When Jesus entered the Temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be ‘a House of Prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.” Luke 19:45-46
In Jesus’ time, the Temple was the hub of the life of God’s people. Massive. Gleaming white
stones. A sacred space teeming with life. The “Crown Jewel” of the People of God. Animal
sacrifices were happening all the time, as the worshippers came with their gifts.
But the practical parts of that worship and sacrifice meant that there was also “business” going on: Doves and lambs that qualified for sacrifice were bought and sold. The aroma of incense, filled the air. Tables laden with articles needed by the worshippers . . . many of whom had come from great distance, needing practical items as well. Outside the sacred space of the Temple, the courts and surrounding area were filled with the visitors and worshippers, and sellers connected with the “Crown Jewel” of Jerusalem. . . and the biggest celebration.
Jesus had begun going there from nearby Bethlehem as an 8-day-old infant for His dedication to God by his parents. Then every year, they traveled all the way from Nazareth. Friends, neighbors and relatives were usually making the trip together on foot, along with the animals they would sacrifice.
Imagine a public event in a big city when the streets are barricaded due to the teeming crowds of friends and families. And strangers. In our world, these type of scenes are almost solely secular events, and it’s a madhouse of sights, smells, music, eating, drinking, shouting. Adding to the atmosphere was the presence of the military of the Roman Empire in all their power, arrogance, and cruel oppression of the worshippers of God.
Making the trip to the Temple in Jerusalem was something very, very special. Not a fair, not a carnival, not an entertainment event. . . its purpose was to worship and sacrifice to the One True God of the nation of Israel. Yet it’s easy to imagine the atmosphere of multitudes of people together for an event unique to the nation of Israel. Add to that the presence of Roman military, and it’s easy to imagine the “holy” purpose getting lost in the chaos.
Into this scene, comes Jesus. He could see his birthplace of Bethlehem, a few miles from the Temple Mount. The sacrifices and worship was taking place. He could also see the few miles of pastureland between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, where the finest quality of lambs were cared for by the best shepherds. These were the fields of lambs destined for sacrifice, above which Heaven’s angels had sung of the birth of the God’s Son. These were the finest quality lambs that were destined to be led through the Sheep’s Gate, nearest the Temple, and sacrificed for the sins of the people. This crowd of noisy people, buying, selling, keeping track of their children, keeping track of the sacrifice lambs they had brought with them were teeming on the Temple Mount.
Jesus knew that He, born in a sheep’s fold in Bethlehem, within sight of the Temple Mount,
would lay down His life . . . the Perfect Sacrifice . . . for the sins of the world.
Try to imagine the sights and chaos He took in, knowing all that had brought Him to this point in time. He knew what was to unfold very, very soon. He would be the One Perfect Sacrifice, led to the slaughter, to take away the sins of the whole world. The time was short.
In the midst of His own people completely engulfed in the chaos of what was a Sacred Space, a Sacred Moment in Time, when The Sacred Lamb would die a brutal, prolonged death as the One Holy Sacrifice Lamb for the sins of the whole world, is it any wonder that He experienced His Godly Anger for what that Space had become. Turning over the tables of “stuff” in the face of what He was about to do for all the world, . . . is it any wonder?
What would He say if He walked into our churches today? Knowing what His Sacrifice cost Him, what His Sacrifice accomplished for us as our only hope of spending eternity with Him, would He hear thanksgiving from our hearts and lips? Would He see money being exchanged for His Purposes? As acts of Worship for Him? Or for our own benefit? Would He experience a holy sense of awe from us for the privilege of being in His Presence? Would He walk through the clusters of Believers and hear hearts of gratitude . . . or even recognition of His Presence? Would they be there for “the show?” Would He call us by name?
Would we know Him?