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Kingdom Come Series: Nations
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Kingdom Come Series: Nations

Adrian Holloway on December 5, 2010 with 0 Comments

Matthew 21:12-17 – Preaching from ChristChurch London’s Sunday Service

SLIDE 1: Title “Kingdom Come: Nations”

Well, we’ve been going through Matthew’s gospel, and each week we’ve been looking at a different aspect of “The Kingdom of God.” And today we’re going to see what the arrival of this Kingdom means for all the different nationalities – what it means for the different nations of the earth.

And our passage is quite controversial, because it’s the bit where Jesus not only gets angry, but Jesus also gets physically violent.

Lets’ read from Matthew 21 and verse 12:

Section 1: The End of Religion (vs 12-13)
12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ (a) but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’(b)” (Matthew 21:12-13)
(a) Isaiah 56:7 (b) Jer. 7:11

Section 2: The Beginning of Christianity (vs15-16)
14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’ (c)?”
17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. (Matthew 21:14-17)
(c) Psalm 8:2

And we’re going to look at this under two headings. Firstly,
1. The end of religion (vs 12-13), and secondly,
2. The beginning of Christianity (vs 15-16)

Now to call Jesus cleansing the Temple, “the end of religion” sounds a bit much, but let’s see if we can build a case gradually, step by step. First let’s think about WHERE this is happening.

Section 1: The End of Religion (vs 12-13)
12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ (a) but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’(b)” (Matthew 21:12-13)
(a) Isaiah 56:7 (b) Jer. 7:11

It’s happening at the Jerusalem temple. And it’s happening in the outer Gentile court of the temple. This is the first area you walked into when you arrived at the temple. It was by far the biggest court and you had to walk through it to get to the inner courts. But only Jews could enter the inner courts. And of course the most restricted access area of all was at the heart of the temple, where behind a thick veil, there was a cubic space called the Holy of Holies, which was the holiest place on earth, where the presence of God dwelt. But the mayhem Jesus causes here, is happening in the outer court, the huge court of the nations, the Gentile Court.

And now, let’s think about WHEN this is happening. It’s happening at the time of the Passover, THE great annual Jewish festival when every Jewish man aged 19 and above who lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem was required to attend. Now that is a lot of people, but when you consider that, in addition, there were Jews who traveled from all over the world for Passover, plus the Gentile God fearers. You can get some idea of the size of the crowd. But it wasn’t necessarily a problem because when King Herod the Great, had just recently re-built the Temple area, he had more than doubled the size of the platform, so that in Jesus day, it was roughly the size of six Trafalgar Squares.

The historian Josephus tells us that 255,000 lambs were slaughtered in the Jerusalem temple at Passover in 66AD. That gives us an idea of the number of pilgrims there might have been. But that’s just the lambs. As we see in verse 12, lots of other people, sacrificed doves. In fact, some estimate that two and a half million people would have visited Jerusalem during Passover week.

Now it’s hard for us to picture this scene in Matthew 21, because for us, as Christians, there is no geographical focal point to our worship. You and I aren’t required to get on a plane and go on a pilgrimage to any particular place to be a Christian.

But just think for a moment of the significance of Mecca to Moslems. And central to the life of any Moslem man is his ambition to go at least once on pilgrimage to Mecca, at the time of the great annual Islamic rite called the Hajj.

Imagine a Moslem friend of yours – finally, his dream comes true, he arrives in Mecca, one of thousands of pilgrims dressed in white, circling around the black Kaba stone, and then just imagine at the climax of the Hajj as the huge crowds are pressing in, imagine another pilgrim, a 33 year old from Nazareth, suddenly starts smashing the place up, and driving people out and causing a commotion, claiming to be equal to Allah.

Well, if anyone did that, they wouldn’t last very long. And Jesus didn’t last very long. Five days after this incident, Jesus was dead. In Mark’s gospel, the plot to kill Jesus is hatched in the very next verse.

OK so, let’s ask some questions about verses 12 and 13. Why is Jesus getting angry here? And what has this got to do with the international dimension of the kingdom of God?

It says that he drove out all who were buying and selling. Is this Jesus the anti-capitalist? Is this Christian socialism? Well, it says he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves.

So let’s start with those two groups.

