Lessons learned from the life of Jesus – Jesus Clears the Temple
Last month we started a new series that will address some of the issues facing the modern church today – with Biblical solutions. In that article we looked at the first lesson, Truth is still truth even when people don’t know it, a major problem we face today. Now we look at the rest of the lesson.
This is the first in a series of articles on financial and other issues facing the American church in this no longer very new millennium. These articles represent the personal thoughts and reflections of the author and are not necessarily a statement of The Idlewild Foundation. These articles are based upon parables told by Jesus and stories from the gospels on events in His life, applying His life and teachings to the lives of believers and to the church as a whole and not to any one church in particular.
Lesson #2 – Doing the right thing will always matter
Actions matter. James 2:14-18 and 1 John 3:17-18. The right heart, the right intentions and the right beliefs do matter. But they don’t stand as a very good witness without action. One way I have heard it presented is in the question, “Are your shoes and your tongue pointed in the same direction?”
James addressed this issue another way as well. He wrote:
17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
A more modern version of that was stated by Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said it twice in beautiful but different ways,
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lesson #3 – The truth is firm, but how it is conveyed may change
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
lead us to know that the Word and heart of God are constant and unchanging. But does the meaning change when the way it is conveyed changes? Certainly not. There is no one Biblical worship style or form. For those restrained and calm worshipers take a look at this passage straight from the Word of God:
2 Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
3 Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
4 For the LORD takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with victory.
5 Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
and sing for joy on their beds.
You had better pull out your timbrel (or tambourine) and your harp and start dancing during worship. Oh, and don’t forget to sing for joy tonight in bed too!
No, dancing during worship isn’t necessary (although it is permissible). What works in real life? The better question is “What works in real life for you?” Find your worship style and love it. It isn’t hard to find different styles, sometimes even within the same church. A number of churches offer different styles and different hours, typically one is “contemporary” and the other is “traditional.” But focus more on the truth being taught than the form, format or style of the worship because the style is far less important that the reality of whether it is real worship, worship in spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24.
Lesson #4 – We should be afraid for those who come behind us
Paul summed it all up in his incredible exposition in Romans when he addressed the patience of God and His apparent reasons for being so patient:
22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?
23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—
24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
Just look, it has been 2,000 years since Jesus, and yet God has not given up on us. That is patience, because as a whole during those 2,000 years, Christians have spent far too much time forgetting the main thing.
I love the way Harry Reeder of Ligonier Ministries describes God’s patience:
“God is patient. I am not. I am learning patience. God is patience. I am developing patience. God is displaying His. Clearly, the patience of God toward us is absolutely staggering.”
Well said! But God’s patience has limits and His wrath is great. Jesus displayed God’s patience during His three years in ministry. His times of anger were few. There were few times He expressed His anger, and it appears that it was always directed at men harming the image of God for others. One excellent example is when Jesus drove out the money changers and sellers of livestock who were abusing the Temple with their businesses:
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.
15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”
Two overwhelmingly obvious truths stand out. First, the money changers and sellers of livestock were less than honest, otherwise Jesus would not have said,
13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
Most of the people needing the services of the money changers were pilgrims who would have carried coins from their hometowns. Doubtless most of those coins had images of Roman emperors or Greek gods, which were idolatrous. They could not give those idolatrous coins for the Temple tax, so they had to exchange their money for the approved coinage. Only Tyrian shekels were accepted for the annual half-shekel Temple tax because they contained a higher percentage of silver. The money changers exchanged foreign coins for these shekels. Of course, like wise businessmen, they extracted a profit, and doubtless those exchange rates took advantage of the traveler.
Those same pilgrims coming from far away for the Passover could not bring the animals necessary for the sacrifice, so they had to buy them at the temple. Those traveling pilgrims did not know where else they could buy acceptable, unblemished animals for the sacrifice, so they bought from the merchants in the Temple who sold the animals at a high price, too high. The high priest overlooked this price-gouging because he received a payment from the merchants.
They also were turning the Temple into a noisy place of business, making true worship difficult, if not impossible. The focus of the hearts had turned from worship and sacrifice for the Passover, a sacred ceremony, to acts of technical obedience in an environment of crass commercialism and profiteering, all done under in God’s holy Temple.
So what? What is the lesson for us? Actually, there are several lessons. No, we will not be repeating the practice of selling animals for sacrifice on the alter during Passover (or any other time of the year for that matter). But we all know people who are in church for the wrong reasons, for business contacts, to take advantage of others, among other issues. And we all know professing Christians who are anything but Christian outside the four walls of the church. We know fallen preachers. We know unloving Christians.
So ask this: “Why do so many people avoid or leave the church and instead seek either their own brand of “spirituality” or none at all? These are the “none”s in the twenty-first century polls about their faith, a rapidly growing number. There are as many answers as there are former or non-church goers, but the responses can fall into relatively few categories.
Next month we will address this – and you may find some of the answers troubling. We are also going to start looking at answers and solutions to the problem!
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.