“‘My house will be called a house of prayer…” vs. 13
Why Did You Come To Church Today
Why do you think others came to church? Open with this question and make a list of why to put on the Powerpoint
-Spouse made me/mom and dad made me/habit/attracted to someone/felt obligated/nothing else to do or more important/not sure
Follow-up question: What did you plan to do at church today or what were you planning to get out of it?
We (the church and more specifically pastors) try to “encourage” people to come to church. We use all kind of tactics and “encouragements” to get people to be here.
Ex. There was a local church that wanted people at their Easter Service so bad they offered to give away $300.00 to one lucky person that day so everyone who came was given a ticket like this as they walked in.
Let me put a word in your vocabulary for today: Intention
Jesus wants us to go to church but really for the right reasons. Let’s see what He said in Matthew 21 about that.
Read Passage – Matthew 21:12-17
12Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” 14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. 16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” 17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.
Jesus Starts His Last Week
Jesus has just been through an incredible experience. He was on his way to Jerusalem just coming down from the Mount of Olives. He sends two disciples ahead to get this donkey that he was going to ride into town on. This kind of parade unfolds as he begins his ride into town and the people of Jerusalem are so excited to have him coming. As they see him their excitement builds and they do something to express that by taking off their coats and grabbing some palm branches and they throw them in the streets for Jesus to ride in on. It’s somewhat equivalent to throwing confetti at a ticker tape parade. They also begin to shout praises and glorify him in all their excitement. Now Jesus could have stopped and given a speech and thanks everyone for coming and given them some love back by explaining how much it means to him and he really is grateful for their recognition of him but he doesn’t. He doesn’t stop to take credit or even converse with the people; his intention (there’s that word again) is to go to the Temple to bring glory to His Father.
Den of Robbers
As Jesus walks through the doors of the Temple this is what he sees; a marketplace where buying, selling, and trading are in full swing. Where’s the worship that is suppose to be taking place? He walks into the Temple and sees peoples whose intention is to gain money, power, etc. God directed Solomon to build this great Temple for worship and for Him to be praised and look what it is now. It’s a place where the religious leaders have found a way to make money and take advantage of the religious feasts and rituals that were meant to bring glory to God. Verse 13b:
“…but you are making it (the Temple) ‘a den of robbers.’” vs. 13b
Jesus sees this taking place and begins to go bolistic. He doesn’t care what day it is, who sees him and what it looks like; he is so outraged that he begins turning over tables and benches and throwing things around. No one tries to stop him either. These religious leaders looked the part, but he knew their hearts. Their intention is to get rich and maintain control and power. What he saw when he walked in was not something to bring glory to God, it was a “den of robbers.”
This year we have focused on the theme “Living With The Heart Of Jesus.” Listen to Jesus heart through his actions here and try to see if we might just be a little like those religious leaders. We don’t take the idea of worship and giving God priority in our life seriously and maybe we’ve even lost a little bit of our focus.
Jesus uses some strong language here as well to go with his strong actions. He compares the temple that is suppose to be so sacred to a “robber den.” What is is saying? The idea of “robber” could be thought of as a thief but it also carries the thought of being an insurrectionist; a person who is against the authority; in this case, God’s authority. There are two pictures you can get of this place at this time (and these might be what Jesus felt).
Ex. A Lair, den, etc. Expand on the idea that this week we saw this played out in the news as Penn. St. Univ. a place of higher learning was used to be a undercover operation for some very sick men who took advantage of young boys. This place that was suppose to be a respected institution of our society was a cover for some pretty bad behavior and because of money, people who were suppose to uphold integrity were looking the other way and allowing horrible things to be done. So much so that quite a few people have lost their jobs, their dignity and their reputations.
- A Place To Gain Illicit Wealth
So what was going on in the temple? First, this sacred place was now a place where it’s a place to gain illicit wealth. To put it more plainly, many looked at the Temple as there place of business and more importantly, a place to take advantage of the Jewish customs and get rich. They were overcharging for sheep, doves, etc. Now if you were rich you could afford to bring your sacrifice. But if you were poor, you didn’t have them to bring so you could buy your sacrifice at the Temple. Problem: Those selling charged more than was right and basically took advantage of the poor. They even fixed the scales so they wouldn’t be accurate but would tip in their favor and take way more than what they should have gotten.