Firstly, the money-changers.

Now to gain entry to the temple, you had to pay a temple tax, which was the equivalent of two days wages. So it was expensive to get in. But you couldn’t pay your entrance fee, using the normal money that you used every day.

You had to first change your normal everyday money into special holy Temple money. And then you paid your temple tax, your admission fee, using this special Temple Tyrian coinage.

But here’s the thing . . . the exchange rate! The money changers ripped you off with the exchange rate!

It was daylight robbery. Jesus calls these money-changers, “robbers.”

This was part one of the Great Temple Swindle.

So part one, Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers and part two, Jesus also overturned the benches of those selling doves.

OK, why has Jesus got a problem with them?

Well here’s what was happening. You’ve arrived on pilgrimage and you want to make your sacrifice to God. And let’s say, you want to present as your act of worship to God a couple of doves, that the Priest will sacrifice for you.

So where are you going to get the doves from? Well you could buy doves fairly cheaply outside the Temple, or if you couldn’t afford that, you could even bring your own from home.

So picture the scene. You’ve finally arrived after several days travel. You’ve paid the very expensive Temple Tax admission fee, getting ripped off in the process. But you are still holding your doves, and you present them to the Temple inspectors.

And they go: “Ooh, that’s not good. And Oooh, I don’t like the look of that. That leg looks a bit wobbly. And look at that wing, look there’s a bit of a mark there,” they say: “No, sorry, doves have to be without blemish, it says so in the Bible. I can show you the verse if you like. Sorry you can’t sacrifice these, I’ll have to confiscate them, but hey, look, you’re in luck there’s hundreds of dove-sellers all over the Court of the Gentiles, and any of my friends here will sell you doves, and I guarantee that any of the doves they sell you will pass our test.”

So you’d go over to the first stall, “How much for a pair of doves?”

Well according to commentator William Barclay, the doves for sale inside The Temple, were as much as 15 times more expensive than those outside.

Now does this sound familiar? Once you’re inside, they can charge what they like? Sound familiar? Have you ever been to Disney Land? “Daddy, please can I have an ice-cream? “No darling, because I’d have to re-mortgage the house!” Once you’re inside, they can charge what they want! Same thing! No! No! It’s not the same thing.

Because this was not Disney Land. This was the house of God.

In the house of God, this was an absolute outrage. This was all happening in the name of God! It was blatant hypocrisy. So we would expect Jesus to be angry about it, and we’d expect him to do something about it, and he does. In verse 12 it says Jesus drove out “ALL who were buying and selling.” He drove out ALL of them. This could easily have been hundreds of people and thousands of animals. How did he do it? Well, it is worth noting in John’s version of this story, there’s an amazing verse which says, “Jesus made a whip.” Jesus cracked his whip and drove them all out.

But when you look up the Old Testament verses Jesus chooses to quote while he’s cleansing the Temple, we see that there was something else that had upset Jesus even more than the corruption. What angered Jesus most, was that all this buying and selling was happening in a courtyard that was supposed to be reserved for the Gentiles to pray.

So Jesus says:

[Jesus said]: “Is it not written . . . ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’ [Isaiah 56:7]? But you have made it a ‘den of robbers’ [Jeremiah 7:11]” (Mark 11:17)

The key to understanding Jesus anger is that when God had revealed himself to Israel it was in order to bless the nations through Israel. God showered his love on Israel so that they would become a missionary nation, to showcase the glory of God to all nations.

Now can you picture with me, all these thousands of Gentile people, living in all over the ancient world? And maybe you’re one of them. You see the stars at night, you see the oceans, the mountains, and you think, “surely there must be a creator.” And let’s imagine that you’re totally unimpressed by the Greek gods you’ve heard about, they seem even worse behaved than your pagan neighbours. You’re tried bowing down to idols, but they don’t seem to do anything. They’re just made of wood. Then you hear about this amazing pure invisible God. The only one true God, and you hear that he’s got a special people, the people of Israel, a holy nation, who he delivered out of slavery in Egypt through something called “The Passover”. And you hear that this one true God parted the sea, and took his people through the sea on dry land, and then gave them laws from heaven, and planted them in “The Promised Land” and you hear that the Jerusalem Temple is one of the Seven ‘Wonders of the World’. You know its’ courts are made of marble, plated with gold, and in your old age, you finally save up enough money to make the trip of a lifetime . . . your pilgrimage at Passover to Jerusalem. You travel 100s of miles, and then the Temple comes into view and you see it shimmering in the sunlight. And you’ve been told that there is a special Gentile Court set aside for you to pray in.

