Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48, Isaiah 56:7, Jeremiah 7:11
Jesus has entered Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. He has been praised by the people, heralded as a king. So where does He go next? The temple of course.
Monday dawns, and Jesus begins His week by entering the temple to heal and teach, but what He finds there is unsavory to say the least. People are buying and selling, money changers are collecting (and probably swindling…that’s an assumption, but probably a safe one). Bottom line the temple is being used to turn a quick profit rather than to turn hearts’ to worship.
So what does Jesus do? Similar to the first time He encounters this scene at the start of His ministry (recorded in John 2:13-22) Jesus drives out the vendors and money changers, and He overturns their tables.
The text doesn’t outright say that He was angry, but it’s hard to imagine a tranquil Jesus clearing the grounds (especially since He uses a whip in the John account). The terms “drive out” and “overturn” don’t evoke serene mental images. But we can definitively say that even if Jesus is angry, and more than a touch zealous, He doesn’t sin. The Bible affirms the sinlessness of Christ numerous times: 1 Peter 2:22, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, 1 John 3:5.
It’s not hard for me to imagine a righteous anger burning in my belly. I’ve experienced it numerous times when hearing about the many injustices of the world. It is, however, difficult for me to see myself ACTING on that righteous anger in a righteous way.
I can relate to angry Jesus. Can I get an Amen? But, I don’t think this passage is meant to be a “How To Act on Anger Righteously” guide, as much as I might want it to be. We don’t know enough about Jesus’ actions to be able to replicate them let alone try to draw parallels to our own lives.
Jesus did teach a lesson though. He follows up His actions with this statement: “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
The phrase, “Is it not written,” cues us to the fact He is referencing something. It draws the listener’s attention to the Old Testament. His following words are masterfully crafted. The first half, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations,” is a direct quote from Isaiah 56, a chapter outlining rewards for obedience to God. He is pointing to what the temple is supposed to be and in quoting Isaiah highlights the rewards waiting for those that worship God with obedient HEARTS and ACTIONS. He’s casting a vision for what should be. The second half, “But you have made it a den of robbers,” comes from Jeremiah 7. In this section, Jeremiah is tasked with standing at the temple gate and calling the Israelites to repentance for their two-faced nature. He calls out their superficial trust in the temple and external religion. The Israelites went through the motions with their ACTIONS, feigning obedience, but their HEARTS weren’t in the right place. Jeremiah beckons them to true repentance, and then reminds them of its reward. The Isaiah and Jeremiah passages couldn’t be more different and are held in perfect contrast with one another. They speak to a God that desires our outward AND inward obedience.
What was the response to this simple yet effective teaching? The religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus, but the people hung on every word, astonished at His teaching.
The people seemed hungry for this type of teaching, maybe they didn’t fully understand it, but the Bible specifically says, “for all the people were hanging on to every word He said”. That makes me think they weren’t just there for the miracles, but Jesus’ radical teachings as well. The religious leaders on the other hand were indignant. They had no interest in being called out and called up. They were going to find a way to kill Jesus.
And they did.
What areas of your life is it easy to obey God in heart and action? What areas do you tend to go through the motions, but your heart just isn’t in it? How can you bridge that gap?
It’s not easy being criticized, even when it’s constructive. Do you find yourself eager to learn from criticism? Or do you get prickly and defensive?