Messy Monday

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Now it’s Monday morning.  Have you ever wondered what the Pharisees, the Religious Police were thinking after that Sunday?  Understanding how they think, I’m confident that they didn’t rest well that night.  It’s their Holy Week, so to speak.  Hundreds of thousands of people are pouring into the city which means there are extra Roman Soldiers in town.  A unique thing that Rome did was give the Sanhedrin, the Religious Police, considerable power over the city of Jerusalem, provided they could keep it peaceful.

Jesus is a threat to that peace, a threat to their power and a threat to their rule.  Knowing this about them, I am also confident that they came to the Temple early that Monday morning.  Jesus is on the move and something needs to be done about Him.  They are determined to put an end to Jesus, but they want to wait until after Passover when there are not so many people in town.  But you must remember that Jesus is determined to die on Passover.  I can just picture them in their Council Chambers having a heated discussion about what Jesus He is doing and what to do with Him.

All of a sudden one of the Temple Guards rushes in, interrupting their important meeting.  The High Priest Caiaphas is mad at this interruption, I say he’s mad because he gives me the impression that he’s not happy unless he’s mad about something.  Know anyone like that?  This guard yells out, “Hey y’all!  You gotta see this!”

Picture this if you can, the Temple is divided into sections.  You have the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could enter once a year.  Then you have the Holy Place where only Priests could enter.  This was where all the rituals and sacrifices occurred.  Then you have the Court of the Men where only Jewish men could enter.  Next was the Court of the Women where only Jewish women could enter.  At the outer edge, the perimeter was the Court of the Gentiles which was for Gentiles.

It was this Court of the Gentiles that was turned into an animal market and currency exchange.  Those who didn’t bring an animal to sacrifice had to buy one.  Worshippers also had to give an offering for the Temple.  But Roman currency wasn’t acceptable because it often had images of various gods and Caesars on them.  Can’t have polluted currency in the Temple, so they developed their own currency just for the Temple.  The money changers provided that service—for a fee of course.  It’s a racket that was only making the Sanhedrin richer.

Jesus walks into the Court of the Gentiles and sees this going on in the place that had the purpose of getting people closer to God—but now had the purpose that was all about the power of the Religious Police.  Well, let’s just read about how Jesus feels about that and what He does.  Matthew 21:12-17 (The Message)

12-14 Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants.  He quoted this text:  “My house was designated a house of prayer; You have made it a hangout for thieves.”  Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.

15-16 When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things He was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, “Hosanna to David’s Son!” they were up in arms and took Him to task. “Do you hear what these children are saying?”  (Editorial Comment:  How awful, children making noise in the Temple.  They and their parents ought to be ashamed.  We can’t have children running around making noise praising Jesus!)  Jesus said, “Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise’?”

17 Fed up, Jesus turned on his heel and left the city for Bethany, where he spent the night.

Can you imagine the pandemonium?  Jesus is flipping over the tables filled with all types of coins.  When they hit that stone floor they bounce all over the place and I can just see the money changers scrambling trying to collect those coins before all those people scooped them up.  Imagine an armored truck moving down a highway when the back door opens up and money is flying around everywhere.  That’s the image.

But that’s not all—Jesus made that whip out of cords of rope and now He’s driving all those animals out—a real life cowboy in action!  Stampede of animals—people scurrying about picking up money.  What a beautiful mess!  Why call it a beautiful mess?  Because This is the Confrontation of Purposes.

The Religious Police, had turned the Temple into something for their own purposes, not God’s purposes.  It was a far cry from what God wanted, from what God designed.  And Jesus has come in this Holy Confrontation to set both things and people back right.

Purpose of the Temple for these power hungry moguls was to elevate their position, their power and to make themselves look good.  It was all about what they wanted.  Now Jesus has made a beautiful mess of everything.  Beautiful because with all their stuff out of the way there was room for broken people.  As long as they made the Temple about them and their wants there was no room for God, and no room for the people that the Temple was designed for.

