Sanctuary Or Auditorium?
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 21:13a Holman And He said to them, “It is written,. . .”
Jesus justified His harsh actions in the temple by using two Bible verses, Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. Jesus often reminded us, ultimate authority in spiritual matters has to be traceable back to the Bible.
Always keep your eyes and mind focused on Holy Writ. Let it be your sole guide for belief and behavior. Daily read in it. Annually read it all. Teach your children to love the Bible and to read it.
Matt. 21:13b “. . .My house will be called a house of prayer.”
A building of corporate worship is a place of prayer, where we individually realize, and collectively acknowledge, our utter dependence on God. The Psalms, a vital part of temple worship, were often prayers.
Many of the songs we sing are prayers. In our singing, our public praying, and preaching, we must have a prayerful spirit, an attitude of totally leaning on God. In this place we come to rivet our focus on Him.
This does not mean our church building is sacrosanct. I hesitate to call this room a sanctuary or a worship center. I don’t make a big deal of this personal conviction, but I prefer to call it an auditorium. It is filled with God when it is filled with God’s people who are filled with God.
This room has importance in that it represents what is important to us. When we neglect God’s public house through non-attendance, a lack of prayerfulness, or disrepair, we show the neglect we harbor for God.
Matt. 21:13c “But you are making it a den of thieves!”
“Den” refers to the caves highwaymen hid in to ambush travelers. The religious leaders had become thieves in the exact spot where they were supposed to be missionaries.
The marketplace was in the court of the Gentiles, the only place in the temple where outsiders were allowed to worship. But in the hoopla, prayer was impossible. Don’t miss the disdain Annas and his cohorts showed for unbelievers by putting the marketplace in Gentile worship space. We can almost hear the religious leaders whispering to each other in private, “If Gentiles are allowed there, animals must be okay too.”
Where leaders could have taught the unbelievers and tried to win them to YHWH, they fleeced them instead. Where the Gospel should have been proclaimed, hucksters shouted out the going price for wares.
Israel’s mission, their divine calling, was to tell the world about God. He gave them a land that is a bridge connecting three continents.
God meant for the world to come through Israel in order to be blessed and saved. Sadly, the temple had become a place focused not on the lost, but on believers and on its own existence and prosperity. Rather than embracing outsiders, they neglected them.
Don’t let the religious leaders’ disdain for unbelievers cause us to overlook the fact God in His marvelous grace had made sure the Gentiles had their own special place at the temple. The place of worship was the place where evangelism and missions were to begin.
Outsiders were to be welcomed at the temple so they could draw close to the worship and people of God, and see in them a winsomeness that would woo them toward God. I urge you, if you are dealing with unbelievers, bring them to church, or if you deem this too risky, bring them to a small group where a “safe zone” has been prepared in advance to receive them warmly. An important component of being saved is, at some point the unbeliever has to accept God’s people. This is one of the reasons for baptism. It is an identifying of oneself with other believers.
Matt. 21:14 The blind and the lame came to Him in the temple
complex, and He healed them.
Once Jesus purged the marketplace of its robbers, the den of thieves became a hospital. The great physician replaced the greedy crooks. The robbers fled in terror, but the sick did not fear Jesus.
Having heard what He had done for others who were sick, they felt He would be kind and gentle toward them. They were not disappointed. The infirm came, and Jesus healed them.
The leaders despised and ignored the blind and lame because their afflictions were believed to be caused by terrible sins committed by them or their parents. The religious leaders were the original peddlers of health and wealth, advocating physical or economic troubles are caused by a lack of faith. They had no compassion whatsoever for the sick.
The blind and lame, ever needing a lucrative place to beg alms, understandably gathered in the moneyed part of the temple. They were there when Jesus cleansed the area. Once the noise and din ended, an eerie silence probably dominated the area. A blind man asked his lame friend, “What happened? Where is everyone?” “Jesus drove them off.” “Did you say Jesus? My friend who used to beg with me, and comes to see me often, was born blind, and says he was healed by a man named Jesus.” “Several of my formerly lame friends say the same about Him.”
“Is Jesus still here? Can you see Him?” “Yes.” “Can we get to Him?” “If you’ll carry me, I’ll tell you which way to go.” “I’ll be your legs; you be my eyes. Let’s go. Hurry, before He leaves.” One came with legs but no eyes, the other with eyes but no legs. Each left with both.
Jesus made the temple beautiful again. In a stormy moment of restoration, Jesus ended the temple’s desecration, and replaced it with consecration. Whenever Jesus comes in power, blessing follows.
Matt. 21:15a When the chief priests and the scribes saw the
wonders that He did and the children in the temple complex
cheering, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”. . .
Jesus loved children. They liked Him and were His friends (18:2). He set a good example for us. Someone wisely said, be wary of the religion of any adult children don’t like. It behooves us to love children.
Barclay tells of a mother who, when she tucked her child into bed each night, silently asked herself, “My child, have I done well today?” Amen! The way adults treat children matters.
Two wonderful blessings marked the temple this amazing day: worship and healing. Honoring God and helping others are still a good combination for church gatherings. We come to honor Him; in a limited way we have an audience of One. In the honoring of Him, others are blessed, thereby giving us an audience of many.