Monday, March 29th

Jesus Goes To Church

by Darcy Kuhn

What do you expect to find when you go to church? Do you expect a place to quietly contemplate while hearing God’s Word?  A place to worship God? Luke 19:45-48 tells us about a time that Jesus went to church (the temple) and found it to be a very different scene than what it should be! 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.’” Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.  Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words. Jesus arrived at the temple to begin four days of preaching and was horrified at what He saw. In the temple courts there were money changers and those selling animals to be sacrificed.   When coming to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, it was required to bring an unblemished animal. Only the best was a worthy sacrifice to God. If you brought an animal from your own farm, the priests had to inspect it to see if it was without blemish. If the animal was found to have a blemish, you were left without a sacrifice to give. Because of this, someone came up with the idea of having unblemished, pre-approved animals ready to purchase!  This idea caught on as there were hundreds of stalls and pens set up in the temple courts.  All kinds of options were available, from large animals like cows or oxen that the rich could afford, to pigeons and doves accessible to the poor. The cost of sacrifices were drastically increased and the temple did not take foreign currency so money frequently had to be exchanged at terrible rates for people who wanted to worship God.   To put it bluntly, people were robbed of their earnings and God was robbed of the glory of offering a free pardon to repentant sinners through the sacrificial system. God’s house had been made into a “den of robbers”. There are two Old Testament references used in this passage. The first reference to a house of prayer comes from Isaiah where God promises to bring foreigners to Himself in salvation. According to God, “their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). The Court of the Gentiles, where anyone was welcome, was the area being used as a bazaar rather than an open space for worship, so you can see the clear violation of God’s instruction in Isaiah. There was no room for the foreigners to worship! The second reference about the temple being a “den of robbers” is from Jeremiah 7:11: “Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you?” Jeremiah was instructed by God to stand at the gate to the temple and challenge the people to reform their evil ways.   God is saying that He knows what goes on in the hearts of the people who come to worship while living lives that don’t worship Him.  Jesus referring back to that instance showed that the Jewish people had not learned from past mistakes.  Why do you come to church?   Do you come with a heart that’s open to be changed by Jesus?  Does coming to church actually make a difference in your life? The second part of our passage talks about Jesus’ passionate preaching of God’s Word.  The religious leaders wanted to destroy Jesus, but Jesus continued to teach the people.  In fact, the people “hung on his words”.  They came to hear from Jesus and were captivated by His teaching.   Is that you experience when you hear God’s Word?   Does His Word captivate you?  Do you spend time each day seeking God through His written Word?   Jesus is very passionate about us spending time in His Word and with His people.  Let’s make sure that we don’t neglect either!