Impetus Not Cleanser

Impetus Not Cleanser: Mark 11:15-19
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday December 20, 2020

This story of the cleansing of the temple is interesting as it comes near the end of Marks’ gospel, near the end of Jesus’ ministry. Yet we know from John, that a similar event took place as Jesus’ ministry begin in John 2:13-22. Perhaps we’d ask, are these the same account organized by the writers at different chronological portions of the arc of Jesus ministry to draw a point – no. They’re not.

John 2:13-22 (ESV)
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.
15 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.
16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”
21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
22 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.

They’re two distinct events. At two distinct times.

Jesus’ active early ministry was maybe 3 years and twice he had to undertake this activity Jesus is perfect, God is Holy, but people – we – are imperfect sin-sick, and fickle. We’re but dust (Psalm 103:14) but Jesus is Otherworldly (John 20:17), we’re finite (Hebrews 9:27), Jesus is infinite (1 John 3:20Ephesians 1:20-23).

Psalm 103:14 (ESV)
14 For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.

John 20:17 (ESV)
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Hebrews 9:27 (ESV)
27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

1 John 3:20 (ESV)
20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

Ephesians 1:20-23 (ESV)
20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,
23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

And so, what we have in the temple cleansing is Jesus’ measured reaction to sin of a grievous nature, but also an element of Jesus ministry, consistent the the arc of God’s story of finite human redemption in the theater of scripture.

Malachi 3:1–3 (ESV)

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.
2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.
3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.

Nehemiah 13:6–13 (ESV)
6 While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king. And after some time I asked leave of the king
7 and came to Jerusalem, and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God.
8 And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber.
9 Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.
10 I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field.
11 So I confronted the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their stations.
12 Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses.
13 And I appointed as treasurers over the storehouses Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah of the Levites, and as their assistant Hanan the son of Zaccur, son of Mattaniah, for they were considered reliable, and their duty was to distribute to their brothers.

We’re spending a lot of time here – but it’s because we come to this text with western Eyes. This story of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple isn’t an outlet for rage or permission for us to go off, this is a treasure in the arc of the story of God’s redemption.

Ezra and Nehemiah protected with heated passion the purity of the seed that the messiah would come through Ezra, and the building of the wall and worship practice because these were the means through which God would deliver final redemption and ultimately His global Church – Jesus’ run with the same baton bring’s our attention to God’s work for His redemptive plan, shows it was the plan from beginning to end, and encourages our future worship and participation in the Church as God’s focal point of worship and practice for the Christian – which is important in a world where Churches see their mission as to close for COVID or send out hot coco experience boxes in proxy for gathered worship.

And so we see the scriptures as giving an arc that we work to appreciate across the timeline of redemptive history: Paul for the church at Corinth

1 Corinthians 10:6 (ESV)

6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

Paul for the church at Corinth uses scriptures timeline as a help in seeing current events and ways of life, we too would do well for the same in the story of the cleansing of the temple, and rather than placing ourselves as Jesus’ aggressor – perhaps we should examine whether we’d impetus not cleanser.

With that historical backdrop in view, with the thoughts of Jesus now building his church as he said he would in Matthew 16:18 – giving His body (as we celebrated in the communion recently) and having give them foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 4:11-12) he now then dwells with us, as we’re indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God as Jesus perfect finished work tore the vail of the Holy of Holies from top to bottom at Jesus ascension to God – this cleansing was part of Jesus

Matthew 16:18 (ESV)
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV)
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

Mark 11:15–19 (ESV)
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.
16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.

So here we go again, Jesus comes to the temple. As we said earlier, Mark didn’t place it later than John – they’re talking about two different times. And here is what’s going on, selling and buying were happening – people were traveling from all over to the temple they needed sacrifices, and didn’t walk them in, so they’d buy them. But they’d do so in the court of the temple, business started happening, and where business happens a certain bustle bubbles up, need to see it – drive to the mall right now and take the exit back out of the mall parking lot, try to merge out of lanes and into the stop-sign-laden run to the seemingly ill timed traffic light with people going 2 and 3 cars after it’s turned red, people coming off the red on the green speeding into those late merging cars so that they can honk and be angry – this is the energy of a market place, this was the temple.

People trying to sell their sacrifice animals, likely saying – you suuuuure you want to use that sacrifice it’s not really perfect, but hey if you want to bring THAT to God, fine then…. But this one, this one is WAY better. There was money changing, because people would be paying their tax, but they’re coming from all over, so they needed Jewish currency to pay – they’d be exchanging, haggling was going on, anything but learning from scripture, preparing the heart for worship, and concentrating on the word so Jesus stopped all this. Over turning the money changers tables – and this time, no whip in hand, people know who He is.

There would be no money changing, no gathering livestock in the courts, no walking through the temple with wares and goods, imagine the NYC shill game table; you’re not even passing through the court with your set up, this is to be a place of worship and learning.

17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jesus didn’t simply stop the wrong practices, he then started up the right practice. Teaching from Scripture – can you imagine the change. From a livestock filled business center likened to a mall parking lot in the week before Christmas to a quiet library like focused center of worship – it must have been strange and refreshing to have experienced both.

Isaiah 56:7 (ESV)
7  these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
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.”

Mark highlights the “for all the nations” element of Isaiah’s prophecy as he writes for the Gentile audience; this court of the gentiles was cleared and re-focused. It went from hot coco experience boxes and peanuts characters providing some nose picking toddler-like exegesis of the scripture, to deep, worship in the word and truth.

18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.
19 And when evening came they went out of the city.

Focus the people on worship and the Word, and the business of church is hurt – every. single. time.

The business of Church is big business, mess with big business and you’ll find out what happens. Jesus sure did – but as we started out, we are finite and dust, Jesus is infinite and otherworldly.

If Paul provided the stories of the Old Testament as a teaching aid and guide to the Corinthian believers, we can do the same. Here we’re in the seat of impetus not cleanser; we would do well to inspect our hearts of worship, are they worshipful of selfish experience, warm feelings and moralism, or oriented on an all knowing, otherworldly, sovereign mind-blowingly awesome creator God?

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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