Every Church A House of Prayer - Part 1
Updated: Jan 30, 2019
Cathy and I love to walk together. One day, we happened to be walking around the campus of a small, used-to-be religious, private college. We stopped in the chapel for a few minutes to get out of the sun. At the front of the chapel sanctuary was a mural of a man walking through a field of flowers. He was wearing a silky white robe, and had beautiful, long, flowing light brown hair, flawless olive skin and a sweet smile.
“That has got to be the most effeminate looking picture of Jesus I have ever seen,” I exclaimed.
“It is creepy,” Cathy said.
Feeling awkward and uncomfortable, we left and went back to our walk.
The sad thing is, someone actually thought Jesus was like that. I guess they never read Mark chapter eleven.
They came to Jerusalem, and He went into the temple complex and began to throw out those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers ' tables and the chairs of those selling doves,16and would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple complex. 17Then He began to teach them: "Is it not written,
My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves!"
I cannot wait to get to heaven and see the video of this event! Imagine Jesus bursting into the temple, and, like a bar bouncer, grabbing men by the scuff of the neck and tossing them out the door. Picture Him turning over their tablesand gold coins rolling everywhere. See Him pulling chairs out from under the money changers. Imagine him standing with his arms outraised, refusing to permit anyone from even walking through the temple area that was not there on spiritual matters. He refused to allow anyone to use it for a travel or transportation short-cut.
Now picture Jesus doing all of this with a whip in his hands (see John 2:15)!
Sounds more like “Rambo Jesus” than “wimpy Jesus.”
Something must have really ticked Him off.
Let me give you a bit of context. The temple complexwas divided into four primary sections. In the rear and elevated above the others was the Court of the Priests, containing the Holy of Holies. Next to it was the Israel’s Court, where Jewish men were permitted. Then the Women’s Court, which was as far as Jewish women were allowed. Below these, and larger than all of them combined, was the vast Court of the Gentiles. The Jews had lost respect for what this court was intended to be – a place where Gentiles from all nations could come and meet with God.
Jesus was incredibly passionate about the things of God (Jn. 2:17). The Jews behind the money tables, on the other hand, were passionate about making money. They were extorting the spiritual pilgrims by exchanging their currency into “special temple coins.” They were selling overpriced, “approved” oxen, sheep, and birds for sacrifices. Jesus said that they had made God’s house into a den of thieves. In doing this, they had lost the purpose for which the temple existed – to be a place where people from all nations could come and meet with God.
Understanding this makes it obvious why Jesus was so upset.When the temple was being used for something less than a house of prayer, it so infuriated Jesus that He drove the defilers out. Then He predicted that the physical temple would soon be destroyed. Seeing such a display of His authority, plus losing their source of extra income, so angered the priests that they plotted to have Jesus killed (Mark 11:18).
This was an extremely important incident in the life of Jesus that is often overlooked. Jesus was willing to make a spectacle in the temple and face death in order to remind people that God’s house must be a place of prayer,and not be something less than that.
If Jesus took the prayer ministry of His people that seriously, how much more should you and I!1
What Would Jesus Do?
If Jesus was angered by the fact that the Temple was failing to be a house of prayer, would He also be angered by the level of prayer in your life?
Would He be angered by the level of prayer in your ministry?
1 Most of the above section is taken from my book Pastoral Leadership Is…How to Lead God’s People with Passion and Confidence, B&H Books 2012.