This week, for Pray the Word, we are praying according to different texts that correspond with events during Holy Week, so today’s text, Mark 11:15-19. “And they came to Jerusalem, and he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 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 to them, and saying to them, ‘Is it not written, my house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.’ And the chief priest 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. And when evening came, they went out of the city.”
Jesus cleansing the temple serves as a warning to us all against removing God from the center of worship.
So, for Israel, we know, like the temple was the place of worship. God had given Solomon, back in the Old Testament, like specific directions for how it should be constructed, and God promised to manifest, show his glory to his people in this impressive building. This is where all of the sacrifices were brought. It’s where the ark of God’s presence was located. This is where Israel encountered, in a sense, God’s covenant love, his atoning mercy, where they glimpsed his holiness, so that Jesus would enter the temple of Monday of Holy Week was obviously not a surprise.
What he did and said at that temple was a huge surprise, because this house, where God said he would put his name, had according to Jesus become a den of robbers, like merchants using the temple for the exchange of money, the sale of animals to be sacrificed, probably at a good profit. So this business should have been carried out, honestly, outside the temple, in preparation for Passover. Instead, this buying and selling in the outer court of the temple was actually preventing the gentiles, the nations, from joining in worship there at the temple.
So, when he saw this, Jesus starts turning over tables, drives out those who are doing business, reminds them of Isaiah’s words centuries earlier, that this temple was intended to be a house of prayer for all nations, and they had turned it into a place of greed and indulgence for themselves. The chief priests and scribes responded. They want to destroy Jesus.
In this picture, Jesus cleansing the temple is a warning to us, to anybody, not to pollute the worship of the one true God. We must be careful never to remove God from the center of our worship, never to put ourselves, our personal gain, at the center of worship. Like, for those with eyes to see, Jesus’s actions on this Monday would reveal his identity. I’m going to stop. I’m going to go back a little bit.
I’m just going to start praying. Is that all right? Like, that was a good point. I don’t think I need to keep talking. Is that all right? Unless there’s something really important that I need to say after that.
Speaker 2: I think so. [inaudible 00:03:31]
Speaker 1: Jesus’ cleansing of the temple is a warning, to us, to all who would pollute the worship of the one true God, we cannot remove God from the center of our worship and put our personal gain in his place. So, let’s pray. God, we bow and confess that you are indeed the one true God, and your holiness is beyond what we can fathom. Your glory is greater than we can imagine, and we worship you. God, we exist to worship you. We have breath to make your glory known, and we pray that you would forgive us for all the ways that we put ourselves, in a very real sense, on the center of the throne of our hearts, which you alone belong on.
God, we pray that you’d forgive us for the ways we turn from you, and that which glorifies you, to seek selfish gain in all kinds of different ways in each of our lives. God, help us to keep you at the center of our lives in everything we do, and everything we think, and everything we say, and everything we desire. God, we want you to be glorified, and not just you to be glorified in our lives. We want you to be glorified in the lives of those around us, among the nations. God, we pray that you would forgive us for the ways we are prone to indulge ourselves, and ignore the needs of people around us, that they might know who you are.
Just like we see here, in Mark 11, how they were making profit and ignoring the gentiles, who you had designated this place for them to worship. So God, we pray, please help us to live in such a way that we draw others to worship you, not keep others from worshiping you. God, give us a selfless love for people around us, that they might know your love. So God, help us to worship you truly, we pray.
Jesus, we praise you for the grace that you give us, and your death on the cross, that we are celebrating this week, remembering this week, that makes worship possible, that makes forgiveness of our sins possible. All glory be to your name, and so we pray that you would help us to live lives of true worship to you, today. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.