What was it that Jesus saw when he walked into the Temple and turned over the tables of business? Did he see entrepreneurs trying to capitalize on religious need? Did he see selfish greed masked as ministry?
This was the outer court where Gentiles and Jews could intermingle. This is where people from all religious or non-religious backgrounds captured their image of the dedicated purpose for this landmark structure. Think farmer’s market not ministry fair. Hear the cacophony of vendors hawking their merchandise or “cheap” money exchanges. See their wily smiles pasted on dishonest faces.
Something was wrong, very wrong and Jesus would have nothing of it. Jesus called for his place of worship to stop peddling religion and make every square inch a place where people and God connected easily, freely, intimately, and transformationally.
What would Jesus see first if he walked into our churches? What would he overturn that in his eyes got in the way of our real business, helping people find an authentic and growing relationship with the living God?
We have visited many churches in our three years of transition since retiring from pastoral ministry. We found friendly people as well as aloof. We found state of the art technology as well as old hymnals and out of tune pianos. We’ve seen people try their best to be contemporary and others who had it all down. But the only criteria we ever used to decide whether to return was whether they were trying to “sell” themselves or their “style” or whether they passionately wanted to connect people with Jesus.
Jesus stopped “merchandising” in His Temple. Having captured their attention in a dramatic way, he began to teach them. He shared from Isaiah who spoke against a narrow, targeted salvation message to remind his people that God’s great love was for all nations and every age group. “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7)
God is a gathering God, not a targeting God. He is pleased to see multigenerational, multi-ethnic, multi-anything come together in His name. Don’t miss the point here. If we really believe that how we do worship is more important than whether we worship, we will find ourselves in the same “outer court” merchandizing in ways that will break the heart of Jesus.
Jesus didn’t leave the temple angry. He left broken-hearted. Did anyone hear his message that day? Did anything change? Not until resurrection changed their focus.
That’s why we need Easter, too!
Lent Scripture Readings 2018*
March 7-March 13
Wednesday: Mark 11:15, 17
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there . . . And as he taught them, he said, Is it not written: ‘My house will called a house of prayer for all nations?’
What table would Jesus overturn in your heart to get your attention? Be the worshipper that makes God’s house a House of Prayer. Pray that Jesus reaches the heart of anyone whose focus is skewed.
Thursday: John 1:1, Psalm 107:20-21
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. .
He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love.
Do you understand Jesus’ redemption from the cross as your most important healing? Do you see Jesus as your personal rescue mission? What part of God’s unfailing love isn’t enough for you?
Friday: Ephesians 1:7-8
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
Contemplate what you have in Christ: redemption, forgiveness, rich grace, lavished on you! Where are you thinking, feeling, living below Christ’s lavished gifts? Live fully in Christ today.
Saturday: John 3:2-3
[Nicodemus], came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Where do you compliment Jesus without obeying him? How does your obedience help people see the kingdom of God? What truth would Jesus tell you today?
Fourth Sunday in Lent: John 3:21
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be see plainly that what [Jesus] has done has been done through God.
What is the source of the truth you live by, identity yourself by? Are you plainly seen as someone who lives by Jesus’ truth? As you worship today, soak up more light so you can share it.
Monday: Psalm 107:4a, John 14:6
Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Where are you wandering and finding no way? How might Jesus be your way today? What truth do you need to hear so that you can? Remember, the only time you wander is when you take your own way.
Tuesday: Psalm 107:10, Luke 4:18
Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor . . . He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.
What chains your heart and keeps you from living free? Where do you think freedom is on the other side of some circumstantial change? Let Jesus do for you what He came to do . . . free you from unnecessary chains.
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