I realize we have passed the season of what we call, “Holy Week,” but I still find myself going back to the events of that week. For instance, I was thinking about the time Jesus entered the temple and ended his visit rather violently. We can read the story in each of the Gospel, but I like to read John’s version (John 2:13-17). When Jesus entered the temple he was shocked at what he saw. From his point of view, the merchants had taken over the house of God! He came looking for a house of prayer and what did he find, but a wholesale promotion, display, and sale of religious merchandise. He saw all the religious trinkets and paraphernalia: Doves, sheep, oxen, candles, necklaces and bumper stickers. The religious leaders were counting their profit and the salesmen taking their commissions. Men of God had become hucksters of religious merchandise, running around promoting their goods.
Tables had been set up everywhere in God’s house to promote and sell all kinds of merchandise for religious purposes. Money changing hands made the loudest noise in the house—money that was being made on God and religion. Now history tells us these money changers made large profits (obviously at the expense of the pilgrims). You see, every adult Israelite, rich or poor, was obligated to pay a half shekel as an offering to Jehovah into the sacred treasury. This tribute was to be paid in the exact Hebrew half shekel. At Passover everyone in the world who was an adult male and wanted to worship at the Temple would bring his “offering” or purchase a sacrificial animal at the Temple. Since they would not accept any foreign money with any foreign image on it, the money changers would sell “Temple coinage” at a very high rate of exchange and then add a fixed charge for their services.
These kinds of monstrosities caused our Lord tremendous pain and his heart of compassionate began to boil with holy anger! To understand what was really happening here, check out this study: Jesus and The Temple Now, when Jesus saw all of this going on in God’s Temple, Jesus’ great suffering caused his meek spirit to rage with righteous indignation! I love the way Michael Card beautifully captured the anger that ensued:
Weak from the journey, the long travelling days
Hungry to worship, to join in the praise
Shock mad with anger that burned on His face
As He entered the wasteland of that barren place
And the Lamb is a Lion who’s roaring with rage
At the empty religion that’s filling their days
They’ll flee from the harm
Of the Carpenter’s strong arm
And come to know the scourging anger of the Lord
Priests and the merchants demanded some proof
For their hearts were hardened and blind to the Truth
But Satan’s own law is to sell and to buy
But God’s only way is to give and to die
The noise and confusion gave way to His word
At last sacred silence so God could be heard
(Michael Card, The Lamb is a Lion)
Can you picture all this? If it happened today Jesus would have been arrested and thrown in jail. With a whip in his hand, our Lord stormed into the temple and began flailing in all directions, tossing all the tables over with all the merchandise. He scattered the promoters, the pitchmen, the hucksters and kicked the out of the temple. “Out!” he thundered, “Out of my Father’s house! You have desecrated this holy place, turning the house of prayer into a commercial market!”
It was certainly one of the most painful experiences in his whole ministry but he couldn’t just stand there and allow his Father’s house to become a den for religious thieves.
It took anger (Holy anger, that is), and he risked being arrested and thrown in jail (which I do NOT encourage you to do, by the way). However, I do want to ask you if you are willing to fellowship with Christ in this type of sufferings today? Oh, don’t stare at me like that. I am not asking you to go toss over a bunch of tables in your church. But I am asking if you are willing to share his hurt at seeing God’s house once again being turned over to merchandisers? Are you outraged by the horrible commercialism of the gospel? Do we feel his rage against spiritual hucksterism enough to withdraw from that outrageous display? Do you feel his hurt enough to renounce ministries that grind out merchandise just for the sake of making money? This is happening, you know? It can be seen every day on TV and heard on the radio. Oh, I don’t mean that every ministry is guilty of this. Some merchandise, teaching tapes, books, Bibles can be sold without being offensive. I am hoping that you have the discernment to tell the difference. I am hoping you can see the difference between an offer of encouragement and support — and a slick sales job in an attempt to get your cash.
I am encouraging you to share his suffering enough to stand against those who would turn God’s house (and media avenues) into a theater or entertainment center for promoters? Can we grieve over all the profiteering on the name of Jesus? Can we get our eyes off the cash and back on the cross? Can we weep for those who are lost? Can we surrender to our Lord and hate the sin in the world? Only you can answer those questions. My job is to simply stir your heart to hear the questions.
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.