Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cleansing Our Temple

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord needs them, and he will send them at once. 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5       Say to the daughter of Zion,
          Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
     on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, Who is this? 11 And the crowds said, This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.
12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers.
14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, Hosanna to the Son of David! they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, Do you hear what these are saying? And Jesus said to them, Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
    you have prepared praise?

There are so many thing in this passage that time would fail us to cover this in the amount we have today, but for the sake of learning and also to make us aware of how to read Gods word with understanding, lets take a few of these beginning verses and open them up before we get corpus of the message. 

We see Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem and stops in a town called Bethphage.  This is the very week 2000 years ago Jesus was in this town and like everything Jesus did, this has many purposes.  Many are aware that the cities, peoples names, and so on have meanings associated with them.  For example, Ichabod got his name when the enemy took the Ark from Israel and means The Glory of the Lord has departed.  How would you like to be named that or maybe Racist because you were born during the Civil Rights movement?  This was not only a custom, but God also used the names of people and places to represent things in His plans and fulfill His word.  Are you wondering what Bethphage means yet?  It means House of Unripe Figs.  You might be saying to yourselves, so, Jesus was an unrip fig?  No, but a little background study reveals some amazing things about why Jesus stopped here before entering into Jerusalem.  Rabbinic sources[1] tell us that the Tree of Good and Evil was a fig tree.  While we can never be certain this side of Heaven, it is known that at that time, Kohanim (Priests) made Bethphage their home and tended to the clean place on the Mount of Olives.  The reasoning was because the figs never ripened so there was no chance of repeating Adams sin.[2]  In addition to this, Faussets Bible Dictionary alleges that the sacrificial victims were kept there.[3]
Putting this altogether, Jesus, our High Priest, comes to the town of unripe figs or Tree of Good and Evil untouched, were they are holding the sacrifices and becomes the antitypical sacrifice to undo the curse of sin laid on us from by Adam eating the fruit and clothing himself with its leafs!

Oh, if we only had the time, I show you that later on in verse 17, Jesus goes on to Bethany, which means Ripened Figs and curses the fig tree that has leaves only but no figs.  There are literally endless meanings that we could draw from these few verses that would provoke the most intelligent scholars.  We havent even gotten to the message yet and I am overwhelmed with the truth of Gods word.  Lets move on to the text for todays word.

After Bethphage, Jesus has the disciples get a donkey and colt so He can ride it into Jerusalem and fulfills a prophetic scripture  from Zech 9:9.  Afterwards He comes to the temple and begins to drive out the people who were selling pure sacrificial animals and the people who were buying them as well as those who were change money for people to be able to pay the tax.  He calls them to true prayer, and begins to heal all who will come.  This act causes the young to begin praising Him. 

What can we take from this passage today that will bring us into a closer relationship with God?  Lets examine these things one at a time.  Jesus cleanses the temple of some specific types of people.

1.        Cleanses Our Hearts
A.      Idolatry
B.       Hypocrisy
C.       Apathy/Insincerity

The word translated "market" is the Greek emporion, from which we get our English word, "emporium." The word only occurs here in John 2:16. It means "market," "merchandise," "a place of buying and selling." The Greek text actually reads: "Take these things from here. Stop making my Father's house a house of merchandise.[4]

The account of Jesus cleansing the temple in John 2 gives us the impression that people had made the temple a marketplace.  This is why we see that he holds both the buyers and the sellers responsible as they were creating a place of idolatry where God was suppose to be first and only.  Jesus said we couldn't serve two masters, money being the other.  God is a jealous God and will not have any other Gods before Him.  Christ is there to drive out our idolatry.  We must renounce our idolatry and thrown them away.  What is it that we put before God; money, position, power?  We must lay down these things at the cross allowing God to have reign in our lives. 

The next set of people to be thrown out were the using the Law to gain by exchanging the currency for travelers for a small sum.  Why we do things is as if not more important than what we do.  Christ wants us to cleanse our hearts of any hypocrisy by removing the veil showing our true intentions.  Why do we tithe? Is it out of an act of faith and joyful obedience or is it only to use the promises of God to receive a blessing?  Im not denying that fact that God will give to those who give, but why do we give?

Lastly, He cleanses us of Apathy and Insincerity.  The people who sold the doves and pigeons knew that there were many who would buy from them rather than buying a lamb.  They are banking on the reality that although the word of God said that only if someone couldn't afford to a lamb, they knew that many would presume without regard to income with opt for the cheapest offering to God.  This upset the pure, perfect lamb of God who was about to pay the greatest price for everyone one of them.  This is us today as we underestimate the cost of sin and make Im sorry prayers to God without a knowledge of the blood of Christ or the intension of committing the sin again. 

2.        Refocuses Our Minds

We are in need of the pure lamb of God that we take away the sins of the world, but Christ didn't stop at cleansing us.  He refocuses the us by making us realize that we are to be a temple of prayer before God always.  This is what God has always wanted, a people to have relationship with. 

3.        Heals Our Bodies

When we realize that God desires us to be cleaned by Christ and to stand before Him, we come into a place of faith, knowing that Christ is our healer.  Many are here today in need of healing from a lack of our God given vision or an inability to walk on the path of truth.  Jesus is wanting to heal our eyes to see and our legs to stand on His word. 

4.        Ignites Our Praises

In closing, the sum of Jesus work has a eternal purpose that is not only for then, but is made for now called Worship.  We were satans replacements.  God requires us to worship Him in spirit and in truth.  You might be in the camp that says, its hard to worship or I dont feel like it.  I would ask you to quietly consider the possibility that there my be something in your life that is holding you back from worshiping God as a child does with pure faith.  Is there Idolatry, Hypocrisy, Apathy or Insincerity in your life?  Have you spend time in prayer?  Is there a lack of vision or ability to stand strong in the Lord?  If thats you, pray with me.   

[1] Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XV:7 R. Jose said: They were figs. He learns the obscure from the explicit, and [the meaning of] a statement from its context, thus: This may be compared to a royal prince who sinned with a slave girl, and the king on learning of it expelled him from court. He went from door to door of the slaves, but they would not receive him; but she who had sinned with him opened her door and received him. So when Adam ate of that tree, He expelled him and cast him out of the garden of Eden; and he appealed to all the trees but they would not receive him. What did they say to him? Said R. Berekiah: ‘ Behold, a deceiver who deceived his Creator, who deceived his Master! ‘as it is written, Let not the foot of presumption come unto me (Ps. XXXVI, 12), which means, the foot that presumed against its Creator; And let not the hand of the wicked shake1 me (ib.): i.e. let it not take a leaf from me.2 But because he had eaten of its fruit, the fig-tree opened its doors and received him, as it is written, And they sewed fig-leaves together, etc. (Gen. III, 7).
[3] Fausset, Andrew Robert M.A., D.D., "Definition for 'Bethphage' Fausset's Bible Dictionary".