Tag Archives: temple

Today’s Scripture – February 17, 2019

Acts 3:1-5 (NIV)
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer–at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Peter and John, as well as many of the other people of the Church, went up to the temple to worship and pray several times each day (Acts 2:46). Although they were worshiping alongside other Jewish people, the worship of the Christians was different in substance and focus. While other Jews praised God for the historic deliverance He had brought them in the biblical past, and prayed to God to fulfill the promises He had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Christians were full of praise for the great contemporary deliverance that He had worked through Jesus, and for the promises that He had now kept to the letter.

The temple courts were located at the top of the mountain on which Jerusalem was built, and were surrounded by a great wall, accessed through several gates. The main gate through which people entered the temple was on the east end toward the Mount of Olives and was called the Beautiful Gate. It was covered with gold and adorned with many precious stones donated by people. It was an impressive way to come into God’s presence.

The gate was immensely popular, so the walkway to it was the favorite place for beggars to sit with their alms bowls. Since it was considered a mitzvah, a good deed done in obedience to God’s commands, to give alms to the poor, it was expected that many of those entering the temple would take the opportunity to drop a coin or two into one or two of the bowls thrust up at them as they neared the gate.

This particular man had been brought to this place by his family every day for many years. He was over forty years old (Acts 4:22) and couldn’t walk. He was well known by those who went frequently to the temple (Acts 3:10). In fact, Jesus Himself had walked past the man several times as He walked through this main gate into the temple over the previous years. Some might wonder why, if Jesus saw Him, He hadn’t already healed him. The simplest answer is twofold: the man didn’t ask to be healed, and it wasn’t yet time. God had reserved this man’s healing to bring glory to Himself at the same time as He used it to give prominence to the apostles and to lend credibility to their testimony.

All was normal during this trip to the temple until Peter and John heard the man’s cry for alms and saw his bowl being held out in their direction. At the same moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to their hearts, indicating that this man was to receive from them, not money, but healing. So, they stopped in their tracks and looked straight at the man. The man’s gaze had already move down the line of approaching people, so Peter called his attention back with a loud, “Look at us.” And as the man’s gaze moved back to them, so did his bowl.

Father, this reemphasizes to me that, as people of the kingdom, none of us are lone rangers simply determining for ourselves what we should do next. Jesus made Himself completely dependent on Your direction (John 5:19) as a model for us, and He taught that same complete dependency to His followers. But that also meant that they had to keep their eyes and ears constantly open to Your leading so that they could respond instantly when You spoke. Help me, Lord, to have that same dependency, that same expectant reliance on your guidance, so that I can do all that You tell me to do immediately. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 11, 2018

Luke 21:29-33 (NIV) He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
“I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Here Jesus’ words once again have a two-fold fulfillment in mind. Jesus is answering directly the question about the impending fall and destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, but He is also looking past that event to His eventual return at the end of time.

Jesus’ parable helps His followers to understand that, as always, when God’s judgment falls on a place or a people, He will alert those of His people in harm’s way, giving them an opportunity to get out. And when the disciples and their disciples see around them the signs He is pointing out, they will know that His judgment is about to fall.

Some confusion has been caused by Jesus’ choice of words: “Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” This has been interpreted as referring solely to Jesus’ second coming. But the words “kingdom of God” can also signify God’s kingdom being manifested through His judgment on those who reject Him, exercising His divine sovereignty to take back the vineyard that He had leased to the Jewish people, and giving it to others. In this sense, the words of Jesus that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” proved to be accurate. The destruction of the city and the temple occurred a mere forty years in the future, when many of the current generation were still alive to witness it or hear about it.

Some, in the belief that Jesus’ words are limited to His second coming, have retranslated the word “generation,” its most natural meaning, as “race” or “people,” also possible, but less intuitive in this context. But this additional possible translation is not out of line if one keeps in mind Jesus’ dual context. The current generation of people would not die off before God’s judgement brought the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. And, despite that destruction, the Jewish people as a race will not completely disappear before Jesus’ return. A clear example where both/and are true.

This also provides a longer-range context for Jesus’ closing words: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Even though nearly 2000 years have passed since Jesus spoke those words, the immediate aspect of the prophecy occurred just as He predicted, and in the precise time-frame He indicated. Therefore, the people of the kingdom can rest assured that the more distant aspect of the prophecy associated with Jesus’ return, will also come as predicted, even though that time has not yet come.

