Whoops. Mistake on video with head cut off. Oh well
A short version of this sermon: Jesus cleansed the temple. De-clutter your spiritual life so you can have a fresh beginning with Christ. Amen! ////
We complicate our lives, the clutter, the junk, the things we worry about, the intensity, just let go of the clutter and get back to a simple relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s what it’s all about when Jesus goes into the temple and clears out the business people, the banks, the buyers and sellers…. Even more important, he emphasizes the purpose of the temple: “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations.”
On his way into Jerusalem on that Tuesday, he curses the fig tree. It’s a puzzling act that doesn’t make much sense to the disciples at that moment: “And his disciples heard him say it.” The next day, (next Sunday’s sermon) the disciples and Jesus’ discover the fig tree is withered; Jesus takes the opportunity to explain the deeper meaning. The fig tree is an object lesson of faith. The fig tree reinforces the message of clearing the temple to cut out anything in your life that is keeping you from fulfilling your God given purpose. The fig tree is not producing fruit, providing food for the Lord, so it is cursed. Get rid of the clutter in your life that distances you from God.
That’s the fig tree. Let’s go to the temple. Imagine if you are a disciple of Jesus, this would be so embarrassing~~ the scene Jesus creates! Picture of the temple will help explain what is happening…Jamie is going to put up slides. Today outside Jerusalem is a model of the temple in Jesus’ day and a recreation of Jerusalem. It’s huge! [walk through the slides….point out the court the gentiles, the barrier where only Jews can enter, Jewish men, priests, high priest once a year… Jesus came to break down barriers ~ when Jesus dies, in the book of Matthew, the curtain is torn in two, the ultimate barrier…we talk about barriers between others, fair enough, but the most serious barrier is between us and God… break down that barrier and others will fall as well]
WHY did Jesus clear the temple? The temple was never meant to be for the Jews alone, but for all people who feared the Lord. Huge business was set up to sell birds and sacrifices and maybe even PASSOVER 33 A.D. t-shirts. One scholar speculates that one of the larger merchants sold 3000 sheep in one day. We’re not talking about mission table set up in the corner of the fellowship hall where people can donate money…. The entire courtyard for the gentiles is used! In effect, gentiles were barred from the temple/worship….as a place of worship their space was taken up by business interests all in the name of sacrifice and honoring God. The purpose of the temple was long lost.
I don’t think the patterns happened overnight ~ they evolved, like the proverbial frog in the kettle…. Isn’t that how it is with us? We don’t just wake up one day and decide to squeeze God out of our life. It is a slow process, missing church here, neglecting the Bible there, turning down an opportunity to serve and use your gifts once in a while, getting caught up in games and drama that eventually distance you from God. There may be lots of things that may not be sin in themselves, let’s say watching tv, videogames… but if we become consumed and squeeze out God then something is terribly wrong. Jesus takes a machete to the temple courts because a surgical knife wasn’t enough…
The fig tree, the clearing of the Temple, is all a time of preparation as we focus on Friday of Jesus’ final week in which Jesus dies on the cross, and Sunday, when he rises from the dead. This is preparation. It’s all about Jesus paving the way to draw near to him, to make him the risen Lord of life. Last week Chad spoke of disappointments with God, how the people thought Jesus was one sort of King when he entered into Jerusalem, but by the end of the week when he died on the cross they were disappointed. Now on Tuesday Jesus is continuing the time of preparation for why he came. He cleanses the temple. There were certainly many that wanted/expected him to clean house of the palace of the Romans, the civic buildings in town, the evil presence of the foreign occupying government. But the cleansing of Jesus is internal: the Temple, the heart of Jewish worship and practice. It’s always tempting when we feel tension, when we feel alienated, confused, to point outward and play the victim and ask God to fix “them,” then I will find peace. But Jesus goes to the temple. It’s an internal cleansing. He cleans house. He is ruthless. I was thinking, whenever we find harsh words from the lips of Jesus, it is always towards insiders of faith, people that think they have their spiritual life together…. Is that true?
