WRITTEN BY JASON CHENOWETH
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant... Matthew 21:12-15
Reading these verses, we’re taken to the temple in Jerusalem during Jesus' last week. He drives vendors out of the temple, flips tables, and braids a whip (we’re told elsewhere) to drive home His point. Quoting Isaiah 56 and Jeremiah 7, He describes the temple as a “house of prayer” filled with thieves.
What is Jesus driving at? Why the whip, flipping tables, causing a HUGE scene, and quoting these verses? The people had got the whole “church” thing wrong. They’d built a place where people with money could buy their forgiveness with expensive sacrifices. The poor and the outcast were excluded. Church had become a place where they could do a certain set of actions and leave feeling good about themselves. Jesus called them “robbers”. They came for themselves, excluding everyone who wasn’t like them. It was meant to be a place where everyone, no matter how different, could come together, and meet with God, on His terms, in humility before Him, with His good as the focus.
They had turned the church upside down from God’s plan. Jesus flipped it back over.
How does this impact us? We’ll naturally drift towards becoming a community of robbers. We have a tendency to forget what our life of faith is all about, and it becomes about us. We pray for comfortable lives, we go to church to “get something out of it”, and we view the world as “us and them”. It’s a natural drift downward. Prayer is meant to stop the drift, and re-orient us upward. In prayer, we need to pray for God’s will to be done in us, for His kingdom to come in our world, and for Him to lead us. We give away our comfort, knowing His plans are far better than ours.
As you pray, know that our lives are meant to be “houses of prayer” where people very different than us, who make us uncomfortable, are meant to find a place to belong. Often we think our church buildings are supposed to be a “house of prayer.” But the Bible is clear that as Christians, there is no holy building anymore. That went away with the temple being torn down. You and I are the temples now. We are the “house of prayer” for all nations. As we pray individually, and with others, it is meant to be with our hearts open to them and to His leading.
Some things to pray about:
- Who are the “outsiders” in your life that you avoid? Ask God to put them on your heart and mind. Don’t fight Him, but just listen.
- Why are they “outsiders”? What qualifications do they not meet? How does God feel about that?
- What is your ultimate goal in prayer today? Comfort or obedience? Talk to God about whichever it is.
- Pray for your “outsiders”. Pray for huge blessings in their life. Pray that God would open your heart, and help you be a welcoming “house of prayer” for other people.