Holy Week - Monday
When you think of the atmosphere in a church on Easter Sunday, what do you imagine? Perhaps your visualization includes beautiful flower arrangements, uplifting hymns, and people dressed in their Easter best. But a picturesque scene like this is far from what Jesus encountered on Monday of Holy Week as He visited the temple in Jerusalem.
[ Read Matthew 21: 12-17 ]
The most holy place of worship, designated by God to be the dwelling place for His presence among His people, was not filled with quiet churchgoers and quaint decor. It was a scene of complete chaos. Deceptive money changers. Pigeons and other sacrificial animals being sold at outrageous prices. People worshiping their own god of greed rather than the One true God.
So how does Jesus respond? For the second recorded time in His ministry (for the first instance see John 2: 13-22), the righteous King flips dem tables (literally). He drives out the irreverent merchants and sends pigeons and coins flying. But why? In this jaw-dropping encounter, Jesus references two passages — let’s take a closer look at Isaiah 56: 6-8 to better understand what God has truly intended for His dwelling place:
“‘And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to Him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be His servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast My covenant — these I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.’ The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, ‘I will gather yet others to Him besides those already gathered.’”
Wow. What an incredible picture of salvation and worship among all the peoples of the earth. Sounds nothing like what was just described in Matthew 21, right? When we use the church or worship as a means for our personal gain rather than for proclaiming God’s glory, we are cultivating a counterfeit. So what should be happening here instead?
A Place for Prayer
Twice in the referenced passage from Isaiah, the phrase “house of prayer” is mentioned. If the purpose of a temple is to primarily be the place where God’s glory dwells, prayer is the avenue by which we can draw near to the LORD and engage in relationship with Him. But it is important to first note that we, as sinful people, cannot be in the presence of God without a sacrifice that cleanses us from unrighteousness. In these days animal sacrifices were required as a temporary covering of sin; Jesus, on Good Friday, would soon become the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.
A Place for People
Both the passage in Isaiah and Jesus healing the blind and lame after cleansing the temple (v. 14) reveal that the house of the LORD is a place for the outcasts, the marginalized, the foreigners, and the rejected. Elsewhere during Jesus’ ministry He declares that He came to redeem us, broken sinners, because “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Luke 5:31a). Additionally, the incredible truth is that we have access to the Father now through Jesus — the covenant of salvation applies not just to those of a certain lineage, but to all who enter into the heritage of faith. Do our churches reflect this today? Are we eager to welcome in the downtrodden and the oppressed? For theirs too will be the Kingdom of heaven.
A Place for Praise
Finally, in verse 15 of Matthew, we see a powerful testimony from the youngest members of society as the children proclaim, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” It is unclear how young these worshipers are, but their praise is far from childlike — they recognize who Jesus truly is. When we come to worship, we also come with bold faith to praise God for who He is. We come to proclaim that Jesus Christ is our Savior, for He is worthy.
These things apply not only to our places of worship today (i.e. church, at home) but to our own hearts as well. 1 Corinthians 3:16 reminds us, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” Take a moment to consider how your life reflects each of these things — a place for prayer, people, and praise. How can you reflect these in the way you worship and live missionally so that people may see Christ through you? Ask God to open your heart to be able to do so this week.
Written by Andrea Jensen, FCM Senior majoring in Civil Engineering.