Thursday, February 23, 2012


Mark 11:15-18, “And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.” (ESV)

What are we to make of this account? Jesus entered the temple, drove out the buyers and sellers, overturned the tables and chairs, and put an end to all of commerce. In righteous indignation He zealously intervened to cleanse the temple from all such activities. Jesus Himself explained His actions: “My House shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17). The temple was for worship, they were using it for their own evil ends. He cleansed the temple at the start of His ministry (John 2:14-17), He cleansed it again in the end.

Temples are for worship. The priests were to lead the people in worship. The sacrifices were to be offered in worship. Humble prayer was to characterize such activities. Worship of God was to happen there (Psalm 84:1-4). Simeon and Anna knew that (Luke 2:25-37). Others too, no doubt, but the religious leaders had no heart for worship (Matthew 15:8-9), and they wielded much influence (Matthew 27:20; 23:13). The temple was as worthless to its purpose as a fig tree without figs (Mark 11:12-14).

Jesus’ activity in the temple is not at all inconsistent with all else that He did in His ministry. He is in the temple-cleansing business. A. W. Tozer, “Why did Christ come? Why was He conceived? Why was He born? Why was He crucified? Why did He rise again? Why is He now at the right hand of the Father? The answer to the question is, “In order that He might make worshipers out of rebels; in order that He might restore us again to the place of worship we knew when we were first created.”

God created each of us to worship Him. That is the reason for our existence. What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Rebel sinners have no heart to worship God. The heart of the rebel sinner merchandizes sin. Much activity goes on, some perhaps under the guise of religion, but it is never true worship. A great cleansing work in one’s heart is necessary.

That God desires such worshippers should encourage us. John 4:23-24, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” A great cleansing by Jesus takes place at the moment of saving faith: “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). A cleansing of the heart from dead works coincides with a renewed desire to serve the living God. Jesus alone can do such things! And He works such a change with the same zeal he revealed in the cleansing of the temple.

Many would prefer a more tolerant Jesus, a Jesus who might wink at sin or excuse and tolerate it. But one lesson we should take from this account is that Jesus is zealous to rid us from sin. The born again believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), a living stone in “a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:12). The temple, His Church, exists for the purpose of worshipping Him. To this purpose we are called (Ephesians 1:6,12,14), to this eternal occupation we are destined (1 Timothy 1:17). We have been cleansed for this purpose and are being cleansed still (Ephesians 5:26). The Holy Spirit who indwells us is zealous in this cause (James 4:5-8).

Jesus is zealously opposed to sin because sin is contrary to His nature and to His purpose in us. The temple-cleansing Jesus still reproves sin (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12-13). He still disciples His people (Hebrews 12:10; 1 Corinthians 11:30-32). We will one day be recompensed for the deeds we have done (2 Corinthians 5:10). “The quality of each man’s work” will be tested. That which fails the test will be “burned up” (1 Corinthians 3:15).

Much of what is done in the name of Christ is mere merchandising. There is no worship to it. It is done neither in spirit or in truth. Jesus threatened to remove the “lampstand” from the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:5). They were busy in religious activities, but their heart was not in it. There was much going on at the church, but they had left their first love. Love for Jesus was not the motivating factor. Let us be careful to do what we do for the right reasons. “Simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3) will never meet with the Lord’s disapproval.

A.W. Tozer, “Now, worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized; we work; we have our agendas. We have almost everything, but there’s one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.”

The Holy Spirit alone can help us in our pursuit. His mandate? “He shall glory Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you” (John 16:14). The Holy Spirit who indwells us is pointing “Jesusward.” He purposefully and patiently works to direct our attention to Him. “Look there,” he says to us, “behold His glory, “glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). “Look again,” He cries, “and consider ‘the breadth and length and height and depth’ of the love He has shown to us” (Ephesians 3:18). The object of our worship is all glorious and fully deserving of our love and admiration. It is as the Spirit of God applies the Word of God to our hearts that we comprehend these truths (Cf. Ephesians 1:17; 3:16f).

The temple cleansing Jesus is still at work. In saving rebel sinners He cleanses their hearts that they might do that for which they were created—worship Him. His cleansing work continues as he works to transform us to His very image. One day soon there will be no further need for cleansing—in that place “where righteousness dwells,” (2 Peter 3:13). The redeemed with gather round the Throne and declare: “To Him who sits on the Throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (Revelation 5:13).

Pastor Jerry

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