God’s design for the Temple was for messy, broken and sinful people to come in order to know that HE, is full of mercy and grace and to allow God’s grace to take away all that messiness, brokenness and sinfulness.  With their stuff out of their way, look at what happened:  Verse 14—Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and He healed them.  There’s a Temple still today—but it’s not in Jerusalem.  It’s not even a building.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? No one will get by with vandalizing God’s temple, you can be sure of that. God’s temple is sacred—and you, remember, are the temple.

Some use this passage to say you need to exercise, eat healthy, don’t drink, smoke, or chew or use drugs.  But Paul was talking to a church that was riddled with strife and division, people stirring up all kinds of trouble and others engaging in sex outside the boundaries God had set.  To a broken, divided and sinful body Paul reminds them—“Hey, you’re now the Temple of God and you need to live with The Temple Purpose.”  And the Temple purpose God has is very clear with no less than 3 key Purpose.

1.  We Are The Temple With The Temple Purpose Of Revealing God

God wants every word we speak, every thought we hold onto, every attitude we nurture, and our every action to be a reflection of Him and His true nature.  I can’t speak for you, but I can for me.  I admit there are times that I struggle with this.  But this I know beyond a doubt that I want The Spirit to take this junk out of me so that those around me can see God, who is full of mercy and grace.

I want this above everything else and it’s where I’m pushing my heart and mind and life.  And what about you?  Are you pushing your life in the direction God wants?  Remember that YOU are the Temple with the Temple Purpose of Revealing the True God in a hurting, broken, messy, sinful world.  The second Key Purpose of The Temple is this

2.  We Are The Temple With The Temple Purpose Of Bringing People Close To God

When Moses set up The Tabernacle, when Solomon built the Temple, its purpose was for people to come close to God.  It troubles me deeply when I see any church present a god that sinners cannot approach.  A god who is hateful, vengeful—a god that can’t be approached until people clean up their act—until they are willing to be just like them.  Our God, the True and Living God welcomes dirty, messy, broken and sinful people to come near Him.  Why do I believe this?  I go back to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve made a mess of God’s Intended Design.  What does God do?  He goes looking for them!  That’s what He does for me and you, too.

And that’s what we do as The Temple.  We become people who go out looking and really getting to know people—people who have deep inside them the Image of God but it’s been covered over by a life of wrong choices.  We don’t wait for people to get close to us—we get close to them.  We don’t avoid them and we certainly don’t judge them.  We love them the same way He loves us—us, who are sometimes broken, in a mess and tangled up with sin. The third Key Purpose of The Temple is this:

3.  We Are The Temple With The Temple Purpose Of God Redeeming And Restoring His Image That Is Within All People.

Once we reveal God, once we let others know they can get close to God, God can then begin his gracious and loving work in them.  It’s about God bringing out the uniqueness and beauty that He sees in every person.  He sees it because He put it there.  Even in the messiest and most broken life, a warrior and a beauty is waiting to be released.  But only God can release it.  Every life has a purpose that is bigger than anyone can imagine.  It’s not a purpose about making us look good on the outside.  It’s the purpose that is all about making a difference in community and in the lives of people.  And only God can make it happen.

We rarely see it—we are powerless to release it—and we cannot give our life purpose because the purpose belongs to God.  Only God Can Give Us Our True Purpose And God Is The Only One Who Can Make It Happen.  Our purpose in life is to be God’s Temple where people can see that God is so rich in love, grace and mercy, that anyone can come near to Him to be released from the messiness and brokenness and restored to the life for which we are created!

Jesus made room for the blind and crippled and finally God was quite at home in that Temple.  I can’t speak for you, but I want to be a temple in which God is at home.  And the only way I can be that is for Him to do what I could not do, nor would I ever do without His help:  Get rid of the things that prevents me from being the Temple, by living according to His purpose—his design—His power.

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