Father, thank You for these sure words of Jesus, made even more sure because the near aspect of His prophecy was completely and precisely fulfilled. That shows conclusively that we can take the rest to the bank! Thank You for Your grace, and for Your love for us that keeps us moving in Your direction. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 3, 2018

Luke 21:5-7 (NIV) Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”
“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”

The temple in Jerusalem was a glorious thing to behold. When it was first built by the returning exiles, it was pretty humble, without a lot of beautiful decorations. And over the centuries since then, it had been contaminated and defiled when the Greeks took control of it, sacrificed pigs on the altar, and filled the courtyard with idols.

But Herod the Great had begun to rebuild it in the latter part of his reign, adorning the temple itself with gold leaf and jewels, expanding the area around the temple by shoring up the sides of the hill on which it stood, and building the courtyards around the temple itself. The buildings were of pale stones that reflected the sunlight and were visible for miles. The stones were massive, weighing many tons. The whole place was built to impress, and impress it did!

The disciples were oohing and aahing about the beauty and spectacle of the building and courtyards when Jesus interrupted them with a horrendous prophecy: the whole temple, all of the massive stones, would soon be utterly destroyed, to the point that not one stone would be left standing on another.

Seeing how huge the stones were, and how well the temple and courts were constructed, this seemed impossible to the disciples. But they had been around Jesus long enough to know that He didn’t say things like that lightly. If He said that the temple would one day be destroyed, it surely would be. So their questions were not about how, but about when this would happen, and about the signs that they should look for so that they would know that the destruction was coming, and so that they could flee before it happened.

In a very real sense, Jesus’ prophecy involved much more than the temple buildings. When the city fell and the temple was utterly destroyed in AD 70, it would signify the destruction and dispersal of those that God had chosen to be His people, but who refused to accept Jesus and His final revelation of Him, His character, and His love. Even though Judaism looked as impervious and indestructible as the temple, the Jewish people would be scattered and in disarray, “not one stone left on another,” and it would be centuries before they began to recover and be able to effectively rebuild themselves, much like the city itself.

Father, it is easy for us to look at our own Christian structures and traditions, believing them to be indestructible, able to stand forever. But nothing is indestructible to You. If we get lax in our devotion and our obedience, if we become fruitless trees or sterile sheep by refusing to work to grow Your kingdom, we too can be uprooted and thrown down, completely laid waste. Help us to be faithful to You in every way, and to never place our security in buildings or structures, or traditions, but only in You. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – April 13, 2018

Luke 19:45-46 (NIV) Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”

The market in the temple court, actually in the large Court of the Gentiles which surrounded the inner complex where the Jewish people could enter in to worship, was started for good reasons. If someone traveled too far to bring an animal to sacrifice, or if the animal that they brought was defective in some way and couldn’t be offered, having a stock of acceptable animals that could be purchased, sheep, goats, bulls, and even doves, was a good thing. And having tables where people could exchange their Roman denarii , unacceptable for temple offerings because they bore the image of a pagan emperor and pagan gods and temples, for good Jewish shekels without those kinds of images, was a good thing.

The problem arose when the Jewish leadership realized that a handsome profit could easily be made from those good things. Raising the price just a bit above retail on the livestock that was sold (after all, every animal was officially certified to be acceptable to God, which was worth something) could bring in a tidy sum each day. And there was now strong motivation to closely inspect animals that had been brought to sacrifice. Was that a discoloration in the wool? What that hoof a bit malformed? Better to buy an animal that was certified than run the risk of your sacrifice being rejected by God!

And the same thing happened with the money changers. Instead of providing a straight-across trade, weight for weight, the tendency was to charge an exchange fee that was increased occasionally (due to inflation, of course).

Add to that the fact that this livestock market and trading floor, along with all of the noise and smells that went along with it, were taking up a lot of room in the court of the gentiles, the only place non-Jews could come to learn about the true God, and you could drive someone like Jesus right over the edge, which is exactly what happened.

Now that Jesus had taken up the title of Messiah, the first thing He did was to cleanse the temple of all that was worldly and not of God’s design. Of course all of this put Him on a collision course with the Jewish leadership. He was cutting into both their income and their authority structure that had been built up over centuries.

Father, we don’t often see Jesus angry, but we definitely do here. And it is good to understand that it was worldliness and greed in a place that was designed by You to be a place for prayer, worship, and even outreach, that drove Him there. Because none of those things could effectively happen when worldliness and greed had taken control. Help us to keep not only our church buildings, but our hearts as well, free of all of those things, so that You can use us effectively for Your agenda. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 23, 2017

Matthew 27:51-56 (NIV) At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

Just as Jesus’ dying hours were accompanied by signs the heavens, His death was accompanied by signs on earth. Those who wanted to see Elijah swoop down in a fiery chariot and rescue Jesus from the cross were momentarily disappointed, and then were terrified as the ground beneath their feet began to tremble, and the rocks all along the hills, including those covering the openings to tombs, began to tumble down into the valleys.

