2nd Sunday in Lent 4 Significant Days: “Significant Action on Monday”
February 28, 2021 Mark 11:15-19
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
‘Places and Days.’ Those are the two ‘focuses’ for our ‘Lent 2021’. On our Wednesday evening devotion times, we’re following Jesus to certain PLACES where His passion-work was accomplished for us, & for the world. On these Sundays, we’re thinking about certain DAYS during that finale-week of His salvation work. Of course, there’s some overlap of these places & days, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much. Last Sunday was the first of our series with looking at ‘Four Significant Days’ in the life & work of Jesus, but not the 4 days we are most familiar with = those would be: Palm Sun,/M.Thurs/GF, & Easter Sunday. Those days were definitely significant, but *what about the rest of Holy Week? *What about that Mon/Tues/ /&Wed? Important things were happening then, too; things we want to remember.
And Last Sunday we began with a significant day NOT in Holy Week; a day that happened about 4,000 years before Holy Week. It was the last day in the Garden of Eden for Adam & Eve, & for any human being. Living face-to-face with God in a holy & sinless relationship was absolute paradise. But that paradise was lost to us when Adam & Eve disobeyed God’s command. That sin brought condemnation & death into our world;
it brought a sinful nature to all of their offspring = and that includes you & me. That spiritual, physical & eternal problem needed a heavenly solution. The Son of God & His cross IS that solution. And it all came down to those days of Holy Week.
Let’s review our familiar days. On Palm Sunday, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, and is welcomed with ‘hosannas’. On Thursday evening He & His disciples observe the Passover Meal, and He institutes the new meal of the Lord’s Supper. On Friday morning He is put on trial; by 9am He is nailed to the cross; and before sundown, Jesus dies & is laid in the tomb.
Early Sunday morning, Jesus bursts forth from that tomb alive =resurrected!= the Victor over the power of death. By God’s grace, and the help of the HSp, WE have been taught to know & believe those things as the pillars of our Christian faith. However, on that Monday, some SIGNIFICANT ACTION happened as well.
So, we go back to the top of that week, in Mark 11, which tells us about Jesus Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday. The anticipation of the people has been building for
3 years as to who this Jesus is, and what He means for Israel. And so they are watching for Him; when He arrives on the outskirts of Jerusalem, they prepare a king’s welcome.
Waving palm branches, they usher Jesus into the holy city shouting ‘hosha -anna’ = meaning ‘Lord, save now!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David. Hosanna in the highest.’ …so says Mark 11, vs.7-10.
And then vs.11 says, “And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” That’s Sunday. On Monday morning, Jesus, w/ the Disciples, return to Jerusalem and go again to the temple, AND NOW comes the Lord’s Significant Action of that day, because Jesus was disgusted with what He saw.
So, I’ll read how the Spirit writes this thru Mark: “He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying 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 den of robbers.’ And the chief priest and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.” (vs.15-19)
Newer Christians can be a bit surprised when they hear of this event because it seems out-of-character for the One known as ‘kind & gentle Jesus.’ Yes, the Son of God came in meekness & quiet humility; but that’s not the sum-total of who He is. He certainly is patient & kind with the hurting, repentant sinner; but *what is Jesus with the defiant & unrepentant sinner? *What is God with the wicked, or with the devil? He is absolutely holy; & He’s as hard as a rock wall. Clearing the temple fits the character of the Holy God.
So *who’s in the temple that Jesus should have such an intense & violent reaction? The Passover festival was the most important, required yearly observance for faithful Jews.
It commemorated God’s powerful deliverance of the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt.
So, Jews from all over would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate. The regular population of the city was about 30,000 people; & during this Passover Week, it grew to 180,000. So, tens of thousands of extra people were coming from far away. They would come to make their sacrifices, & hold their Passover Meals, and it was not easy for them to bring their own animals for that; they would buy them locally. To make it convenient, the priests would have preapproved animals for these travelers to buy. Which could be fine; except we know what happens when demand meets supply and meets our old nature & temptation. Those animals were offered at an inflated price. The historians of the day report that there were kickbacks to some of the priests. There were reports of priests rejecting animals that were not purchased at the official temple vendors; so they had a ‘monopoly.’
Many travelers also came to Jerusalem with foreign money, and had to exchange it for the currency that was acceptable to pay the temple tax. As you might suspect, there were reports of the money-changers charging excessive exchange fees. With those things happening, *what would the average Jew be focused on that week? The focus would be on being able to afford to do the ‘business’ that was required, and not on the joy of coming before God in grateful prayer, worship, & sacrifice.
