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8 - Cleansing the Temple

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.


It is sometimes the most biblically literate among us who somehow fail to grasp the significance of Scripture the most. The number of scholars who read the Bible strictly as an academic exercise demonstrates how easy it is to gain an impressive understanding of Scripture and yet still overlook the spiritual depth of the text entirely. There are those who know tons of stories from the Bible and yet fail to apply it in virtually any way. We have a real problem with missing the point.


The money-changers can’t see the significance of the temple anymore; they’ve become so accustomed to sitting in its courts to do business that they’ve lost sight of it as a house of worship. The Jewish people who are there to witness Jesus’ act fail to grasp what the disciples have processed, looking only at the literal meaning of Jesus’ words and not understanding the deeper implications. Focusing only on what’s directly in front of them, they miss the point.


In all things, Christ maintains proper focus. When Peter tells Christ that He will not be forced to suffer the affliction of the Cross, Jesus’ famous response is, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23). Jesus’ eyes are set constantly on the things of the Father. Without that, it’s easy to forget what matters most.


In the Church today, we often set our eyes on the things of the world, that which lacks eternal significance yet ensnares the minds of those who are quick to forget what matters. We do not store up for ourselves here on earth, where moth and rust destroy, but rather we store up treasures in heaven. We look at which church is in the nicest building or which one has the highest attendance and think, “That one is the best!” Few are those who ask about what kind of discipleship takes place within the church or what is available to the congregation for the greatest spiritual growth. Many a church split has taken place because factions had arisen within the congregation which insisted on one color carpet over another. These realities ought to bring us deep shame because they reflect a significant problem: having forgotten what matters most.


To the congregation at Ephesus, Christ speaks the haunting words of Revelation 2:4 – “But I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love.” All of the external factors seemed to be in place, but without that key focal point of love for Christ, all was in vain.


It is possible for us to have all of the right boxes checked and still not have the most meaningful piece of all. What good does it do us to give up everything for the sake of following the rules? None of the Christian life is worthwhile unless it is done for Christ. This should be obvious, and yet too many lose sight of it.


See what is before you. Don’t let yourself miss the point. It all goes back to Christ.


I struggle, Lord, with focusing on responsibilities and duties. In those moments where I lose focus on the things of the Kingdom, bring me back to You. Let me refuse to give my time and attention where it is not needed. Guide the use of my life toward that which holds eternal value. Let me pour into those I love, knowing You have commanded me to love my neighbor as myself. Let me savor Your Word, knowing it brings me closer to You. Let my eyes be ever set on that which brings me and those around me deepened relationship with my Savior. You are worthy of it all.

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