You make your way into the Temple of God, you enter the court of the Nations, the presence of God is within your grasp, and here’s what hits you: “Baah.” You can’t believe it, there are two hundred and fify five thousand lambs making an awful racket, and vendors shouting: “Get your doves here.” You can’t believe it, the court of the Gentiles is a market. Undeterred, you try and pray: “O Lord, if you really are the only true God, please show yourself to me a humble Gentile sinner.” And all you can hear is “Baah,” the bleating of a thousand sheep, never mind the doves and all the arguments.

So Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ (a) but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’(b)”

Expand on OT references?

Jesus says: “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market” (John 2:16

Jesus is saying, by turning it into a market, you’re making it virtually impossible for the Gentiles to even pray, let alone find God. My Father wants to make it easy for the Gentiles to come to him in prayer, but you’ve made it into a spiritual obstacle course.

Now the Jews were expecting that when the Messiah came, he’d kick the foreigners out of the Temple. Yet here Jesus was kicking out some of the Jews to make space for foreigners.

But even so this still looks like nothing more than a cleansing of the Temple, a reformation, a purging of corrupt practices, we’re still a long way short of the end of religion.

But just picture Jesus, whip in hand, driving the lambs out of the Temple.
Symbolically he was doing something even more profound.

Jesus is here not just driving out corruption, Jesus is symbolically driving out the entire sacrificial system. Jesus is announcing, through his actions, the end of all man-made religion. It’s what theologian N T Wright calls an acted parable. In other words, Jesus doesn’t tell a story to make his point, he performs a symbolic action to make his point. As Jesus whips the animals out of the Temple, as he opens the cages of the doves, so they fly away, Jesus is acting out more than a cleansing.

Because this Temple sacrificial system was at the time, the closest man-kind had ever got to making peace with God. But even then it was only partial, it was only temporary. This is what the New Testament book of Hebrews explains. This sacrificial system was all well and good, but it never really dealt with the problem of sin. It was just symbolic. It didn’t change you. You never got anywhere close to the presence of God. To the holy of holies. Only the high priest could go in there, and even then it was only once a year.

This Temple system was mankind’s best ever attempt to get right with God by making sacrifices and trying to earn God’s approval.

Now let’s just pause and consider the background. [I’m still building a case here for the end of religion.]

What is the historical background to the Temple? Well before the permanent Temple there was a portable Tabernacle, and but even before that, the story of the Temple starts with the Garden of Eden, which was a sanctuary. The presence of God was there. There was nothing bad there. It was a paradise because the presence of God was there.

Now let me see if I can explain how we got the sacrificial system in terms of a Holloway family ritual.

In addition to bedtime stories in our family, we also have dramatic re-enactments.

The bedroom lights are turned off. (We have 4 daughters, in case you are wondering. The youngest is only 1 so she’s yet to be initiated into this particular ritual.) So currently I do this with 3 girls, aged 11, 9 and 3 and they are suddenly plunged into total darkness.

There is quite a lot of nervous giggling at this point. I leave them in total darkness. And then suddenly the lights come on and this is the creation of the world, and we all sing this little song about how God said “Let there be light and there was light.”

Then we do Adam and Eve, and Bethany (aged 9) is usually Eve and I am usually Satan. In fact, I’ve really become quite well practiced as Satan over the years. “So Eve, did God really say, ‘you can’t eat the apple’? It’s very tasty!”

And then because we don’t have any boys, Grace, aged 3 has recently started to play the part of Adam. And so after Eve eats the apple, Gracie eats the apple, and then immediately gets thrown out of the garden of Eden.

Gracie is physically thrown out of her own bedroom. Her bedroom represents the presence of God.

So picture the scene, she’s 3 years old. She’s thrown out into the corridor. Into the cold. There’s no radiator in the corridor. And her bedroom door is slammed shut and then we do Genesis 3 verse 24 which says that a flaming sword was posted guarding the entrance back into Eden, and so Esther and Bethany play the part of two massive angels, who guard the closed door with massive swords, flaming swords flashing back and forth.