As Jesus comes in like ‘a bull in a china shop’, Mark notes that He is also ‘teaching’ people the reason He’s appalled. If the chief priests & scribes are offended at Him, then they would also have to be offended at the prophet Isaiah, who recorded the Word Jesus quotes:
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.’ When the house of the Lord had been turned into a den of robbers, it was not only a sinful hindrance against the Jews, but also against the Gentiles of many nations who came to worship the Lord. This is why Jesus was disgusted that day, and was overturning tables & chasing people out.
The temple was the House of the Lord, and a house of prayer for all nations; that means for all the kinds of people: men & women, Jews & Gentiles, slave & free. It was the one place specially designated for ALL to call on the name of the Lord. When the sheep pens & money-changing tables were put up in the Court of the Gentiles, *where were those people supposed to come & pray to the Lord? Instead of a place of prayer, it became a place of being cheated; a money-making machine for the greedy religious leaders. This is why Jesus launched into SIGNIFICANT ACTION, clearing the temple grounds = like cleaning house for Holy Week.
This ‘Monday of significant action’ is a teaching for the Church in every time & place. The temptation to ‘line our pockets’ & ‘do what it takes to make the budget’ can come in conflict with OUR faith, too. The temptation can be personal, and it can be congregational.
Personally, the words of Malachi 3:8 might make us nervous. It says: “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me” ….in withholding your tithes & offerings.’ Our faith knows that all that we have comes from the Lord; and when our faith is overwhelmed by our fears, & doubts, or selfishness, we don’t return a proper offering of thanksgiving back to God.
This significant action of Monday reminds us that the Lord is fully aware of how He has blessed us; and He sees the measure we’re using when we thank Him & support His kingdom. So, *Is it a fitting amount, OR is He being short-changed?
As a congregation, we can ask: is the gospel & soul-work our first focus? Or are we more concerned about the treasury? That’s the question spurred on by Jesus clearing of the temple. Back then, that festival was expensive to host, & the people needed the animals for sacrifice, & needed the currency exchange, and all those things take up space = but *at what cost? At the cost of shutting out the poorer Jews and the ‘less important’ Gentiles from the temple courts. So, for the sake of the favored group, the insiders & wealthy, or for the sake of money, some believers were excluded from the spiritual gifts of God in prayer & worship. We shouldn’t be surprised – that didn’t sit right with the God who made & calls all nations to Himself, & graciously treats us all the same.
The clearing of the temple on Monday was a visible lesson teaching us about the obstacles we put in front of ourselves, or in front of others, in the worship of the Lord.
On that day, the main obstacles were the old sinful attitudes of greed and bias. The festival was seen as an opportunity to make a little profit & earthly gain; and not as the occasion to gather & celebrate God’s gracious & saving work for the soul’s comfort, and for eternal hope for all. The fact that the religious leaders had taken over the Court of the Gentiles to set up their marketplace exposed their sinful prejudice against those they considered less-important people in the kingdom of God. No wonder the religious leaders were against Jesus when He came proclaiming the kingdom of God to ALL: /to men, women, children; / to Jews & Samaritans; /to rich & poor; /to Gentiles & Romans, /to pharisee & tax collector.
We confess the truth: the Savior, and His forgiveness & worship, is FOR ALL.
But let’s also be realistic: the temptations of greed or bias are very strong & very seductive
for us; and we need to fight against them, personally and congregationally. Mark 11 would encourage us to pray, and ask our Lord Jesus to overturn some of those sinful ‘tables’ in our life, so that those things will not become a sinful obstacle to ourselves, or to others, in the proper & faithful worship of God.
After Palm Sunday, on that Monday, Jesus went in to the temple at Jerusalem and overturned the tables of the money changers, & the seats of those selling pigeons, & did not allow anyone to carry anything thru the temple. He said, ‘it is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.” And so it IS in our day. This house is to be a house of Word & Sacrament, of prayer & worship for all people.
+Here, anyone can come to meet with the Lord Jesus Christ, their Maker & Redeemer. +Here, with us, they can bring their sins and be fully forgiven. +Here, alongside of us,
they will learn how He gave all of Himself on the cross in order to overturn the deadly obstacles of sin, death & the devil. +Everyone needs to hear that He has removed the hindrance of sin from the lives of all who believe and are baptized in Him.
+Here in His House we welcome everyone who comes to call on Him, and to learn & obey His Word of Life. This is what we confess; and we pray the Lord to strengthen us to continue to practice it.
Now, as far as our sermon series goes, after this significant action on Monday,
Mark tells us that the chief priests were furious & seeking to destroy Jesus; disrupting their marketplace was going to be ‘a nail in His coffin.’ (as they say) On Tuesday, there would be some significant confrontation with them. I invite you to hear about that next Sunday.