Sunday, September 10, 2023

Jesus Christ drives the money-changers from the Temple

While Josh McDowell was attending seminary in California, his father went Home to be with the Lord. His mother had died years earlier, but Josh was not sure of her salvation. He became depressed, thinking that she might be lost. Was she a Christian or not? The thought obsessed him. "Lord," he prayed, "somehow give me the answer so I can get back to normal. I've just got to know." It seemed like an impossible request.

Two days later, Josh drove out to the ocean. He walked to the end of a pier to be alone. There sat an old woman in a lawnchair, fishing. "Where's your home originally?" she asked.

"Michigan -- Union City," Josh replied. "Nobody's heard of it. I tell people it's a suburb of --" "Battle Creek," interrupted the woman. "I had a cousin from there. Did you know the McDowell family?"

Stunned, Josh responded, "Yes, I'm Josh McDowell!"

"I can't believe it," said the woman. "I'm a cousin to your mother."

"Do you remember anything at all about my mother's spiritual life?" asked Josh. "Why sure -- your mom and I were just girls -- teenagers -- when a tent revival came to town. It was the fourth night -- we both went forward to accept Christ."

"Praise God!" shouted Josh, startling the surrounding fishermen.
-Our Daily Bread.

The Lord Jesus victoriously burst forth into the capital city at the beginning of Mark chapter 11. The entire book of Mark, indeed the books of Mark, Luke and Matthew all build up to the moment when Jesus the jewish messiah rode triumphantly into the great capital of Israel, Jerusalem.

Jesus entered the temple, looked around, and then left, and went to Bethany.

This is the grand stage of Christ’s ministry, his time in Jerusalem. The time has come, at last, for the show down between the true messiah, and the religious leaders, pharisees, and roman officials.

But first Jesus strategically departs for a moment, until the right time, and now it’s the next day, and he’s leaving Bethany, back toward Jerusalem.

Let’s take a look at verses 12-14: The next day, Jesus was leaving Bethany. He was hungry. 13 He saw a fig tree with leaves. So he went to the tree to see if it had any figs growing on it. But he found no figs on the tree. There were only leaves, because it was not the right time for figs to grow. 14 So Jesus said to the tree, “People will never eat fruit from you again.” His followers heard him say this.”

The environmentalists and climate change people will be upset with this one, I think. Jesus curses this fig tree. It was in full leaf, some translations say, yet he found no figs on it. When a fig tree is in full leaf, it’s quite possible to find early figs on it, but in this case, he finds only leaves.

And this is going to be a teaching moment for the disciples. This is not done out of frustration, just because he was hungry and couldn’t find a fig. No, this was a message about prayer he was sharing with his disciples. That’s one layer.

One layer deeper, this is also a symbolic message about Israel. Israel is often represented in the scriptures as a fig tree. As God’s fig tree, you could say. But, when Jesus came, he found a people that largely rejected him. And as a result they were cursed, like the fig tree is cursed, to be destroyed, and to be driven into the nations for a long time. Today we call it the great diaspora. It happened in AD 70 when Israel led a rebellion against Rome, and declared independence from them. But it was not God’s will. So the Romans raised an army and attacked Israel, Israel fought bravely, but step by step they were slowly defeated. There’s a great documentary about the destruction of Israel in AD 70, it’s called “The Siege of Jerusalem (70 AD) - The Great Jewish Revolt.” It’s free on YouTube by the channel Invicta. It’s absolutely brilliant!

Messiah Jesus knew all this would happen ahead of time. The cursing of the fig tree was symbolic of the destruction of the nation.

Next, we see Jesus again coming to Jerusalem. It says in verses 15-16:

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.”

Messiah Jesus clears the temple of the money changers. This is symbolic of the fact that Jesus would make the way of the gentiles to come into God’s kingdom as well.

Look at what he says next in verse 17: 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. And that is what should’ve been in the temple in Jerusalem. It should’ve been a place where every nation came together to worship God. Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations to draw them all to God. And Some of that did go on, there were jewish communities throughout the roman empire. But it wasn’t quite as it should’ve been.

Instead it had become a market of buying and selling, of outward appearance of sacrifice, instead of true heart worship.

But in the end the name of Jesus, the temple of Christ, would become a ‘house of prayer for all nations’ as today we in the gentile world call on the name of Jesus for salvation. Isn’t that wonderful? Truly it is!

The priests and teachers saw Jesus do this and they asked him, as recorded in John’s gospel, what right do you have to do this? What sign can you show? And Jesus says this is my sign, destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it again. They were confused, they said it took 46 years to build the temple, no one could rebuild it in three days.

But Jesus was talking about his body. They would crucify him, but three days later he would be alive again.

Which makes me think Jesus was talking about his body when he referenced the temple being a place of prayer for all nations. Herod’s temple should’ve been that, but in the end Jesus himself would be the place of safety to call upon God from, so we pray “in Jesus name.”

But in Mark’s gospel it simply says in verses 18-19: “When the leading priests and the teachers of the law heard what Jesus said, they began trying to find a way to kill him. They were afraid of him because all the people were amazed at his teaching. 19 That night Jesus and his followers left the city.”

So again the leaders of Israel plan and plot to find a way to kill Jesus and stop him. But they don’t act right at this moment because they’re afraid of him, all the people are amazed at what he’s saying. And again Jesus strategically leaves Jerusalem with his disciples.

Now in verses 20-21 we return to the fig tree near Bethany, “The next morning Jesus was walking with his followers. They saw the fig tree that he spoke to the day before. The tree was dry and dead, even the roots. 21 Peter remembered the tree and said to Jesus, “Teacher, look! Yesterday, you told that fig tree to die. Now it is dry and dead!”

They find the fig tree again and it is completely dead. Jesus uses this as a teaching moment. Remember, it’s symbolic of Israel. But, it’s also a truth about belief and prayer.

It says in verses 22-23: Jesus answered, “Have faith in God. 23 The truth is, you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, mountain, fall into the sea.’ And if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that what you say will happen, then God will do it for you.”

If you have no doubt, then you believe, that what you say will in fact happen, then God will do it for you.

God will do it.

It will happen.

End of story.

If you believe.

If you choose faith, belief, to really believe, then anything is possible. You can pray it, and it will actually happen.

It says in verse 24 then: "So I tell you to ask for what you want in prayer. And if you believe that you have received those things, then they will be yours."

That is the key today, we all have to understand. There is only one point today: Believe in your heart, pray, and you’ll receive.

Then we get the ever-important reminder from the Lord Jesus in verse 25:

"When you are praying and you remember that you are angry with another person about something, forgive that person. Forgive them so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins.” 26 26: “But if you don’t forgive others, then your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.”

And verse 26 is in italics because, we find it added in some of the early Greek manuscripts of the new testament, but not all of them. But we know it’s true because it occurs in other places in the new testament.

Our prayers are linked to our status with others, isn’t that interesting? It says if you are angry with someone, and you’re praying, first, forgive that person in your heart, then keep praying. Forgive them so your Father in heaven will forgive your sins. This implies an ongoing process of seeking God’s forgiveness when we sin in our lives.

And as we live longer and longer for Christ, we sin less and less, and pretty soon we realize, hey, wow I didn’t sin at all today. Praise the Lord.

So in conclusion today, remember the key for today, Believe and pray, and you will receive. If you doubt, if you’re double-minded don’t expect to receive anything from god, it says in the book of James, but if you believe, and don’t doubt, then you will receive, in His will. Believe that, and your walk with Christ will change the world as you pray.