House of Prayer

Mark 11
The Triumphal Entry
1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ “4They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Hosanna! [A]”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
10″Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”11Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

It was a full day, A day where everyone in the city recognized Jesus as the messiah, the king. People took off their jackets and made a red carpet out of them for Jesus to ride over. Children were dancing, people were shouting and singing. Banners were being waved, Everyone had a sign on their lawn “Vote for Jesus, Vote for change”. Hands were shaken, hugs were shared, and babies were kissed and blessed. Old school reporters were journaling, photographers were painting.

Religious leaders of the day are recorded in the book of John saying, “Look how the whole world has gone after him. The whole world is right. Jerusalem was jammed packed, it was the one time of year that everyone came, Jews, and Gentiles from across the globe ended their pilgrimage there. A pilgrimage to essentially get close to God. It says in the book of mark that Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything. He looked around at everything?

As he went to the temple he would have ascended a set of stairs that led to a big courtyard. It would have been labeled, “The Courtyard of the Gentiles”.

If you were not Jewish by blood this was as close to God as you were going to get. If you were lucky you might faintly hear the shafar horn blowing and the prayers of the priest. You might catch a glimpse of the smoke rising from your sacrifice, but it was known, “you gentiles are on thin ice”. You’re one step away from being kicked out, just be lucky we let you this far. Walking through the courtyard Jesus would of saw the many tables of the money exchangers and the pens filled with sacrificial livestock for sale. Birds, calves, lambs, goats, you get the idea. As he walked through this ancient flea market he must have thought, “How on earth does anyone find me in this place. How does anyone get close to me with all of this noise and distraction? Why are they doing this here?”

I don’t think God disagreed with the Temple tax men had to pay or the livestock that was being sold for worship, but there was a time and place for that. The place they chose was very offensive and rude.
Not only to the Gentiles searching for God, But God searching for the Gentiles. That’s when he comes face to face with another sign above a doorway that read. “Jews only.”

Then through another doorway that read “Jewish men only.”

Then through another doorway that read “High priest only.”

Then through another doorway that read, “Tie this rope around your ankle before you come in, Just in case you’re not right before God and he kills you, you’ll need someone to pull you out.”

Jesus’ heart must have broke. As he looked at a doorway inside a wall that separated people from uniting, from being of one heart and one mind. The Jews were to be a nation that blessed the rest of the earth, with inclusion, love, and justice. The Jews became a nation that burdened the rest of the earth with separation, sexism, racism, and injustice. Jesus must have looked around, He must have said to himself,
“The season of people being afraid to get close to God is over. The season of people reaching out for God and not grabbing hold of him is over. The season of courtyards, walls, signs, and ropes is over. May this system never be a way for people to get close to me ever again?”

Since it was already late, Jesus leaves the temple to get some rest.

Jesus Clears the Temple
12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.15On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:
“‘My house will be called
A house of prayer for all nations'[c]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'[d]”18The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.19When evening came, they[e] went out of the city.

The fig tree is symbolic of the nation of Israel. The Figs are symbolic of the fruit God designed the Jewish people to bear. Fruit that tasted like, men and women working Gods heart in the world around them. The Fig tree incident is a real time picture of what Jesus felt the night before. Jesus came into Jerusalem the night before, hungry to see his father’s heart being worked out. Hungry to see people of all kinds being taught what it meant to walk with God. Hungry to see people being encouraged to get as close to God as they could. Hungry to see people being included, accepted, and blessed. Hungry to see people being equipped to be his image as they went back home, to see people, touched, changed, and set free from sin. The Fig tree of Israel looked like the right place for this to happen. People were hungry for the promises they saw from afar.

But there was one problem.

They had the roots, they had the leaves, but they didn’t have the fruit. Their season was over. Jesus must have whispered in his heart the night before. “May no one ever eat fruit from you again?” So Jesus reaches into the tree, finds no fruit, and curses the tree. May no one ever eat fruit from you again.