At that moment, the thick veil in the temple that shut the Holy of Holies away from view was torn in half, from the top down to the bottom, exposing to the eyes of the regular priests the room that had before been reserved for the eyes of the high priest alone, and that only on the Day of Atonement, when he sprinkled before God the blood of the sin offering. This tearing of the veil, not a result of the earthquake, but actually torn by God’s own hand, symbolized the fact that God had brought the blood of His own sin offering into the heavenly Holy of Holies, thus opening the way into His presence, not just to high priests but all people.

The resurrection of the holy people in the tombs around Jerusalem is only reported by Matthew, but was experienced by many others. These were not zombies, but saints of old who were raised from the dead and came out of their tombs as a sign of the new life and resurrection power that was unleashed by the death of Jesus.

Both the soldiers at the cross and the women who were watching from a distance saw the earthquake and the people walking out of the tombs – the execution site was near some tombs that were carved into the rock cliffs on top of which sat the city. (See John 19:41-42.) And they were terrified. They had no idea what these strange events actually meant, but they knew that the confluence of events was no coincidence. Even the pagan centurion realized at that moment that Jesus had been no ordinary man, and the very idea shook him to his core.

Father, even at Jesus’ death You had the last word, as the response of both heaven and earth bore witness to who Jesus was. The people, even His own followers, didn’t yet get it, but more and more would start to put the pieces together after the resurrection, and they would then put their faith in Jesus. Help me to never lose track of who Jesus is in all of the hectic and distracting moments in life, and let that knowledge inform my every thought, word, and deed. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 16, 2015

John 2:18-22 (NIV):  Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

At the time that He spoke to them, Jesus’ words in answer to the Jews made no sense, even to His disciples.

The Jews were furious at Jesus for disrupting the temple and its commerce.  Even the high priest and the scribes had no problem with the animal stalls and the money changers.  It made things easier for the worshipers, and it was way over in the Court of the Gentiles, close enough for the people to get to it, but, in their minds, far enough out of the main stream of the temple traffic that it wouldn’t bother anybody.

They figured that if Jesus had a problem with something that even the high priest was okay with, He must think He was somebody pretty special, putting Himself in the place of God.  So they asked for a miraculous sign that would prove that He had authority from God Himself to clear the place out.

They didn’t actually expect Jesus (or anybody else for that matter) to be able to do a miracle.  They believed that the days of miracles was long gone.  Their goal was to shut Jesus down publicly before He could do any more mischief.  But Jesus would not be shut down.  With eyes ablaze and locked onto His challengers, He spread His arms wide and declared, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

His answer completely blew away His inquisitors.  It was incredible to them that anyone could destroy this massive complex in the first place.  But for someone to claim that, if that happened, He could build it again in only three days was insanity!  This temple had stood since the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, right after the exiles returned from Babylon.  Herod had begun a remodeling project on it, massively expanding the courts and beautifying the whole temple area.  And the project had been going on for the past 46 years.  How could this itinerate preacher possibly believe that He could rebuild such a magnificent structure, even if he had years to do it in?

After Jesus rose from the dead, the light came on for the disciples.  The temple Jesus had been talking about wasn’t the building; it was His body!  The Jews had indeed torn it down all the way to the ground.  And Jesus had indeed rebuilt it in only 3 days.  The miraculous sign had been asked for, and it had been performed, proving that Jesus had all of the authority He needed to clear the temple and refocus the people back to God’s agenda.

Father, even today many demand a miracle or a sign to show that Jesus is really who we claim that He is.  But the truth is, the most amazing sign ever has already been given.  And if people refuse to accept a self-orchestrated resurrection from the dead as a good enough sign, nothing will be good enough.  Help us, Lord, to keep this miracle in front of the people around us, including the reason why it was so important – what it proved.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 15, 2015

John 2:12-17 (NIV):  After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Jesus was completely observant of the law.  He went up to Jerusalem three times each year for the three required feasts (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles), and this was the case even during His public ministry.  Being “busy” with His ministry never led Him to shirk the requirements of the law.

This was His first trip to Jerusalem since He had begun His ministry.  The livestock sellers and money changers were a fixture in the temple, and had been for many years.  They set up their booths and tables in the Court of the Gentiles, an outer court that was the only place that the gentiles could come to seek the one true God and pray.  The area was spacious, and away from the Jewish worshipers.  So it seemed like the perfect place for the sheep and cow stalls, the bird cages, and the tables of shekels that God would accept as offerings instead of the idol-embossed denarii.

