Here is a strange thought: someone stands on the corner offering a driver’s license or a passport to anyone who asks? We would respond, “You can’t do that; only the government can do that, and you are not the government.”
In Jesus’ day, the Temple in Jerusalem was the government. They passed out certificates of healing and forgiveness of sin through careful rituals and animal sacrifices. Yet, Jesus would walk among the crowd or sit at a dinner table and say to people, “Your sins are forgiven.” Throughout his ministry, Jesus upstaged the Temple, the priests, and all the aristocracy.
The tension between Jesus and the Temple leaders continued to escalate through his ministry. The final explosion came on the Monday of Holy Week when Jesus cleansed the Temple (see Matthew 21:12-16). Why did Jesus do this? There are two reasons:
First, Jesus knew that the Temple was corrupt. The moneychangers were gouging the people. Rather than a place of prayer, the Temple had become a means of profit. Many people in Israel agreed with Jesus. Jesus declared, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13) But there is more.
Second, Jesus was announcing something new. God was doing something that made the Temple unnecessary. Jesus answered his critics, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). He was not talking about bricks and mortar, he was talking about his body. Jesus is the new Temple.
The story of Jesus cleansing the temple is a picture of Jesus cleansing our hearts. He stands at the door and knocks knowing that corruption and sin fill our inner lives. When he enters, he announces that God is doing something new in us.
So what is the “something new” Jesus Jesus do when he cleansed the Temple?
First, “He drove out all those who were buying and selling. He upended the moneychangers’ tables and the dove-sellers’ benches” (Matthew 21:12, The Voice). Why do this? By interrupting the flow of money exchange, for a brief hour or so, Jesus stopped the animal sacrifices. The way to God is not by the continuous flow of animal blood, but by the sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ.
Second, “the blind and the lame came to the temple, and Jesus healed them. Rings of children circled round and sang, Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:14, The Voice). Jesus took over the work of the Temple providing healing and forgiveness. Even the little children recognized him as the King, the Son of David
When Jesus enters our hearts, he replaces our futile efforts with his loving power. Our response is to become like little children and recognize him as Savior and Lord.
Prayer for Holy Week: Lord, come into my heart. I know it is full of sin. Announce God’s forgiveness and new life inside me. Let me trust you to do for me and in me what I cannot do myself.
Copyright 2014 (c) RichardLeslieParrott