My heart rate was 167. My face was beat red. I was pretty sure if I pedaled any faster I would puke. So goes my love hate relationship with my spin class. My instructor is a very sweet Christian lady, but after that class my perception of her changed. Can you say “drill sergeant”? Each song presented a different challenge. One song we are racing away on flat terrain. The next we are experiencing interval bursts till we find ourselves at the foothills about to begin an uphill challenge. It sounds fun doesn’t it? Well, I was so thankful when I heard the words “last song.” My inner mettle had been tested and it had been found to be wanting. My thighs were burning and I felt they might rebel and just not pedal any more. This song was a personal challenge song. We were to picture a ride with friends heading to a favorite outdoor sanctuary. As the above linked instrumental song, “The Final Frontier” by Thomas Bergerson, flooded through my thoughts, I was carried away to the band of travelers we read about in John 2. Jesus and his new students were traveling the 85 miles from Capernaum to the Temple in Jerusalem. They were part of the pilgrims and worshipers that were to take part in the annual Passover feast. The terrain’s dramatic elevation changes were one of the perils of this pilgrimage. The land across the Jordan was a land of mountains and valleys. There were no cars. There were no bicycles. The least expensive mode of transportation was by foot, and this was the way they traveled. Did Jesus ever get exhausted as he traversed back and forth across the Jordan? Did his legs and thighs burn as he hiked up and down the hills of Judea? As I let the cadence of the song carry me away to these thoughts, I realized I could push through that last personal challenge song if I just followed Jesus. (Thanks for the ride and the lesson Lesli Schnare.) This newly formed ragtag group of students following Jesus from Capernaum to Jerusalem would soon come to learn that truth also.
Jesus would have crisscrossed this land multiple times, and this pilgrimage to Jerusalem to observe the Passover was not the first for Jesus. In Matthew 5, Jesus proclaimed He had not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it and the Law required an annual trek to the Temple of God in Jerusalem to observe Passover. Eighteen years before, Jesus traveled with His parents, Mary and Joseph, to this same Temple in Jerusalem, and had sat in these same Temple courts with some of the same teachers of the Law that observed His outburst on this day.
“Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”
Luke 2:41-47 NIV
This scene was serene. The setting the same as we read of in John 2, but He was 12 years old, and He was astonishing the teachers of the Law with His ancient wisdom and the depth of His questions and answers. Now fast forward 18 years. The temple courts are vastly different. They were littered with the riffraff of money changers and dishonest merchants. They were disrespecting the House of God and they were feeding off the nativity of the worshipers. Jesus enters stage right. He climbed each step leading up to the House of worship. He led the way for this band of brothers. Andrew, Simon, Nathanael and Phillip climbed the steps behind Jesus. He had come to the Temple to honor His Father and to pray, but what He found appalled and infuriated Him. His passion and zeal for the Temple saturated His entire being.
“When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ ””
Luke 19:45-46 NIV
The temple is now controlled by the Jewish aristocracy. The changing of money and the selling of sacrifices on the spot made for convenient worship. This den of thieves had become a normal setting during Passover week. Everyone had become numb to what shouldn’t have been a part of temple worship. Everyone except Jesus. His blood boiled at the sight. His heart rate must have skyrocketed as mine had during spin class. He fashioned a whip and drove out the racketeers. He turned over the tables of those who were out to make a profit off the poor and unsuspecting. “Shock and Awe.” Zeal and fervor drove Jesus to cleanse His Father’s House. I wonder did any of those teachers recognize the twelve year old boy who had once astonished them with His wisdom from the ages? What flew through the minds of Jesus’ new students as they observed their gentle loving Rabbi turn postal? Did they wish to shrink against the wall as they observed Jesus’ wrath against these money launderers? They were just getting to know Him. Jesus now revealed to them His righteous indignation and jealousy for His Father and His House. The type of whip He cracked as He drove out these merchants that day would one day shred the flesh off His back in this very same room. Zeal for the House of God consumed Jesus. It was the catalyst that brought about His trial, beatings, and ultimate death three years later. What was norm to the many was not right and He drove the evil away.
Jesus was a reformationest. His teachings and His actions were radical, provocative and misunderstood. This cleansing of the temple was an act of radical reform as He upended each table and cracked His whip toward the evil that had permeated the temple courts.
2nd Corinthians says that we are now the Temple of God. God’s own Spirit lives in us. For all who have accepted and been forgiven through Jesus and have made Him our Savior – we have now become the residence of our God. Jesus now has passion and zeal for us. He once said, “My house will be a House of Prayer.” We are to be a House of Prayer for our Lord. Have we exchange convenience over sacrifice? Have we allowed commercialism to set up camp in our Temple? What has become normal for the body of Christ that should never have been? What have we compromised in worship that has led us away from a House of Prayer?
Listen to the above link and try to hear the righteous anger of the Lord and His passion and jealousy for His Father’s House.
Lord I want to have Your Zeal and Fervor. Stir in me Your Passion as I reflect on Your righteous indignation and jealousy over me. Make me into a House of Prayer.