But Jesus saw this for what it really was:  open disrespect for God and for His agenda.  By placing the noisy, smelly marketplace in the only part of the temple where outreach could happen, these merchants were turning away from their commission as God’s people to be a light to the gentiles.  So they were contaminating the temple area with something more offensive than animal dung; they were contaminating it with outright contempt for God Himself.

Jesus knew that no subtle sermon would break through the hardened hearts of these traders, or help them to see that their turning God’s home into a market was rebellion.  What was needed was action – a dash of cold water in their faces that would make them gasp at its audacity, and perhaps cause them to turn their attention away from their money long enough to hear God’s voice.

So He overturned the tables, sending the coins rattling across the stone pavement.  He opened the animal pens and bird cages, and drove the animals away with a cord whip.  It was all over before anyone could figure out what to do about it.  And then His stern words of challenge while His eyes blazed with passion:  “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!””

Through long years of living and working in the shadow of God’s dwelling place, these men had lost sight of God’s presence there.  To them, the temple had become merely a place where they went to work each day, worrying more about their profit margin than the holiness of their hearts.  Worrying more about who would trade with them than about the one in whose sight they were trading.

Father, how easy it is to grow stale in our perception of Your presence.  How easy to grow so accustomed to the idea that You are nearby that we are no longer struck by the wonder of it, and to live as if our livelihoods, our families, and even our church duties are the most vital things in our lives.  Lord, shake up our hearts today as Jesus shook up the Court of the Gentiles.  Drive from us anything that has taken Your place in our hearts, anything that has dulled our senses to Your presence and Your call on our lives.  Purify us and refill us with all the wonder that is due You.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 31, 2015

Mark 15:38-41 (NIV)

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

Jesus’ death was as supernatural as His life was. The darkness that had fallen over the land (Mark 15:33) ended when He died, but at the same time, the earth shook in a violent earthquake that even broke open some of the tombs in the area (Matthew 27:51-53). It was the conjunction of these terrifying signs that caused the centurion to cry out, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” He had seen a lot of crucifixions, a lot of deaths, but he had never seen one accompanied by this kind of cosmic uproar. All of these signs coinciding with the suffering and death of this remarkable man could not be written off as mere chance.

At the moment of Jesus’ death the veil in the temple that separated the holy place from the most holy place was torn in two. There were two significant things about this tearing. First, the veil was about four inches thick – the rabbis describe it as being as thick as the width of a man’s hand. It was woven this thickly by being composed of multiple layers all woven together into a single mass. Thus it would have been impossible for it to have been torn by a person (or even by many people), or even by the shaking caused by the earthquake.

The second significant thing is that the veil was torn from the top to the bottom. The rip began 30 feet off the ground, clearly disqualifying any human intervention, and showing that this event had originated with God Himself.

This tearing of this dense separator between God’s presence and mankind symbolized the fact that, with Jesus’ death, God’s presence would now be powerfully among His people in a new and powerful way. No longer would it just be experienced by the high priests and the prophets; it would be experienced by all of the people, from the greatest to the least, as prophesied by Joel (Joel 2:28-32; cf. Acts 2:17-21). Jesus’ death had made it possible for the sins that had separated people from God to be paid in full, and for full fellowship to be restored.

Verses 40-41 are incidental but important. They point out that there were many of Jesus’ followers, faithful women who had served Him during His ministry, who were eyewitnesses to not only His suffering and death, but to all of the miraculous signs that attended them. This lays the ground work for the resurrection to be discovered first by some of these same women.

Father, even today the death of Jesus is seen by some merely as a tragedy, the undeserved death of a great martyr. Through the ages there have been many deaths of martyrs. But only the death of Jesus had these kinds of miraculous signs, showing that this was something more. Your finger prints were all over this, demonstrating that Jesus really was Your Son, just like He had said, and that His death was not only extraordinary, but that it accomplished extraordinary things. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 3, 2015

Mark 13:1-2 (NIV):  As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

As Jesus left the temple for the day with His disciples, they were struck afresh by the grandeur and beauty of the temple complex.  Even though the original structure of the temple, built after the return from captivity in Babylon, was much less impressive than the one built by Solomon and torn down by the invading Babylonians, the building was still impressive.  It had huge stones that made many wonder how they had ever been hoisted into position.

The kings of the Herodian Dynasty had also left their imprint on the temple grounds.  Herod the Great, the king who tried to execute the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:13-17), had redone much of the temple and the surrounding courtyards and buildings, a work carried on by his son, Herod Antipas, and still going on in Jesus’ day.

