Friday, August 20, 2010

Jesus, the Temple, and the Message

Mark 11:11-19 NLT  
  11  So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples. 
  12  The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. 14 Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” And the disciples heard him say it. 
  15  When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
  18  When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching.
  19  That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city. 

 In Chapter 11 Mark does a great job of interweaving over-lapping stories and events and then relating their conclusion within context of a subsequent event. I have a couple of friends who have published books, one non-fiction biographies and another mysteries, and they work hard to accomplish that same skill very nicely. Since Mark was being inspired by the Holy Spirit we can, of course, conclude that God is the greatest of writers. But did you notice, in all the times you have read about the incident when Jesus exploded upon the Temple.  At first we are tempted to think that Jesus seems to react emotionally to the abuse of this sacred ground by people holding a flea-market type event, and overcharging in the process.  The Priests, of course, got a cut of all the income, and this sin was underwritten by their authority. Was this a sudden impulse by our Lord and Savior, or was it a carefully planned event? Did you notice in verse 11 that the previous day he went into the temple and looked "around carefully at everything?" He had the entire night to pray and plan what his response was going to be to the gross sin in God's hallowed place.

His actions were not opposed by the priests, though they could have called their temple soldiers to stop Jesus. The people knew that the priests were sinning and profaning God's holy place but they had no power to stop them, they were at the mercy of the religious leaders. They could not perform their required religious worship to honor God without playing the Pharisees' and Saducees' game of greed.

I believe the Lord planned each step he was to take the next day as he overturned the money changers tables and released all the caged and corralled animals held for sacrifice. There was no need for those sacrifices since HE was there. He would become the sacrifice, all the animals could be set free and not sold for the greed of religious leaders.

Then, there was the overlapping story about the Fig Tree. Mark used these incidents to foreshadow that Jesus is The Christ, The Sacrificial Lamb, Lord over all of nature, and that he had in mind to deliver humanity from all bondage. Where are you clinging this day-- in a "den of thieves" or in a "house of prayer?" You can choose either, regardless of the structure that presently houses you.
Your servant in Christ's Love

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