But it’s not enough to clean the temple, not enough to get rid of the clutter of your life, that is only the beginning. The way to find wholeness, / peace, is to recover the purpose of life. Jesus clears out the merchants, the vendors and banks, and then he re-affirms the purpose of the temple: READ Mark 11:17. To know our purpose is vital to wholeness. There is only one phrase in all four gospels on the lips of Jesus that is word for word: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
Another detail from this scripture I find incredible: Imagine the scene: Jesus marches into the temple and overturns tables, drives out business people. Some people think maybe it was a token few tables but I am in the camp that imagines it was a total cleansing, the entire 5-6-7 acres of land. The reason I think that is because de-cluttering the temple is both symbolic, but it is also real ~ he wanted gentiles welcomed to the place of worship and so I believe he cleared the entire place out, not just a token table or two. Jesus must have been a hulk of a strong man…After he finishes, the scene settles down, he teaches them, I think that the temple is now filling up with Gentiles and Jews flooding into the outer courts of the temple because now they have room, and Jesus says to people of all nations, READ Mark 11:17. Here is what is remarkable…Jesus has just destroyed acres of temporary marketplace creating a huge stir, then he speaks a few words, and what is it that most amazes the people? It’s not the chaotic scene, it’s his words: READ Mark 11:18. They are listening to Jesus and living the re-newed purpose of God to be invited to worship and prayer in the holy temple.
Get rid of the clutter in your life, and recover the purpose. Our world is filled with wandering people with no defined purpose ~ People searching trying to find meaning in unfulfilling answers. One of the big stereotype questions we ask: “What is the meaning of life?” There is a sense where answering that question is exactly what Jesus is doing as he clears the temple. First get rid of the clutter, then go back to the foundation.
Google the meaning of life? And you can find 10,000 answers: some are jokes: chocolate, pizza, don’t be stupid. Other answers are philosophical: it’s meaningless so enjoy it, a series of coincidences, to learn to love, to find peace (I can’t argue with some of them), to come to grip with death, to create something that lives beyond yourself, everyone’s meaning is different, create a bucket list…
I came across one very intriguing answer: “The meaning of life is to find the moments of awe.” /// I like that… Marlene going to Disneyland…even that, for her, is a reason to glorify God… The Merry Widows… the woman that wrote out a check… many answers have a ring of truth such as love, peace, serving others, moments of awe, but they are most complete when you add God to the mix. “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” and the crowds were amazed because Jesus is bringing the people back to the foundational truth of a relationship with God. Prayer means an awareness of God to be able to bathe in his presence, speak to him and he speaks with you through impressions, his word, the open doors, a spirit of comfort, love, joy, peace, a sense of hope. As a Christ follower, you will have moments of Awe as you become aware of God in your midst, leading you, correcting you, guiding you, comforting you….
As Christians, easy to lose way, a cluttered life, not that you don’t believe in God, but you get lost in life, clutter…
Let Christ throw out the clutter… of the church, of your life, cleanse the temple… Refocus on the purpose: A house of prayer…” As Christians, invite Christ to curse the fig trees in your life, to weed out what is no longer producing good fruit…
Ask hard questions~about our church: What is purpose of the worship service, the worship songs (Michelle is so good at that), the clothesline, the coffee hour, the Sunday School, why I asked for an associate pastor, the men’s breakfast, women’s ministry, small groups, the tailgate market, Easter, the Christmas Eve Service, the Merry Widows, I feel like picking on the Merry Widows today: may I say to the Merry Widows…. “I know all of you and I knew many of your husbands…” I KNOW your husband would want you to have a wonderful next chapter of your life. He’s still a major part of the book of your life, but the next chapter without him you need purpose, direction, hope, future, you need moments of awe…” What’s the purpose: because you want to love the life the good Lord has given you! In the life of the church what’s the purpose of each commission, visiting people, the budget, the elders.
….in your personal life ask hard questions, what is the purpose, ask the Lord to get rid of the clutter. Do you dare invite Christ to take a machete? If you agree that nothing is more important than to live life as a follower of Jesus Christ, consider everything you do and how that adds to that purpose.
This message is for people who are losing their way…is what I’m doing bringing honor to Christ, am I living his purposes?
It’s easy to let clutter creep into your life: [re-clutter the table up front] If you are going to successfully put together a puzzle you need to clear the table first! [dump the table over]. Invite Jesus to be ruthless…Clear the clutter and reaffirm the purpose of knowing God. Amen.