dollars on a pair of shoes, you expect to get fifty dollars worth of life out of those shoes.
But that’s not the gospel.
Maybe you look for a sale… And you are hoping to get a one hundred dollar pair of shoes for fifty dollars….
Still not the gospel. The gospel is not a sale price or a great deal… And it’s certainly not an even exchange.
The gospel is more like you looking at a shoe that there is no way you will ever be able to afford, and someone else coming and buying the entire store now.
Now you own the store.
There was no sale price… In fact it cost him everything that he had..he had to empty all his accounts and liquidate his assets to get them for you… He held nothing back.
Wouldn’t you be thankful?
I am not trying to cheapen the gospel to shoes… It’s so much more than that.. But the point is that what takes place in a market is even exchange. But what the gospel gave us is “the great exchange.”
These people making these sacrifices should be reflecting… They should have reflected their whole journey to the temple.
This place is special.
This place is Holy.
That’s why It says “Zeal for your house will consume me…”
Jesus loves the temple. There is something about that place.
In Matthews gospel, he records Jesus saying this in the temple: (21:13)
“My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
Throughout the bible, we get plenty of clear direction for the church.. For what it is supposed to be as a body…
A living organism.
An engine of change in our community.
A group of people who loves God with all our heart and soul and mind and loves our neighbors like ourselves…
Who makes discipled…. Who equips the saints for the work of the ministry…
But we don’t read much in there about the purpose of the church building.
But we read this: My house shall be called a house of prayer.
Prayer is about connecting to God.
And it’s a place we should come reverently too. And that’s why.
This Sunday, we are starting a new series, about intentions. About our motives. About what are we actually bringing to these altars. I may even tell this bit that I just gave you on one of the weeks, I am not sure yet…
But what I know for sure is that this Sunday we are going to call people to repentance. That’s out of my zone a little, I am a grace guy.
And we will do it gracefully. But one thing we are going to show is the difference in what 1 John 1:9 says, and what James 5:16 says.
See John says that if you confess you sins, God is faithful and just to forgive you… If you bring it before God, you will be forgiveness…
And he will forgive you! Psalms says he washes your transgressions as far as the east is from the west…
But James 5:16 says that we confess to each other… For healing.
And I just believe that God wants to heal our city, and it starts with us.