This Easter week, together we’ll read Luke’s account of Jesus’ week leading up to and including His death, burial, and resurrection. As best we can, we’ll treat these devotions as a daily journal, walking along with Jesus during His final week. My prayer is that as we read together, the words of Scripture will come alive in our hearts drawing us more and more to the person of Jesus Christ, our Savior, and our King.
MONDAY, APRIL 6th
Passage for Reflection - Luke 19:45-48
Reflecting on the Text:
Who has the authority to declare what activities are appropriate for a particular place? The rightful owner of the place. He would have authority over that place, and in this passage, Jesus seems to be asserting His authority over both activity and place. But what are we to learn about the activities and the place He describes? And are those references even the main point of the passage?
Maybe you are like me and have long been familiar with this passage. Maybe, also like me, you’ve wondered what this passage is teaching us about church bake sales and mission fundraisers. After all, the business activity within the temple complex seems to be what Jesus is railing against, so are we then to make sure those money changing activities don’t occur within the physical church building? I’ve long wondered, but I’ve come to realize that is to miss the point.
Jesus was always intentional with His words, and in verse 46 He very intentionally signals that He is referencing Scripture: “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.’” His statement combines two passages. The first, describing the “house of prayer” comes from Isaiah 56:7. The second, speaking of the “den of robbers” comes from Jeremiah 7:11.
What is the house? In Isaiah 56, the Lord is speaking of the place of His presence, there referring to His holy mountain. The holy mountain, and more pointedly the Temple on that mountain was the place where God’s presence was made manifest in the Old Covenant. It was where the Lord dwelt among His people. And importantly, in Isaiah 56, when the “house” functioned properly in close relational communion with the Lord (as a house of prayer) it served to bless the people and to draw the nations. In other words, evangelistic fruit was born when the people lived in relationship with God.
As the gospel writers tell us though, Jesus combined the positive mention of the “house of prayer” with the negative warning from Jeremiah about the “den of robbers.” In essence, He was saying that when the people were not functioning properly in the place of the Lord’s presence, they only served to fatten a few. And importantly, the unbelieving gentiles were pushed away. There was no evangelistic fruit.
So is this really about bake sales in the church fellowship hall? I don’t think so, and I believe John 4:20-24 tells us why. There, John tells us of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman. In their back and forth, she questioned Jesus about the proper place of worship, wondering if it was on the mountain (or the Samaritan understanding of the "mountain") or in the Temple where the Jews gathered. Jesus responded by telling her that a time was soon coming when true worshippers would worship in spirit and truth.
Following the line of thought…Jesus came to dwell among His people so that in the fullness of time, the place of God’s presence would progress from the “mountain” to the Temple to the Body of Christ (the Church). The “den of robbers” is not speaking now of a place, but of a perversion of worship where the focus is taken off of the Lord and is placed on self…and the fattening of a few.
Now consider this event in the context of Jesus’ final week. The drama is building as the final confrontation nears. With that backdrop, Jesus entered the Temple complex on Monday of His final week and asserted Himself over the activities taking place, declaring the “house” to be His. In doing so, Jesus strongly:
affirmed His authority,
rebuked the false worshippers, and
reclaimed true worship.
King Jesus was humble, but He was not passive. He entered into the week asserting and affirming His authority and as He did, He further cemented His path to the cross where His work on our behalf would finally culminate.
The people in Jerusalem watched and hung on His every word. Will we? Will we read this passage and spend our time worrying about how to handle the physical place of the church building? Or, will we see the heart of Jesus in His final week? Will we see and share His concern for the glory of God and the souls of lost gentiles who were pushed away from God's presence by those who saw the Temple as a place to further their own interest?
Questions for personal reflection:
How does understanding the OT background behind Jesus’ words in verse 46 help you to better understand His meaning behind the “house”?
How does this help you to consider what it means to defile the “house”?