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Because Jesus was all about Love, many people imagine Him as just sitting around like a 60s Love-In character, blowing bubbles in the wind and flashing the peace sign.
For as much Love as Jesus had, He also had His Limits. He was not shy about reminding others of God’s Word and just what it meant. As noted in the last post, He had stringent guidelines about what the requirements were to be His Follower.
While He was willing to give His Peace to those who were willing to receive it, He said specifically He knew His Coming would not bring peace to everyone.
John 14:27 records Jesus’ Words,
Peace I leave with you;
My Peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Matthew 10:34 also records Jesus’ Words,
Do not suppose that I have come
to bring peace to the earth.
I did not come to bring peace,
but a Sword!
Remember what that Sword was! Ephesians 6:17 records,
Take the helmet of salvation
and The Sword of The Spirit,
which is The Word of God!
Jesus frequently took That Sword to the traditional practices that men had established that gave false words about God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit. Matthew 15:6 records Jesus’ Words about tradition.
So for the sake of your tradition,
you have made void The Word of God!
This Stops Now!
Many of those traditions centered around the Temple and Holy Day Practices. The “keepers of the law” considered it a very serious offense when anyone failed to follow their tradition to the letter.
On a memorable day, Jesus shook tradition to the core. It was such a memorable day, that all four gospel writers wrote about it. Mark 11:15-17 describes the event this way.
Then they came to Jerusalem.
And He entered the temple
and began to drive out those
who were buying and selling in the temple,
and overturned the tables of the money changers
and the seats of those who were selling doves;
and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise
through the temple.
And He began to teach and say to them,
“Is it not written,
‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS’?
But you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN!”
The Temple — Bargain Basement!
Money changing and buying animals for sacrifice were established practices.
The Temple and the three great feasts, Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, were the holiest of events for the Jewish people when “every able bodied man was commanded by the law of Moses to present himself before The Lord in Jerusalem.” (Deuteronomy 16:16)
The journey to Jerusalem was often long and arduous and bringing a goat, sheep or cattle (or a dove for the poor) to be slaughtered would have been most difficult. The selling of animals to be sacrificed was a lucrative business and central to the temple economy. In addition, this was also the time that the temple priests began to collect the temple tax, which was supposed to atone the donor’s sins and contributed to the running and maintenance of the temple.
Those selling animals were providing a service to those who needed a sacrifice during Feast time. This had been approved by the Jewish leaders in the temple and was considered a great convenience to Jews traveling great distances. Since they did not have to have livestock in tow, they could buy the necessary sacrificial animals right at the temple.
Places to change money were also needed; for the tax was also being collected from every Israelite, who was twenty years old. (Exodus 30:11-16). This was due during the month preceding Passover and was either sent in by those who lived at a distance or paid in person by those who attended the festival. They, then had to have Jewish coins. This meant that those who came from foreign parts had to have their money exchanged.
The money changers were providing a profitable service to the Jewish worshipers by exchanging Hebrew currency for Roman coins, which would not be accepted by the temple priests.
The Temple — Slaughter House!
According to Jewish Historical Documents, the animal, after being purchased, was then washed, hung upside down by its back legs and had its throat slit. The blood of the animal would then be drained into a vessel to later be carried through the temple and sprinkled upon the alter, along with the animal’s internal organs.
There was also a very prescribed way of cutting up the animal and who was allowed to do it. Finally the animal’s heart would be wrung over the alter. The line or worshippers and animals waiting to be slaughtered stretched for as far as the eye could see, and a river of blood flowed from the Temple, while the money changers made great profits for the temple priests. Truly, The House of The Lord, which was supposed to be a House of Prayer, had been turned into a slaughter house and a den of thieves.
What’s Wrong With This Picture?
Let’s look at how the tradition lined up with Jesus’ Message to the world.
Can sin be eliminated by making a deal? No! Jesus had already demonstrated He had the Authority to forgive sins. No sacrifice required. Only repentance from the sinner, faith that Jesus did indeed have the Authority to forgive, and the willingness to receive His Forgiveness.
Mark 2:10 records Jesus’ Words,
But I want you to know that
The Son of Man has Authority on earth
to forgive sins!
Can we purchase a free pass to Heaven? No! Salvation is a Gift, not anything we can gain through our own efforts.
Romans 6:23 records
For the wages of sin is death,
but the Gift of God is Eternal Life
in Christ Jesus Our Lord!
Don’t we have to sacrifice something to receive that Gift? Yes, we do. We have to sacrifice our lives, as we always thought they were. We have to be willing to cast out into the deep and dare to believe that if we sacrifice the outer covering of this human body, that we will indeed see The Spirit within.
If you follow any human fear out to its end, you will find the fear of death. We don’t know for sure what is on the other side. Like Adam and Eve, we fear if we are uncovered, that only our sins will be visible and we will indeed be destroyed by God.
The sacrifices of the animals in such graphic fashion reinforced how scary death could be. Studies on animals who are about to be slaughtered have shown increased levels of hormones that reveal they too are frightened at their fate.
Satan would take the horrific death of Jesus to try to paint the picture of the need for human sacrifice to fix everything. Many people, even today, accept Jesus on some level because they believe God would have demanded their human sacrifice, if Jesus had not stepped up to the plate in their place.
But the Message of The Cross is just the opposite. Jesus was willing to sacrifice all of the outer covering of His Body to allow the Fresh Wind of The Spirit to come forth in full force!
Matthew 10:28 records Jesus’ Words,
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body,
but cannot kill the soul!
Rather, be afraid of the one
who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 16:25 records Jesus’ Words,
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it;
but whoever loses his life for My Sake will find it!
My House Is Not For A Den of Thieves!
Jesus cringed to see the teachers of the Law using that Law to enslave His People instead of free them. The holding of their sins over their heads was giving sin a power it did not have. Standing in the midst of the slaughter house and the bargain basement, Jesus saw His People trying to follow a formula given them by “blind guides.” He saw His People trying desperately to get rid of sins when they were in The Presence of the very One Who had Authority to forgive their sins!
There was no Prayer. There was no connection with The One. Not only were the people being robbed of their money, they were being robbed of the Truth Jesus came to bring. He was there to offer them a Gift that would eliminate the fear of death.
But the Temple was noisy and the people were intent on their traditions. So Jesus got their attention! He overturned tables and chairs and evicted the money changers. And He freed the animals, effectively saving them from death and delivering them back to life.
Jesus would make more dramatic statements through His Words and Actions in the week to come. But for now, it was enough that He had begun opening the Temple to a Way of Life that was not at all the way things had always been!
1st Corinthians 15:53-57 summed up Jesus’ Sacrifice of the outer covering to reveal the inner Spirit.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption,
and this mortal must put on immortality.
And when the mortal has put on immortality,
then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
Death is swallowed up in Victory!
O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?
Now the sting of death is sin: and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God,
Who has given us the Victory
through Our Lord, Jesus Christ!
Points to Ponder
What do you fear the most? Be daring enough to follow that fear to its end point. Is it possible you see the end point as death?
If you lost the outer covering of what you now know as your body, is there anything underneath?
Just as God has covered you with an earth body, can you trust Him to gently pull back the covers when it is time?
Consider the traditions you hold most dear. Do your traditions line up with Jesus’ Words or have they made His Word of no effect in your life?
Consider whether it is time to change things from the way you always thought they were!