“On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ ” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, they went out of the city.” (Mark 11:15-19 NIV84)
When king Solomon dedicated the first temple of Jerusalem, the Lord filled the temple with His glory so that not even the priests and Levites could enter. The temple of the Lord was a most holy place. It is the place where the Lord chose to dwell. From there He would keep a watchful eye upon His people, hear their prayers, and reach out to meet their needs. For centuries, the temple in Jerusalem was where one would go to seek God’s presence. King David himself said that, “One day in God’s court was better than a thousand days elsewhere.” On the last Monday of Jesus’ life (the day after the Triumphal Entry – Palm Sunday), Jesus enters His temple and cleans it out. He gets rid of the money changers and animal sellers. The reason Jesus’ zeal for the temple rose and He had to cleanse it was because it had become completely absorbed in business deals and transactions, rather than a place where God’s people could meet their God in worship and prayer. It is a takeover! For the next few days Jesus will take over His temple and teach the lost sheep of Israel. During the busiest week of the Jewish year (Passover) Jesus disrupts everything and sits in the temple and teaches all who will hear. Once again the temple is filled with the glory of the Lord. But this time it is in the God-Man Jesus. The people do not have to flee the glory like in Solomon’s day but are welcomed by the Lord to sit at His feet and hear His Word as He teaches about the kingdom of God.
The New Testament says in several places that the heart of every believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Because we have been fully redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s presence is able to dwell within us. We are living temples of God’s glory. The question I pose for myself and you today: is there a need for a temple takeover in our hearts? Have our hearts become so cluttered with the everyday tasks of life that there is less and less room for the Lord there? Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, have we filled our temple with so much stuff (even religious stuff) that somehow the house of prayer has become a den of robbers? Is it time for a temple takeover? What better time than this Holy Week to allow the Lord to sweep our temples clean of anything that blocks His glorious work in us. May we be willing to go through the painful process of getting rid of things in our heart that we put there because we think we need them, and allow Jesus to purge that stuff out of our hearts so there is room only for Him, the truths of His Word and the presence of His Holy Spirit.
Today, as we reflect on the cleansing of the temple of Jerusalem, let’s not neglect the potential need to have our heart’s temple cleansed and reclaimed!