The temple was beautiful, breathtaking even, and the sight of it gladdened the heart of every pilgrim who came within its precincts.  But Jesus squashed the disciples’ enthusiasm immediately with His terse statement: “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Jesus was looking ahead four decades to AD 70, the year that the Romans, led by General Titus, would besiege and conquer Jerusalem, tearing and burning down all of the principal buildings, including the temple itself.  The massive stones, fit together with such great skill, were torn apart, huge levers prying each layer off the one below it, until literally one stone was not left on another.

It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t appreciate the architecture and workmanship of this place.  But He clearly could see that all of this beauty and majesty would soon be cast down to earth by mere men.  No matter how sublime its original purpose, the temple was earthly, temporary, and able to be destroyed.  Jesus had come, not to give credibility to what was temporary, but to establish that which will never be shaken or destroyed.  He had come to initiate the kingdom of God, a kingdom with no geographical limits, but composed of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9) who have entered through faith in Him.  He came to establish the capital of this new kingdom, the New Jerusalem, a city not built by human hands or of earthy materials, but built by God Himself of heavenly, non-perishable stuff.  By that one statement, as harsh to our ears as it was to those first disciples, Jesus was turning the disciples’ attention away from that which would ultimately fall, so that their eyes could be turned to focus on that which was even then being created, which would last forever.

Father, we still get overly impressed by things built with human hands, and in the process we lose sight of Your kingdom, which will last forever, and which is grander by far than anything the mind of man can conceive.  Lord, give us heavenly eyes that can see Your kingdom clearly, so that the things of this world, no matter how grand and beautiful they are, will never gain a foothold in our hearts.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 17, 2014

Mark 11:15-19 (NIV): On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”
The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
When evening came, they went out of the city.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem that morning, He already knew what had to be done, because He had looked everything over the previous day (Mark 11:11). So there was no time wasted – He headed straight to the temple.

The temple was a magnificent structure, over 500 years old, and the subject of a nearly 50-year-long refurbishing and beautification project by the Herod dynasty. The average person could never go into the temple itself to see the holy place where the golden oil lamps burned, and the golden tables were stacked with the bread of God’s presence every week. Even fewer, only the high priests, were allowed to go into the Most Holy Place where God’s presence and glory were resident. Regular people could not even go into the courtyard where the sacrifices were made. Instead, they were restricted to a series of outer courts, where they could see the outside of the building and worship the true God.

The Court of Israel was the closest of the courts, and was for the Jewish men. They would bring their sacrifices to this point, and hand them off to a priest or Levite. Then they could watch as those people took their animal into the courtyard and actually made the sacrifice.

The Court of the Women was farther away. From there the women could not actually see the sacrifices being made, but they could see much of the temple façade, and worship from there.

The Court of the Gentiles was even further away, and was separated from the temple complex by a wall on which were signs engraved in three languages, warning gentiles not to approach any closer under penalty of death. This far outer court was the only place where a gentile seeker after the true God could come to worship and learn more. In a sense, it was the one place where an evangelistic connection could be made.

But what Jesus found was that the Court of the Gentiles had been turned into a marketplace. This was where the sellers of livestock and of doves had set up their stands. It was where the money changers had their tables, exchanging Roman coins, contaminated by figures of gods and of Caesar, for “clean” Jewish shekels, which were then able to be taken into the temple for contributions.

Booths and tables filled this whole area with the stench of livestock and the loud voices of the sellers and traders, to the point where nobody could worship or seek God effectively.       This one place where people from outside could come and worship, this one place that could literally serve as ‘a house of prayer for all nations,’ had been transformed into a market, filled with livestock pens, and noise, and haggling traders – ‘a den of thieves.”

And so Jesus cleaned house, driving out the animals and those who sold them, and overturning the tables of the money changers. He also stopped those who were carrying merchandise through the court, sending them back the way they had come.

Of course, this did nothing to win over the chief priests and teachers of the law. The temple was THEIR area of responsibility, their purview and, in their opinion, Jesus had no right to barge in and change things around like that.       They looked at things from their own viewpoint: what was most orderly, most convenient, and most profitable. But Jesus saw things from God’s viewpoint: what was needed to bring the most people into His kingdom.

Father, sometimes I admit that we, Your people, still look at things in our churches from the standpoint of what is most orderly, most convenient for us, most to our liking, and ,yes, even what is most profitable.       But, Lord, those are not Your priorities. You still want to reach out through us to those who are far away, and bring them close to You. You are still primarily focused on seeking and saving what was lost. Help us to look at ourselves, our churches, and our procedures with YOUR priorities in mind. And help us to clean our own houses anyplace that is needed, so that we can once again be houses of prayer for all nations, drawing them in, showing them Your love, and leading them all the way into Your kingdom through the one way of Jesus. Amen.

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