I could see his disciples, “Chill out Jesus, it’s alright, I know you got allot on your mind, and I’m sure well find something to eat in side the city.”
I could hear Thomas saying, “Man this is going to be a long day, if it’s starting out like this.”
Another disciple shaking his head, “Okay…what was that all about?” As soon as they enter the temple, I could picture Jesus looking at the crowds of spiritually hungry people; I can see him spanning the money changers, the livestock tables of goats, lamb, birds. I can see him flashing back and forth at all of the signs, No Gentiles, No Women, No Men, No God.

May no one ever eat fruit from you again, May no one ever eat fruit from you again. Boom! The money table gets flipped with a yell. May no one ever be taught by you what it means to walk with God ever again. People start step back, money is bouncing all over the place. May no one ever come here to be included, accepted, or blessed ever again. He approaches the table selling the doves, “May no one ever be equipped to bear my image here ever again.” Crash!, tables are flying, people are watching, merchants are trying to calm Jesus down. “May no one ever come here to be touched, changed, or set free from their sin ever again.”

The Court of the Gentiles is silenced. Tables are flipped; animals are running around, birds are flying. The disciples are wide eyed: John whispers, “I told you to pack my boy an egg sandwich…. 

Jesus breaks the silence and says, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.”

Now when Jesus says this line, it’s kind of like him saying a line from a movie to us.

When I say “Ill be back” you think, Terminator. When I say, “Show me the money”, you think, Jerry McGuire. When I say, “The name is Bond. James Bond” you think, James Bond. May the force be with you, Houston we’ve got a problem. Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.

When I say these lines, you already know the movie; you know the story, the characters. You remember how you felt when you watched the film. Whether you liked it, hated it, or were confused. It was the same for the people worshiping in the temple. They had the first five books of the bible literally memorized. They know the story, and the characters. They know whether they liked the story, hated it, or didn’t understand it.

So when Jesus spits this line, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.” Everyone knows exactly what he is talking about. Let’s go to the full chapter of Isaiah so we can too.

Isaiah 56
Salvation for Others
1 This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. 2 Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” 3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” 4 For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant- 5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. 6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant- 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” 8 The Sovereign LORD declares— he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.”

This whole chapter is a chapter about Gentiles reaching out for God with all of their heart, And God reaching out to Gentiles with all of his. As soon as Jesus quotes this, everyone gets it. They get it and they understand that people are being robbed of a relationship with God. People are robbing people of a relationship with God. The story goes on to say that the chief priests and the teachers of the law began looking for a way to kill him. They were afraid because people were amazed. What were they amazed by? In the spirit the curtain was beginning to tear, the signs of racism were beginning to shattered, walls of separation were beginning to crumble, and the fig tree was starting to shrivel. God was leaving the temple built our hands to live among hearts crafted by his.

In 2009 the fruit has not changed but the tree has. What has God uniquely called your community to do? When God reaches in to our leaves hungry, what does he find? I do hope there are no distractions, signs, walls or ropes. Are people really being taught what it means to walk with God? People being encouraged to get as close to God as they can. Are people being included, accepted, and blessed? Are they being equipped to be his image as they go to work, lead their family, and laid their life down in the area God has called them. Are people being touched, changed, and set free from sin. If not where can we improve?

1 Corinthians 3:16 (New International Version)
16Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?

I wonder what kind of sign, walls, ropes are in our own lives. When my wife reaches into my life, when my daughter needs to be changed. When my brother needs support or my mom wants me there to watch her blow out her birthday candles. Am I so busy with money tables, and selling doves, am I so busy with church stuff, that I actually distract and limit them to Gods presence?

God has called many of us into places that don’t know him. We are called to be his temple, someone people can come to and hear the voice of the Lord. Someone people can see the Lords image in, in the way we serve and accept and lay our life down. Someone people can experience Gods peace and reconciliation with. In our jobs, in our school, in our dreams are we bearing fruit?

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  1. February 15th, 2010
    Trackback from : Reaching Out With The Spirit

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