February 14, 2016
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
In this Lenten sermon series, we will look at Jesus’ last week (168 hours) on earth. Jesus began this period in a very unhappy state as he angrily cursed the fig tree for its fruitlessness (Mark 11:12-14) and furiously cleared the temple courts of moneychangers and merchants (Mark 11:15-17).
Instead of unleashing our type of anger, which is basically selfish, often unreasonable, and ready to pick a fight, Jesus releases a fury that comes directly from His heart.
Three things that made Jesus angry In Mark 11:
- People were exploited.
In clearing the temple courts (Mark 11:17), Jesus explains that the moneychangers and merchants were not just selling things to people, they were using religion to exploit them—cheating them with unfair exchanges and price gouging.
In the temple, they were using holy ground as an excuse to exploit people rather than serve them….and it makes Jesus angry. Today it would make sense that it still would make Jesus angry when religion is used to exploit people, such as when TV prosperity gospel teachers encourage folks to follow Jesus for health and wealth; these false teachers use religion for financial gain.
- Worship was crowded out.
The court of the Gentiles in the temple was to be a place of quiet reflection, a place where Jews could prepare their hearts for true meaningful worship: “Is it not written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’“ (Mark 11:17a).
The temple was where God’s actual presence lived in a special way.
Instead, they exchanged worship and prayer for busyness, activity and commerce. Jesus pointed out, “You have made it a ‘den of robbers’” (Mark 11:17b). They justified their actions by connecting it all to religion.
Today we do not have a specific building complex, a temple where God’s presence dwells in a special way. However, the New Testament teaches that if we place our faith in Christ, then we ourselves become God’s temple, holy ground, a place of worship where God lives (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:16).
What might God think of our day-to-day worship as individuals and as we gather? Do we crowd Him out with busyness or “religious” activities, or do we take time to commune with Him regularly – expecting to hear from the living God and encounter Him, and learn how to truly serve one another?
- Those far from God were pushed away.
Jesus did not just say the temple court was to be a house of prayer; He said it was to be “a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17a). The temple court was the only part of the temple in which Gentiles could worship God and gather for prayer, and all this noisy activity of exploitation was crowding them out.
The Jews got it backwards: the people they were crowding out were the very people who needed God the most. The Messiah did not want to drive the Gentiles out of the temple; he wanted to welcome them all in to restore true worship.
And what might God think of our hearts in regard to those who are perhaps farther from Him? Do our hearts invite them in and welcome them, or do we push them away? Are we a welcoming church?
Jesus’ heart is for “all nations,” both those that are near to God and those that are maybe farther from God, to experience the true worship of the living God. As we continue looking at the temple next week, we will see that Jesus is not just overturning tables. He is overturning the entire temple system, destroying barriers so that we all have access to God.
Jesus’ heart is to bring people to the true worship of God. This causes Him to deal severely, angrily, at times violently with anything that blocks that from happening. Jesus is angry because He is all about God’s Kingdom.
He is all about people growing in true worship.
1. Is life all about ourselves, our desires, our little plans, or do we share Jesus’ consuming passion for growing the Kingdom of God?
2. When we are angry, is it all about us or is it God’s Kingdom that is moving that anger?
3. As we look at Jesus’ last 168 hours on earth, how much of His heart is reflected in our heart? Where do we need God’s help to change?