Jesus in the Temple

Read Mark 11:12-25

There are many people today that have tamed Jesus. They have turned him into “Jesus, meek and mild.” They have proposed that Jesus was really the original hippie, the first tree-loving, shaggy-faced, rainbow child.

In this passage we see Jesus for who he really was: a prophet and more than a prophet. Now, Jesus is a man who wears many hats. Jesus was a carpenter, a teacher, a rabbi, a king, a missionary, and a priest, among other roles. But perhaps his most central job was that of a prophet.

The prophets in the Old Testament were eccentric people. They often lived very difficult lives. They were commissioned by God to call the people of Israel, and other nations, back to obedience. They were God’s mouthpieces. They spoke on behalf of God himself. In some cases they even acted out messages for God – Hosea married a prostitute to show how Israel acted like a prostitute to God, their faithful husband. Isaiah went naked for a time to show how Cush and Egypt’s disobedience was shameful and naked (Isaiah 20). Ezekiel likewise did crazy things like lying on his side and cooking a meal over cow dung. In all this the prophets were giving people a visual lesson (Ezekiel 4).

In many ways, the prophets were a lot like lawyers – the argued with people based on God’s requirements in his law, which, if you follow the lawyer parallel, was the equivalent of their constitution. When things were going poorly because the people disobeyed God, they would point out sin. That meant that people didn’t generally like them. They have harsh warnings of future misery, pain, and destruction if God’s law was disobeyed, and at the same time the gave promises of future blessing and hope if God was obeyed. So their job was to speak the truth, stir the pot, and take many hits for doing so.

Here in Mark 11 we see that Jesus is a prophet. He spoke the truth. He visibly acted out the truth. He stirred the pot. He pushed back against the corrupt establishment. He called people to repentance.

The main point of this passage is that the people of God are supposed to extend the grace of God to other peoples and nations. Israel had failed in this. The temple was supposed to have room for the gentiles, indeed, the temple was supposed to extend God’s presence and blessing towards the gentiles, but by the time of Jesus we see that the Gentiles had been excluded from worship and replaced with a market were goods were bought and sold.

So here we learn that, like Israel, if we are going to be faithful, we also need to extend the light of Christ to others. We need to learn to be prophets too. So we have to look to Jesus for an example.

Three lessons from Jesus’ behavior:

  • Speak and teach in a way that connects with people. Jesus used the fig tree as a visual to teach the importance of bearing fruit. He also turned over tables to point to the temple’s destruction. How do you give people visuals? Actions speak louder than words, and what do your actions proclaim? Likewise, how do you, like Jesus and the prophets, use your actions to send messages that people can understand? What do your actions say?
  • Get on the offensive, not the defensive – start picking some fights. Notice that Jesus is the one who starts this encounter in the temple. Then the chief priests and teachers of the law react to him, and seek to kill him (v.18). How often do we stir the pot? Why are we so afraid to? Why does the church always tend to be reactive instead of proactive? We need to realize that in spreading the light of Christ we have some fights to pick. We are much too quick to apologize as Christians. Non-Christians often manipulate us for this: “Oh you hurt my feelings – oh – you offend my sensibilities!” And then we quickly retract all that we have said. No – there is a time to apologize. There is also a time not to. Apologizing when you aren’t actually sorry is never a good idea.
  • Do all things with faith. Do all things with prayer. Do all things in forgiveness. Jesus makes it very clear that we need to be people of faith – mountain-moving faith. Do we really believe we might take this city for Jesus? Do we really believe we might take our schools? With God all things are possible. Pray with that boldness. Then Jesus reminds us – make sure you let go of your bitterness – forgive people. The whole work in spreading the light of Christ will be darkened by your bitterness. So process your hurts, your pains, your offenses – forgive others and do so by realizing that you likewise need forgiveness.
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