|Matthew 21:12-13, 18-19||Read Online||Mark 11:12-18||Read Online||Luke 19:45-48||Read Online|
Then He told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out, and it was restored, as good as the other.
Jesus is passionate about His Father’s kingdom. In Matthew 7:13-23, we learned we can’t conduct the kingdom business any old way we please. There’s a very narrow way—God’s way of doing things God values.
In fact, many people may think they’re doing religious things for God, but Jesus will have nothing to do with them. That’s precisely what happens when Jesus enters the Temple complex and sees what’s happening there that doesn’t belong.
The Temple complex contained the court of the Gentiles (beyond which Gentiles couldn’t go), the court of women (beyond which women couldn’t go), the court of Israel (beyond which laymen couldn’t go), the sanctuary (beyond which priests couldn’t go), and the Holy of Holies (where the glory of God dwelt).
Anyone entering the complex would first enter the Court of the Gentiles. Jesus saw two groups there who had no place: money-changers and vendors selling doves. Both facilitated sacrifices offered in Temple worship.
Was Jesus saying these practices were wrong? The Gospels don’t tell us. But they do tell us this: those practices had no place in the Temple. The Temple isn’t a place for commerce. It’s a place to connect with God.
This is difficult business. It requires concentration, intention, and minimal distraction. The place where we meet God is holy—that is, it is “other.” It’s set apart from the world.
That’s what the Temple was meant to be—a place where anyone who sought God could meet Him and be with Him. Instead, Jesus found it to be a place as trafficked and noisy as the rest of the world, full of the world’s business and busyness. This angered Jesus.
So let’s take note: Jesus is passionate about people connecting with God—that those who want to meet God find Him. He’s passionate that God’s Temple be a place where this happens.
Jesus is passionate about God’s temple. Jesus quotes two prophecies about the Temple. Isaiah 56:1-8 describes what God intended his Temple to be: a house of prayer for all people. Jeremiah 7:1-11 describes how it had been corrupted into a den of thieves.
Now that there’s no Temple complex in Jerusalem, where does God dwell?
“Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Your life is where God dwells. You are where He meets people. Jesus is passionate about that. He’s passionate about guarding your heart and life so that it’s not so trafficked and busy that people cannot find Him. He’s passionate that your life should be an “other” place—a house of prayer, a holy space that’s not like the rest of the world.
Jesus is passionate about the fruit your life bears. The fig tree was an ancient symbol for Israel. Fig trees bear an early crop of bitter immature male figs called taksh, which precede the leaves and drop off before the proper fruit forms. This tree was in full leaf, but the time for figs was not yet. But Jesus could tell that the tree was barren because it had no taksh on it.
Look back again at Matthew 7:13-23: “You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.”
Jesus is passionate about your life bearing the fruit you were created to bear—fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22. There the works of the world are contrasted sharply with the fruit of the Spirit. Which do people encounter when they enter the temple of your life?
- What might Jesus say to judge the temple of you? Fill in the blanks: My house shall be called a house of _________, but you have made it a _____________.
- How do Christians sometimes make it hard for nonbelievers to get to God?
- Study the list of “fleshly” fruits in Galatians 5:19-21. Here Paul says these have no place in the kingdom. What needs to be removed from your life?
- What steps do you need to take to make changes, in light of your answers above?