We deep clean our homes usually before the holiday season because we want to keep our dwelling place cosy and comfortable. This type of deep cleaning can only be done by us than any hired help, as we know the usual hangout spots of dust bunnies and clutter in our homes. We are keen on presenting our home spotless to our friends and family.
During the festival of the Jewish Passover, Jesus cleansed the temple court to facilitate the visitors with a clean surrounding. No one else was bothered to clean it during that festive season, and they treated the temple court as a marketplace. But Jesus was bothered by its state as it was His Father’s House of Prayer.
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 19:46
A House of Prayer
When we call people for a prayer meeting, the turnout will be less. At the same time, people assemble in mass for a regular worship service or over the holiday period. Even today, the actual purpose of “A House of Prayer” is not known to many believers. People call it a “church” and define it as a building used for public Christian worship. When King Solomon dedicated the temple that he built, God led him to pray for everyone who will use it, irrespective of their religion or country, so that God’s name is known to everyone (1 Kings 8:41-43).
Despite so many procedures laid down in the law of Moses, God introduced the first structure built for Him, as a “House of Prayer.” An unimaginable provision for connecting with God, for the people who abstained themselves from God. In the book of Isaiah, we find God mentioning the temple as a House of Prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.Isaiah 56:7
Unlike the other three Gospels, John recorded this incident at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry making some people believe that Jesus cleared the temple twice, once at the start of His ministry and the other during the end of His Ministry. In the Gospel of John, John does not bother to record everything in a chronological order, but was very keen to depict the expressions of Jesus regarding the truth. Moreover, it is not about how many times that Jesus cleansed the temple, but understanding the His mind through this cleansing episode.
In the Herodian temple court, almost three lakh devotees visited and bought animals for sacrifice during the Passover festival. We can imagine the size of the temple court that would have been transformed into a marketplace back then. Jesus did not see it as a marketplace but as a den of robbers. At that crowded place, Jesus staged His protest single-handedly, and to our surprise, no one had either supported Him or stopped Him despite their agitation. Except for Jesus, none could see the insult this was causing to His Father (Psalms 69:9). When God accomplishes His purpose through us in our lives, He will give us the strength to fulfil it all by ourselves without any support. At the same time, He will take control of every opposition (Job 42:2). Many a time, leaving aside the very purpose of God, we keep taking up the projects initiated by our ancestors to maintain the legacy of our so-called legends and question God’s faithfulness when we do not receive His support.
Jesus’ Authority was Questioned
Because of the Power of God, they were unable to stop Jesus from destroying their purpose of making the temple courts a den of robbers but were still greatly distressed. Realizing their inability to put a stop to Jesus, they questioned Jesus about His authority. All the other three Gospels recorded an interesting counter-question asked by Jesus about the source for the actions of John the Baptist for which they had no answer, and Jesus too did not tell them about His authority. Unlike the other Gospels, the Gospel of John tells us a different answer given by Jesus regarding His death and the resurrection. While writing the Gospel, John recollected the truths that Jesus taught about His Father’s mission and the coming of His Kingdom, rather than connecting the history. The Jews not only asked for His authority, but also asked for a sign to prove His authority.
The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”John 2:18-19
The passion they had for the temple building prevented them from understanding what Jesus was teaching them. They wondered how this Herodian building could be re-constructed within three days when it took forty years to complete the construction. They got angry because they thought that Jesus was disrespecting their legacy. However, Jesus was foretelling them of His death and resurrection so that they may stop worrying about manmade monuments and make use of the moments they had spent with their Redeemer.
Fulfillment of Prophecies
God warned us not to give His Glory to anyone else. We understand this literally and attribute this to idol worshipers. But practically, we too glorify money and even people who are influential, more than God. Sometimes we attribute the glory of God to some magnificent buildings like cathedrals, and Jesus brought out this truth to His disciples when they asked Him to admire the architecture of the temple.
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.”Matthew 24:1-2
The disciples recalled the words of Jesus saying that He would raise the temple again in three days and only after His resurrection did they understand that Jesus considered His body as the temple of God rather than the structural buildings. The prophecy of Jesus about “not one stone left on another” got fulfilled after forty years during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. When the Jews were sheltered inside the temple, the Roman soldiers burnt the temple, and all the gold plates melted down the stones. To retrieve the gold, the Roman commanders ordered the dismantling of one stone from the other. The fulfilment of these two prophecies reminds us to stop the practice of seeking God in manmade temples and churches but gives us an opportunity to invite Him into our hearts.
We Are His Temple
God removed the death sentence that lingered on us and opened an avenue for eternal life. God cleansed the hearts of humans with the blood of Jesus and made it His dwelling place. After doing away with the practice of seeking God in the buildings, God placed His laws in our hearts and wrote them in our minds (Hebrews 10:16). God forgave our sins when Jesus died for our sins. As such, there is no need for offering any further sacrifices (Hebrews 10:17-18).
With this personal experience of accommodating the Spirit of God in his heart, Paul sensitizes all believers with a question that don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? When the laws got inscribed in our hearts, the author of the law Himself starts residing in our hearts.
The disciples of Jesus were wondering about the withering of a fig tree as Jesus cursed it on the previous day during their journey. Seeing the fulfilment of the prophecies is always a memorable experience. We could see the debris of the Herodian temple at Jerusalem as the fulfilment of what Jesus had foretold that there would be no stone upon another. The characteristics of God who prophesized things regarding a structural building are the same yesterday, today, and forever. The God who lives and reigns, is again warning His people not to make His dwelling place a robber’s den. The thief attempts to kill us by creeping into our lives through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. God warns us that if we let these things corrupt our body, which is His temple, He will destroy it too.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Jesus figuratively tells us to cut off our body parts that cause us to sin and suggests that it is better to be in His kingdom without some parts of our body rather than landing in hell with our whole body. God will not take away the parts of our body or freeze its function, but He expects us to willingly come forward to get away from the things that cause us to sin. If we decide to cut off our hands that make us sin, God will not allow us to do so, but on the contrary, will be happy to give us wisdom and strength to make amends. When Abraham obeyed God and was about to kill his son, God did not allow him to do so but provided Him with a ram from a thicket. Likewise, if we are ready to cut off the part of our body which leads us to sin, God will not allow us to cut off, but He will give us a new life through the Lamb of God.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.1 John 1:7
This cleaning ought to be done by us using the provision of the blood of Jesus to accommodate the Holy Spirit given to us for guarding our salvation till the time of His judgment. Otherwise, people will trade our salvation for worldly pleasures, and gradually our hearts will become a den of robbers.