The King Cleans
Devotion written by Joe Williams
Read: Matthew 21:12-17
What do we make of the Jesus we see in these verses? Many struggle with this event, seeing the otherwise peaceful Jesus get direct and violent – John’s account of the same incident speaks of Jesus making a ‘whip of cords’ in order to do the ‘driving out’ from the Temple. Why, Jesus? At the extreme end of this view some people disqualify Jesus completely because of this passage, saying it undermines the claim He was without sin. Whereas others really like the ‘macho Jesus’ they see here and celebrate these verses as proof that while Jesus did say stuff about peace, He was really a pro-gun, pro-fighting, 4-litre engine kind of guy.
Is this a change of strategy?
So what is our King doing here? Well we should first acknowledge that the Son of God has the right to bring in His Kingdom in whatever way He pleases and we have no right to judge His methods! Yet throughout His ministry many of His followers had urged Jesus to ‘take his Kingdom by force’, and He constantly refused. So was this a grand change of strategy? I think not. Rather, I suggest we should view this event as a continuation of the use visible prophetic signs that Jesus consistently practiced – think of the water turning into wine, the baskets full of bread and fish, and walking on the water. Each of those tangibly demonstrated a critical point about God that Jesus wanted people to understand. So, what does He want us to grasp from this act?
In the gospels Jesus spends a lot of time issuing severe warnings to Israel about her failure to recognise and live out her calling as God’s chosen people. These warnings include the themes of racial pride over being a light to the nations (such as in the parable of The Prodigal Son) and deep concern over the state of her spiritual leaders’ hearts (Matthew 23:27). When Jesus encountered the commercial bazaar in the courts of the Temple of God He saw these two sins (and more) in hideous reality – buyers and sellers making a profit from worshippers, money changers exploiting foreigners seeking to worship the God of Israel and the relegation of the actual acts of prayer and worship to the bottom of the pile. Jesus’ action visibly demonstrated God’s fury that Israel had become a barrier to knowing Him, rather than the light and the gateway He intended.
How do we respond?
How do we respond to this shocking state of affairs and Jesus’ radical action in cleaning the temple? As the Holy Spirit now dwells within us we must view our hearts as a Temple of God, which means the challenge of this passage is clear and hard: what is the state of our hearts? Are we cultivating our heart as a place of worship or as a courtyard of sin? Are we welcoming in the Spirit of God or putting up barriers to vulnerable communion with Him? Jesus doesn’t stand over us as a strict taskmaster, but He will not hesitate to rebuke us if we become complacent in sin. He loves us too much not to care about that. Let’s bow our knee and welcome in the King who cleans to the temple of our hearts.
* * * * * * * * *
This Anglican prayer is a great starting point for inviting God to clean our hearts:
To whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit
That we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name
Through Christ our Lord
• Ask the Holy Spirit to show you if there are any areas of sin that you have allowed to go unchallenged in your heart. Express your repentance at these and ask Him to flood you with His strength to overcome those strongholds.
• Spend some time in private worship and prayer with God – enjoy the communion you have in the ‘temple of your heart’!
• Thinking more widely about the church’s witness, have we unwittingly put up any barriers to welcoming non-believers into the worship of God? How can we go about removing those barriers?
Search me, O God (Vicky Beeching)
Family worship idea
Each person thinks about wrong attitudes they have or wrong things they’ve done. Write them down on a piece of paper, say sorry, ask for God’s forgiveness, screw up the piece of paper and throw it away. You could play a game of getting it into the bin and once it’s in it has to stay there!