Matthew 21:12-17 (Part 1)- Jesus Clears the Temple – Removing the Clutter From Our Lives So We Can Freely Move About

Posted: February 24, 2016 in 40-Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 21:12-17 (Part 1)

Jesus Clears the Temple Again

 

Have you ever noticed that the bigger the place you live in, the more stuff you collect? As you live in a house or apartment that was once more than enough for all your stuff has become filled. Each successive move to bigger and bigger places and each time, you fill it up and you become accustomed to the new amount of stuff. Often times, we begin to have more than enough stuff for the place we live. Our houses or apartments become cluttered with things and we accept that as the new normal. Over the past few years, Elena has had the opposite experience with her parents as they health began to falter. Her father is now in a skilled care facility and has been there for probably over 3 years now. Her parents were able to maintain the family home that had been their parent’s home since 1979. It was once a beautiful two-story, huge home on top of a hill on a densely wooded lot with a winding driveway up to the top of the hill. Although the décor of the home was stuck in the late 70’s (because as you get older you don’t remodel or change décor with the changing of the times), there was a lot of stuff. It was huge house and they had filed it with fine furniture. With Dr. Aizcorbe and his wife (Elena’s dad and mom) being Cuban and Venezuelan immigrants in the southern United States since the late 50’s and he being a doctor, they had spent a lifetime acquiring the trappings of American wealth and to prove that they belonged in the upper echelon of southern American society. Thus, their home on the hill contained loads of paintings and numerous sculptures. Traditional and modern art and sculpture both large and small adorned the home. Lots of furniture and trinkets all over the house. They had a lot, lot, lot of stuff. So when her mother’s health became such they could no longer keep this huge rambling house, the boys and Elena had to move their mother to this independent living apartment for seniors. The children had to supervise the selling of this big ol’ house and moving their mom to the senior apartments. A really, really nice place that was practically brand new. However, it was a major downsize. Going from a 5,000 plus square foot 6 bedroom house (not counting garage) down to an 800 square foot two bedroom apartment was a major undertaking. Before the house could be sold, all the stuff had to go. It had to be sold. It had to be put in storage. It had to be divided among the kids. And some it had to simply be trashed. They brought in a construction dumpster for all the things that were going to be trashed. A lifetime of acquisition of things scattered to the wind. So much stuff!

 

Although a lot of their stuff was disposed of in one way or another, Elena’s mom crammed a LOT of stuff that she “needed” into that two bedroom place two years ago. However, as her blindness continued to increase and her body continued to fail, it began increasing apparently within the last few months that she could no longer live fully independently. The children, mainly Elena, had to make the choice to move her from the two bedroom independent living apartment into a semi-skilled assisted living center two weeks ago. Thus, again there was a downsize needed. The new place, again though, very nice (one of the nicest nursing facilities that I have ever been in), is about half the size of her independent living apartment. It is a one bedroom place with a living area and very small kitchen. It is like an upscale Embassy Suites suite hotel room (a private, separate bedroom and a separate but small living area and kitchen. Elena’s mom, though, was certain that she could fit her stuff in the two bedroom apartment into the suite. Man, was moving day a cluster! We got all the stuff in there but there was literally no room to move in the living area. More downsizing was needed desperately so her virtually blind mother could move about the suite without killing herself. Treasured things became clutter. Things that we think are important just now getting in the way. It has taken several days to get down to the stuff that she really needs on a day to day basis. It is sad that a lifetime of acquisition of beautiful, art, sculpture, furniture, trinkets, technology, and just things reduced to having to give them away or throw them away because they have begun crowded out life. They had become something that just gets in the way of the necessary parts of life. They can clutter out the necessary. This personal and extended illustration reminds me of what we see in today’s passage, Matthew 21:12-17. Let us read it together:

 

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,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.”

 

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’?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

 

 

This is the second time that Jesus cleansed the Temple (though it is the only time we see it in Matthew). He also cleared the temple in the chronologically earlier scene from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in John 2:13-17. Merchants and money changers had set up their booths in the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple, crowding out the ability of God-fearing Gentiles from worshiping God in the temple. The merchants sold sacrificial animals there at exhorbitantly high prices, taking advantage of those who had traveled long distances and could not feasibly bring their own sacrificial animals. The money changers exchanged all international currency for the currency of the temple, the special temple coins that were necessary within the temple. The temple coins were the only money that temple merchants would accept. These money changers would often deceive foreigners because the foreigners would not have been aware of the correct exchange rates for their currency vs. the temple currency. The commercialism and greed on display in the temple crowded out the people’s ability to worship God, particularly those Gentiles who had chosen to follow Judaism. The fact that people could not worship God because of the clutter of greed and commercialism that had overtaken the Court of the Gentiles angered Jesus. He was pissed off. Yes, Jesus got angry. Don’t think that He was meek and mild and gently asked people to move their sales tables and money changing tables out and they humbly complied. Jesus got PO’d and started turning tables over and shouting. He was angry that they had made the Court of Gentiles into a flea market atmosphere where money was king and not the humble, quiet worship of God by those who had chosen to be part of God’s people in particular. It angers God when we clutter out our ability to worship. Just as Elena’s mom could not move around her new place because of stuff in the way, we often let stuff of our lives get in the way of our worship of God.

 

Are we not like that? We let our materialism get in the way of our worship of God. We want things so we acquire debt if we can’t afford them from savings (if we have any). We want more things so we acquire more debt. We acquire things to the point that maintaining our things takes all our money and then some. We cannot live generously because we are so caught up in maintaining and paying for our stuff. We act as though that whoever has the most stuff is the king of the hill. We cannot help our fellow man because we do not have a spare dime but we have stuff! We cannot honor our Lord by giving back the tithe that He deserves. We then go about justifying that Paul says we don’t have to tithe. Paul never renounced the tithe. He expected that we would begin from the tithe. He wanted us to give the tithe and even more in a joyous manner and not in some begrudging way. He expected us to begin with joy of bringing God the tithe and then happily give even more than that. He want us not to be slaves to our money but see it as a ministry tool. Just think if we all at our individual churches were able to live off of 90% or less of what we made and gave the tithe to the storehouse of God known as our churches. What ministry we could do together. Living generously on our own would help us reduce the need for the government to step in and provide social services that we should be providing for ourselves. Just think of the stress that would be relieved from our society if we lived generous lives instead of the maddening, ever-increasing pursuit of toys. We let stuff get in the way of our worship of God. We must worship the money when we have greed as our god. We must worship the lack of money when we have mortgaged our lives to the hilt as we try to keep up in the acquisition game that we cannot afford to pay. There is joy that comes over you when you decide to live financially God’s way. There is freedom in paying off debts and not just replacing them with new, bigger debts. We can live generously when things don’t get in the way. Our worship of God becomes less cluttered when we have our finances under control.

 

Tomorrow, we will look at other ways we clutter out God in our lives. But for today, let us think of our finances. How we pursue things instead of God. How mortgage our lives away instead of pursuing God. How we live off of more than we earn and how that clutters our minds with thoughts how we are going to make debt payments instead of thoughts of worshipping God. Jesus gets angry when we have clutter in our lives such as our finances that keep us from the purity of worship of God. Our lives should be dominated by thoughts of how we can glorify God rather than how we are going to pay for the glorified vehicles in the driveway. It is clutter that must be removed. Let us get our finances out of the way of a right relationship with God. Let us remove our financial situation as the reason that we cannot live generously. Let us remove finances as the money changing and merchandise tables within our temples. Let us remove the clutter so that we can freely move about and be the hands and feet of Christ who are not tripping over our own financial gods.

 

Amen and Amen.

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