So picture poor Gracie, she’s only 3 years old, she’s in her pjamas, all she really wants to do is get back into her bed, where it is warm where it is safe. She just wants peace. She wants to get back into her room, into the presence of God where everything is warm and nice. Instead she’s in a cold corridor, and there are two huge angels blocking her way back to her bedroom, flashing their swords.

What are we teaching Gracie? Answer: “There’s no way back into the presence of God without going under the sword!”

That’s the Temple. That’s the reason for the sacrifices. That’s why all these lambs and doves were getting killed. No way back without going under the sword.

Gracie tries to get back into her room. She tries to go to bed. No way, the flaming sword is too scary, too dangerous, she has to stay in the corridor.

She says: “Esther, Bethany – let me in, let me in.”

And they say: “There’s no way back unless you go under the sword.”

Gracie reaches a point of utter helplessless. Can anybody help me?

And then we say “what if Jesus goes under the sword for you.”

Gracie is relieved and delighted. She says: “yes!”

And then Esther plays the part of Jesus. Jesus does goes under the sword. Esther gets crucified on the landing, and the moment Jesus dies, Gracie can go back into her room.


Back into the Presence of God.

The moment Jesus died, Mark tells us the veil of the Temple was ripped by invisible hands from top to bottom. Even the Gentiles can go within the veil right into the Presence of God. The old Temple system is now obsolete!

Friends, when Jesus drives the animals out, Jesus does it because he’s saying you don’t need them anymore. Why? Jesus answer is, “because I am going to be the last sacrifice, the last priest, and the end of that whole religious system.”

Jesus is whipping the lambs out of the Temple, Why? Because as Tim Keller puts it, he’s saying: “You don’t need them anymore, because, I’m going to become your lamb. I’m going to get sacrificed. And the good news is, when I get sacrificed you won’t have to come back next Passover and do it all over again, no when I get sacrificed, that sacrifice will work forwards and backwards for all eternity. When I get sacrificed, when I become God’s Passover lamb, it won’t be just symbolic and partial . . . No when I get slain, the sacrifice is going to work once and for all, so that you need never ever make any sacrifice ever again. It’s the end of religion. From now on, you never ever have to try to be good enough for God ever again because I am going to be good enough.”

Every religion is trying to solve the problem of sin. How can sinful man live with a Holy God? It has now been solved. [Extempore section]

Jesus is saying: “I am the only person who has ever lived, who has been totally without sin. When the temple inspectors inspect me, they will find I do not have a single blemish. I am perfect in every way. I am good enough for God. So all you have to do is join yourself to me and you’re as acceptable to God as I am. You’re as perfect in God’s sight as I am.

That’s why John the Baptist said of me, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’” This is the end of religion!

And so, this is a sacrifice that does change you. The pressure is off. And just as Jesus, as the perfect high priest can go straight into the holy of holies, so can you. You are no longer stuck in the market with your prayers drowned out by the bleating sheep, no you my Gentile friend are ushered all the way through into the most holy place because you’ve got a perfect priest and a perfect sacrifice to take you right into the presence of God.

So this is the end of religion, firstly, and secondly, it’s the beginning of Christianity.

Section 2: The Beginning of Christianity (vs15-16)
14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’ (c)?”
17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. (Matthew 21:14-17)
(c) Psalm 8:2

Because in the verses that follow, we get Jesus accepting praise as being God’s Messiah, the Greek word for Messiah being Christ.

Therefore this really is the start of Christianity, as Jesus starts to accept worship as God’s Christ, and Christianity begins.

When they call out “Hosanna to the Son of David” everybody knew who that was.

The son of David was the Messianic King.

“Oh ultimate King, final King of the world.

Someone says: “Oh ultimate King. Final King of the world and Jesus says: “yes” (literally, he says “yes” in verse 16)

This is one of the first times Jesus has been given the Messianic title, and allowed it to be said in public.

Now the authorities will be forced to crush him.

This is do or die!

Time is running out.

He’s openly declared himself to be the king.

The disciples would have been thrilled and terrified.

