15.) So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.
16.) And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.
17.) Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of thieves”
18.) And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching.
19.) When evening had come, He went out of the city.
Thoughts on a Holy Monday:
In March of 2018, I along with my sons, Ricci and Clayton, took a trip to the Holy Land. We saw so many sites, and so many are engraved upon my mind. The sad thing is, there were many I did not see that I wanted to see, and a few I want to revisit and see again and hopefully for more time of prayer and meditation. On our second day in Jerusalem, we went to the old city, beginning with the temple mount. The security was as intense as, or maybe even more so than, at the border checkpoints. We went through as a group, showing passports and being checked for weapons. When I went through the x-ray, fortunately my hip replacement did not cause the same delay as it did in Atlanta, coming back from Jordan and Tel Aviv, and finally, in Newark, NJ. But I digress…I can remember walking onto the temple grounds and experiencing a sense of total AWE. It was the size of ten football fields!! I stood there for probably 20 minutes just looking around. You cannot see from end to end unless you’re standing in the middle where the Mosque of the Rock is positioned.
We were given a designated amount of time to wander around and take pictures, so I went to the southern end where in Jesus’ day the mikveh baths were located. This was a place where the people could undergo ritual cleansing before entering the temple grounds if they wanted to or needed to. Archaeological work has uncovered about 50 of these baths. On the top level was where the merchandising was done. Imagine entering the temple grounds and the first thing you see are money changing tables and vendors for goats, sheep, bulls, doves, oil, wine and grain. Before I started seminary, I was visiting schools and was seriously considering ORU in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I remember walking into the world-famous prayer tower, and the first sight to be seen (because I had to walk through it) was the gift shop, filled with high-priced, cheaply made souvenir products. This was not the campus bookstore or the student center, but the prayer tower! I was totally taken aback. The first thought that came to my mind that day was today’s scripture…
Back to the temple: These vendors were necessary but not the graft that went along with their business. Pilgrims could not bring their own animals for sacrifice with them, but they were forced to pay exorbitant prices for those guaranteed by the priests to be unblemished. The folks who did bring their own sacrificial animals would often be told their offering was blemished in some way and would be forced to buy one of the “guaranteed” animals. Then there were the money changers. The temple taxes had to be paid in the temple currency. You can imagine how they scalped on the exchange rate. They were necessary, but the graft and corruptness were not. They were necessary, but that location was not….Now, imagine Jesus walking into the temple the Monday before He goes to the cross. I’m sure it was not the first time He had walked through the market. I’m sure His heart was stirred each time He did. But now it was just a few days before Calvary. He began turning over the tables, chasing the vendors out of the place. And the ones He chased out had to leave all that they had behind. In the Greek words, He did not in any way allow them to take anything with them. He did not allow them to go through the temple or take any of their goods with them when He ran them out of the temple!
Then Jesus quotes from a combination of Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. But before He quotes the scripture, He says, “It is written.” This does not mean pen put to paper, it literally means to be sculpted or engraved. This word is permanent, eternal. “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations.” Jesus had come to Jerusalem to fulfill the Father’s plan for salvation – not for the Hebrews only, but for the Gentiles as well. At this time, the most holy symbol of God was the Temple. And what was the first thing a Hebrew person or Gentile saw as they entered the temple grounds? A place of commerce, graft, and deceit….
Most of the area where this would have taken place is now covered by the second and least-known mosque located on the temple grounds, but it is actually larger than the Dome of the Rock. On our trip, the mikveh baths were closed off. Yet, later that night as I was lying awake in my bed, between the stereo snoring of Ricci and Clayton, my thoughts focused on this truth: Jesus didn’t say a house of worship. He didn’t say a house of praise. He didn’t say a house of singing or Psalms. Jesus said His Father’s house was called a house of prayer.
On this first day of our Holy Week, we are not facing a painful crucifixion on a Roman cross. We are, however, facing a lot of uncertainty. Some of us are trying to deal with the quick spread of this virus that has the world by its throat. Some of us are dealing with the uncertainty of the future after this whole ordeal is done. Some of us cannot go to work because of the lock-down and are worried how we are going to make it financially. Some of us are in essential jobs and have to work and are worried about exposure to disease by either customers or coworkers. Some of us are about to retire and watch our retirement funds dwindle with even the safe havens taking huge hits. How will our health be? How will the economy be? What happens when my essential job is not essential anymore? When this whole mess is over with, will I have a job once again?
I do not have an answer to all these questions. Neither does our President and definitely not the congress, or the CDC, or the WHO, or the UN. But there is One who DOES know. He sent His Son to enter the unfriendly streets of Jerusalem and face an unwarranted death so we could live in His unmerited favor. This One is God the Father, and He said in 2 Chronicles 7:14,”if My people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek My Face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Pray! Earnestly, thoughtfully, intentionally, profoundly – PRAY! Turn off Fox News, CNN and MSNBC and turn on TBN or the Hillsong channel. Get into His word or the words of anointed believers. Put away the merchants of fear, death, and uncertainty. Wear the armor of faith and salvation. Claim His promises, stand on His word, and trust.
But first we must humble ourselves, realizing it is not all about us and that there is nothing we can do about it. Then we are to PRAY with the understanding of faith, knowing in our souls that what needs to be done, He is already doing.
Remember, continue to claim Psalm 91 in the first person.