27th May 2023
Read (Matthew 21v1)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
There is a fake Jesus that is incredibly popular in 2023. What does fake Jesus look like? The world has imagined a version of Christ who never judges, never says anything offensive and will certainly never turn anyone away from heaven. This Jesus is a fantasy and a fraud.
The true Christ said some incredibly difficult things and one day when He entered the temple, He was so outraged at what He saw that He overturned the tables of the money changers and drove out those who bought and sold in temple (v12). What was the Lord's problem? Jesus said “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” (v13).
It wasn't that the activities going on were unnecessary. People came from near and far and needed to change their currency into money acceptable at the temple. Additionally various items were needed for the sacrifices that took place in the temple. It made sense that these financial services were offered for the benefit of worshippers. However Jesus wasn't being unreasonable. Instead of temple commerce taking place outside, it had become acceptable inside. In the place where the focus should have been on the worship of Almighty God, there was a constant noise of buying and selling.
Jesus' response came directly from Jeremiah 7v11 which also states in verse 4 "Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’". In Jeremiah's day the people couldn't imagine that the temple would soon be destroyed and that they would be carried off into exile. Their cry wasn't one of repentance but rather "The temple! The temple! The temple! We have the temple! What could possibly happen to us?"
Years later Christ would cleanse the temple not once but twice. Jesus was the promised Lord who would come to the temple like a refiner's fire (Malachi 3v1-4). His act of cleansing the temple wasn't just out of righteous anger but Jesus was showing Himself to be the Messiah and the true temple which would be torn down and rebuilt in three days. The Romans would destroy the temple in 70AD and it has never been rebuilt but Christ stands forevermore and will never be defeated.
The temple commerce was replaced by the healing of the blind and lame (v14). Did such an action cause the chief priests and scribes to search the Scriptures and question their ways? No. They saw what Christ had done and heard the children crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (v15) and in response they were indignant. Not only had Jesus wrecked the place but He was willingly accepting praise which was only due to God.
“Do you hear what these are saying?” Christ's opponents asked (v16) to which Jesus replied “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Psalm 8v2). I'm sure that the chief priests had read Psalm 8 but I'm equally sure that they were not prepared to apply the Psalm to Jesus.
His incredible act of cleansing the temple for the second time was once more a signpost to His identity and authority. True religion is not a business but it should always find it's chief concern in the person and work of Christ. We don't need robed choirs and professional presentations and endless challenges to "buy my book", instead the Lord has ordained praise from the mouths of little children. Our worship need not be complicated but it must be in spirit and in truth.
I'm sure that our fellowships could all do with Christ's cleansing zeal. May His voice thunder in our meeting houses and may He give us eyes to see and ears to hear. For Christ's sake. Amen.
Q57 Which is the fourth commandment? The fourth commandment is, Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it.