He’s now forcing the issue. He’s tremendously humble, but he’s not at all modest.

With regard to other people, unbelievably humble, but when it comes to dealing with himself, he’s continually making huge claims.

Ultimate King of the universe? Yes!

Listen, on every page, Jesus is the most immodest person, he’s always forcing his identity on you, his kingship.

When he comes to any city, or any body, he’s saying “worship me or crucify me,” nothing in the middle. Jesus is forcing everybody’s hand.

He does that not just to Jerusalem, he does that to your intellect and he does that to your heart.

He orchestrates this cleansing of the Temple. That is the confrontational nature of his kingship. Jesus takes control of the situation. He takes the initiative with you.

Have you ever read one of those curious times in the gospels when Jesus will heal someone and then say: “See too it, that you don’t tell anyone.” Jesus trying to put the brakes on the Messianic bandwagon, but now, he takes the brakes off, it’s his time.

He knows that as soon as the crowds in Jerusalem start worshipping him as the Messiah, the end game has begun.

So in verses 15 and 16 Jesus moves into his “crown me or kill me” phase. This is the end game. No more healings in secret. No more healings up country in Galilee. Do you see in verse 14, he’s now healing the blind and the lame right in the Temple.

Because the moment Jesus arrives at the Temple of the one true God, and calls it “my house,” everything changes.

Imagine [pick on someone = X] walks into your house uninvited. He barges in, and X just starts re-arranging your furniture. And X throws half your stuff out the window, and then when he’s got everything just how he wants it, X just sits down and makes himself at home. You stand there incredulous and deeply offended. Eventually you say: “Who on earth do you think you are?” Imagine X replies: “What? What do you mean? This is my house.” That’s what’s happening here.

Jesus is saying that the Temple, the Jerusalem Temple of God is “my house.”

Is Jesus really claiming to be God? Yes,

You see Jesus, then quotes Psalm 8 verse 2, which says:

“O Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.”
(Psalm 8:1-2)

Now, who is this Psalm talking about?

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is YOUR name in all the earth.

This is talking about God – THE creator God!

YOU have set your glory above the heavens.

In other words, God, you are greater than your creation. You are the first cause who made the majestic oceans and stars and the heavens above, but because you are creator God, you are greater than your creation. You are even more glorious than the heavens I can see above me.

So much so that even children and infants praise this glorious creator God.

Now when the children call Jesus “Son of David”, the Pharisees are indignant they think it’s blasphemy, but Jesus’ response is to say something even more outrageous to them.

Jesus says: “Psalm 8 was written in praise of me.”

No Jesus you’re wrong, look Jesus, it’s written in Praise of Creator God.

Jesus says “exactly, that is who I am!”

I am the Creator God!

You see when our Lord Jesus Christ entered the Temple, Five days before his death, when Jesus came, when Jesus entered it, look, one greater than Solomon was there.

The Temple was the sign of God’s presence on earth, but here is the Son, who is God’s presence on earth.

Here is the one whom Matthew has called: “Emmanuel, God with us.”

Here is the one who can say of himself: “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”

Here is the one of whom Paul said: “In whom the whole fullness of the deity, dwells bodily.

Later in Matt 24, Jesus speaks of the destruction of the Temple. Jesus comes as it’s destroyer, but he comes too as its’ replacement!

In John’s gospel, Jesus says: “From now on my body is the Temple.”

Destroy this temple, (speaking of his body) and I’ll raise it again in three days.

And he did. Eight days after this incident, the resurrected Jesus Christ was walking with real resurrected feet on the surface of this planet. Death was defeated, and a new age had dawned. The Resurrection age. And that’s what you are part of, if you have joined yourself to Christ. Now the Holy Spirit doesn’t like in cubic room in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit has found a new Temple . . . your body.

Band come forward?

1. Seeing as Jesus was so passionate and so energized about making it as easy as possible for the nations to come into the presence of God, we, as a church need to do everything we can to make it easy for foreigners to come into this community.
2. If you are not from the UK, why not email the church office this week and tell us “is there anything we could do differently that would make it easier for foreigners to really not feel like foreigners in this community?” Are there any obstacles we are putting in your way?
3. Ask yourself: Does anything need to change in me (given that my body is now the place where God’s Holy Spirit lives)?