You might be wondering at today’s title. We actually looked at John chapter two last year, and we covered that Gospel’s accounting of Jesus’ clearing the temple. The little oddity is that John’s temple clearing places it near the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry, while the Synoptics place it near the end, actually in the last week before the Passion. For reasons I went into last year, I believe that they’re two separate occasions. If so, that would mean that clearing out the temple was both his first and last public appearance before the Cross.
Last year we looked at one of the reasons why the Master was so angry at those selling in the courtyard of the temple: It was exploiting the poor in the name of the Lord, and I'd suspect that there are very few things that make him more upset. But today we’re going to examine the other reason.
The temple in Jesus’ day had four sections or courts. The courtyard in the front was open to Jews and Gentiles. The section inside that was only open to Jews, both male and female. The court inside that was only available to Jewish males. Only priests could enter the final area outside the actual temple. I myself have actually looked at and touched a stone from the entrance which warned Gentiles to go no further on threat of death.
Jesus had cleared out the temple three years ago, but it didn’t take. The courtyard was again filled with people selling all sorts of animals and various other goods. And that’s when Jesus took action. Please note that this is the only recorded violence of Jesus of Nazareth. What made him upset?
Look at his quote from Isaiah. The temple was the official place for Gentiles to meet the one true God. Yes, they could hear about him and pray to him anywhere else. But they couldn’t sacrifice to him anywhere else, which was an integral part of worship. It was supposed to be a “house of prayer for all nations.” Solomon had expressed this intention specifically at his inaugural prayer for the original building: that people from all over the world would hear about the God of Israel and worship him there. Why? “So that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel.” I'd also like to point out that this sectioning off the Gentiles and women was not something that the Lord originated. That was man’s tradition.
The one official place for Gentiles to meet and worship God was turned into a marketplace. Can you imagine trying to worship there? That’s one of the main things that upset Jesus. Come to think of it, that’s what got Jesus angry at his disciples earlier: They were keeping children away from him. So anyone who gets between the Lord and someone who wants to meet him is in dangerous territory. Hmmm. . . .
If that’s true, then I think we’re all on pretty thin ice here. I’m not actively telling people to stay clear of the Savior, but do my actions do the job? When they see the huge gap between my profession of faith and the way I talk and act, does that cause me to get between them and the Savior? Paul condemned the Jews of his day, saying that “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” May that never be true of me. Lord, please.
Lord Jesus, please please please let me be an open, inviting door into your Kingdom. May it please you that absolutely nothing I do turns someone away from your grace.