Luke 19:45-48 — The business of the temple had begun to overshadow the work and purpose of the Temple. What Luke does not go into a great deal of detail about is the fact that corruption had descended upon the priesthood. According to Bobby Stultz in his sermon, “Jesus Clears The Temple”,

“God placed the priests in charge of the sacrifice and they determined if the animal or bird or grain that was brought was worthy. Over time there had been corruption in the priesthood and a bargain had been struck with local businessmen. These businessmen would set up in the outer courts and sell ‘qualified and acceptable’ animals, birds or grain to those coming to worship. It had gotten so bad that even when someone brought the best from their flock, it would not be good enough and they were told that they had to buy from the men in the Temple courtyard. Because they had the monopoly on the trade, the prices began to rise and it became a huge burden on those coming to sacrifice”

The merchants had set themselves up in what was known as the “Court of the Gentiles”. It was the area of the temple where God-fearing Gentiles could come to worship at the temple. They could not pass into the Court of Women (the next concentric square of the temple) which was reserved for Jewish women only. They could go no further than their court. The temple itself (the next innermost concentric square) was reserved for male Jews. And of course the innermost part of the Temple was the Holy of Holies where the presence of God was located and could only be entered by high ranking members of the priesthood at specified times. The merchants had become so prevalent in the Court of the Gentiles that it was almost impossible for any Gentile to worship. With the flurry of business activity, people milling around, trying to buy animals and exchange money, making deals, etc., the Gentile Court was like trying to worship in the middle of a busy highway. The business of the Jewish religion had begun to overshadow the real purpose of the temple. Jesus was righteously angry over this. He exclaims, “My Temple will be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Luke goes on to say that Jesus then began teaching in the temple daily. Because of his disruption of the “economy of the temple” for uttering that the Temple was His and seeing the immense popular of Jesus could upset the tense detente they had with their Roman occupiers, the leaders of commerce and the religious elite began plotting ways to get rid of this Jesus. There are a couple of things that we must take away from this scene.

First, we should never let the business of the church become more important than the purpose of the church. One of the dangers of the new wave of contemporary church is often the merchandising of the latest thing. You see all throughout modern churches. T-Shirts. Books by the latest coolest author. Selling coffee from third world countries. If Jesus walked into the atriums, lobbies, or narthaxes of modern new wave churches, what would He say. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that these things in and of themselves can be bad or that we should do away with them. It is a matter of what the priority of our hearts are. If the merchandising of the NewSpring, the LifeSong, the FourPoint or any of the other cool modern churches becomes more important than the message then we are in trouble. If the flashing lights, videos, and sermon bumpers become more important than the message then Jesus would be righteously angry at us. If the logo of the church becomes the most important decision that a pastor of a church plant makes, then, we have lost sight of what we are doing. If church planting consultants advice becomes more important than the Word of God then we have lost sight of what we are doing here. We would then be no different than the priesthood and business merchants in this scene that we stand back and condemn. They had rooted out the purpose of the temple. We can root out the purpose of the church if we care more about the glitz and the glamor than the Word of God. I wonder sometimes when I attend church conferences where the lobbies are full of “Christian vendors” what Jesus would think.

Let us never forget why we have a church in the first place. It is to teach the Word of God. It is to spread the gospel. It is to pass on the message of God’s redemptive plan through Jesus Christ. It is to show Christ’s love to the community around us. It is to reflect His grace to a dying world. Let us not get so caught up in the new wave of Christianity’s glitz and going to conferences and seminars, and buying the next coolest book by the next coolest megachurch pastor, and buying the coolest merchandise that shouts to the world that you are a new wave Christian that we forget giving glory to God, and spreading the gospel message to the world around us. Let us not let the business of the new wave of Christianity overshadow what we are trying to revitalize – giving glory to God, and showing the love of Christ to a dying world. Let us not crowd out true worship of our Father in heaven with the business of cool Christianity just as the merchants in the temple had crowded out Gentile worship.

The second thing that we see here that Jesus cleared the temple so the Gentiles could worship again. His message is clear in doing this. The Jewish religious elite had become so focused on themselves that their own enrichment that they forgot that the message of God was for the Gentiles as well. That was the purpose of the court of the Gentiles – to allow them to worship God, too. The cause of the new wave of Christianity today is the fact that traditional churches had failed to reach outside the walls of their churches. They refused to service the searching souls out there. The lost souls that entered their midst were made to feel like strangers and interlopers. Jesus is clear here. God’s love is for all mankind. The Jews had come to see themselves as the isolated keepers of God’s Word. God intended them to be the bearer of God’s Word to the world not the broker of who is acceptable and who is not. Traditional churches cannot complain about the megachurch movement. The new wave church movement is taking the message to the world in ways that traditional church have failed. Traditional church had gotten so wrapped up in policies and political positions on subject matter that they forgot their first love. Traditional churches had become country clubs where political connections were to be made. If Jesus entered a traditional church today, what would He say.

The final thing that we see is that the success of Jesus’ teaching at the temple was the fact that it was inclusionary and it was simple. The rap against traditional churches today are that they are exclusionary much like the Jewish religious system of Jesus’ day. The rap against new wave church today is that the delivery method, and the merchandising of the message has become more important than the message itself. I think if we just get back to two things that Jesus taught us to do whether you are a big brick and mortar church with a huge complex of buildings or a new wave church that meets in a high-tech auditorium, whether your church has been around for 150 years or 15 months, Jesus would walk in our midst and say well done. He taught two things that we must do. He taught us Luke 10:27 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love others as you love yourself. He taught us Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” That is simple. The message has always been simple.

We do not need doctoral degrees or masters degrees to know this. We do not need the next greatest book by the next greatest megachurch pastor to know this. We don’t need the merchandising to know this. We do not denominational policies and procedures to know this. We do not need denominational position papers on a political issue to know this. It is simple. Worship God. Put God first. Love others the way God loved us. Spread the message of His love for us. Anything else is just fluff. Anything else is just merchandising. Anything else is just denominational leaders trying to justify their existence. Anything else is crowding out the simple message of the cross. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son for whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life. Let us pray that if Jesus walked into our church that He would say well done good and faithful servants.

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