Many of the common Jews came to worship God; their intention was to worship. But they are led and taken advantage of by people whose intention is to gain wealth, power and control.
- A Place To Plan Evil Plots
The second way the Temple was seen was as a place to plot evil plans.
Ex. Every evil person has a place to plot their evil deeds. Think of the movies, like say, Batman. The Joker of the Penguin have a lair, a den to hide out in and plot their strategies.
Jesus recognizes that the temple has become a lair for those in religious power to plot their schemes and vices to get rich, keep power, and maintain control. What better place than right under the noses of those they are trying to take advantage of and this is a great cover. A Temple!
The Cleansing of the Temple
As I said, Jesus goes bolistic and didn’t care what he looked like and He has to do the right thing here which is to turn the tables and make the temple a place of worship and honor for God. He wanted the Temple to reflect God’s glory. In this story, Jesus gives us some guidelines for us to understand why going to church is so important and what our intention in gong should look like. He does that by getting mad, cleaning the Temple, and then goes about restoring true worship.
- It’s Restored To A Place For All People
First, his Temple is a place is that to be for all people. Remember it’s the Sabbath and the ruling religious leaders have established that no work is to be done on the Sabbath and that includes healing. Their thought is if someone wants to be healed, let them do on the other days of the week. I guess you can take that view when you are not the one who is hurting. But Jesus sees hurting people coming to the Temple, expressing their faith in the only way they know how and by going to the only place they know there is hope and He heals them. Verse 14:
“The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.” vs. 14
I think the implication of this is even bigger than Jesus healing. He is reminding us that all people are welcomed into God’s house regardless of their social status, race, etc. etc. etc.
Ex. Phillip Yancey book Soul Survivor, (pg. 22) the story of his childhood church and the decree the elders they gave those to stand guard so that blacks would not enter the church
They had a choice, we have a choice. They were being unbiblical. What is our intention? Do we want to bend the Bible to fit our ideals or be true to Him that he came for all people.
- Prayer Is Restored
Second, He re-establishes that the temple is a place of prayer. Verse 13:
“‘My house will be called a house of prayer…” vs. 13
Don’t miss this second point. Jesus reestablishes that this place is suppose to be a place where you come and pray. Another reason to show up on Sunday is to pray. The religious leaders made prayer a requirement of repetition while Jesus makes it an issue of our heart-felt love of God
Most of us get the worship in giving, or the idea of coming together to sing, the idea of growing in God’s Word through a sermon, or even to have communion. But what about prayer? We should be coming here to pray, to seek God’s face, to be in communication with God and to spend time in prayer. Jesus makes his intention, prayer is talking to God. Don’t limit your prayer to your talking. Think about this, your singing can be a prayer, your giving can be a prayer (of dependence), etc.
- The Attitude Of Praise
Finally, Jesus reminds us that our attitude (or you could say your intention) in coming through these doors is suppose to be one of praise. Verse 15:
“But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.” vs. 15
See the kids got it. (They understood what church was about and the religious leaders didn’t) They saw what Jesus was doing and they just had to cry out. When do take a break from all the business of the week, the things that keep us running 100 mph and moving in all directions, when we stop and take some time to remember what God has done in our life and continues to do, we cry out in praise. He continues the thought in verse 16:
“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” vs. 16
The leaders were upset they were praising in church. Remember Jesus just came into town riding on a donkey and they crowds were praising him. They knew he was something special and that he could do what no man could do. So often we are so concerned about what we look like; instead, Jesus is saying what matters is what God thinks of you not what man thinks of you. These kids got and didn’t care that they weren’t following the man made laws of the religious leaders, they were going to give God glory.
Ex. Are we more concerned about what others are thinking or about praising God? i.e raising our hands or standing when sing, the words we are using to pray, etc.
Read quote from Phillip Yancey Soul Survivor p. 36 As the civil rights of people of color were changed to reflect what was right Yancey talks about how some people refused to change even thought the law had changed. They were not going to treat people of color the right way. Yancey realized that and wrote this:
“The human heart, not the courtroom, was the supreme battleground.”
Wake up! Be intentional. The battleground is not the church. Your heart is.