Confronting the Den of Thieves: When Overturned Tables Make Way For Stones Cast Down

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters twenty and twenty-one of this New Testament book. “And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke 19:41-44). “And He went into the Temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. And He taught daily in the Temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy Him, and could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear Him” (Luke 19:45-48). WEEPING OVER THE CITY, CLEANSING THE TEMPLE! WHEN CLEANSING THE TEMPLE SETS UP A QUESTION OF AUTHORITY! WHEN CLEANSING THE TEMPLE OFFENDS THE RELIGIOUS AND THRUSTS THEM INTO A PLACE WHERE THE HYPOCRITES SEEK TO DESTROY THE MANIFEST PRESENCE OF THE LORD! Before delving into the words which are found in chapters twenty and twenty-one of this Old Testament book I find it absolutely remarkable how Jesus would enter into the Temple during those last days leading up to His betrayal, His condemnation unto death, His suffering, and ultimately His death, and upon entering into the Temple He would cast out those which bought and sold in the house. What’s more, is that not only would Jesus cast out those which bought and sold in the Temple, but so also would He overturn the tables of money, and drive out that which would have otherwise been sold within the courts of the Temple. It’s worth noting and pointing out that Jesus would enter into the Temple during those final days leading up to His betrayal, His condemnation, His suffering, and ultimately His death, and one of the first things He would do was cleanse the Temple from the commerce and merchandise which was found present therein.

            If there is one thing that so intrigues me about Jesus’ entering into the Temple and casting out those which bought and sold, and overturning the tables of money, and driving out that which would have been bought therein, is that He would choose this particular occasion, and this particular time to engage in this particular act. It’s quite interesting to read the four gospel narratives, for you will find all four gospel authors and writers would write and record the account of Jesus entering into the Temple and cleansing it from within, however, the synoptic authors and writers would place this event towards the end of Jesus’ public life and ministry prior to His suffering and death, while the apostle John would place it almost at the very beginning and outset of His public ministry. The question I can’t help but ask is whether or not there were two different times when Jesus would enter into the courts of the Temple and would not only cast out those who bought and sold, but also overturned the tables of money, and drove out that which was bought and sold. We know the apostle John writes and records this particular event at the very outset of the public life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and after Jesus and His disciples had come to a wedding where Jesus had turned water into wine. It would be in the second chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John that not only would Jesus turn water into wine when the wine had run out, but so also would Jesus enter into the Temple and overturn the tables of money. TURNING WATER INTO WINE AND OVERTURNING TABLES OF MONEY! It is something truly powerful to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for within the same chapter in the gospel narrative written by the apostle John—not only do we find Jesus turning water into wine that an entire wedding might taste and drink of the wine, but so also would Jesus overturn the tables of money, drive out those which bought and sold within the Temple, and cast out that which was bought and sold in the Temple that the house might be cleansed and purified.

            When I read the words which are found in the final verses of the nineteenth chapter I am confronted with the fact that not only would Jesus enter into the Temple and cleanse it of its commerce and merchandise, but Luke also records how during those days He would daily teach in the midst of the Temple. It is truly something worth looking at and examining, for when and as you read the words found in these verses you will find Jesus cleansing the Temple and declaring it to be a house of prayer, and then in the days following this cleansing He would teach daily in the midst thereof. One might almost get the strong sense and impression that before Jesus would teach in the Temple during those days He would first need to cleanse it and once more declare its purpose, its role and function in the midst of the earth—namely, that it might be a house of prayer unto and for all nations. I find it worth noting and pointing out that these events would take place after Jesus would enter into the city of Jerusalem riding on a colt as the inhabitants of the city would lay their garments down upon the ground before Him, as well as cutting down palm trees and strawing them along the way as they cried out, saying, “Hosanna.” What’s more, is that as you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will notice that as Jesus would approach and come near unto Jerusalem He would weep over it because it did not know, nor did it recognize the hour of its visitation. In verses forty-one through forty-four of this gospel narrative you will find Jesus saying and speaking over and unto the city of Jerusalem how they did not know and they did not recognize the things which belonged unto its peace. The beloved physician Luke writes and records how as Jesus drew near to and approached the city of Jerusalem He would weep over it because it did not know and it did not understand those things which belonged unto its peace. What’s more, is that Jesus would conclude this weeping over the city of Jerusalem by emphatically declaring concerning it that the people therein did not know the time of their visitation. Please don’t miss the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for not only did Jesus weep over Jerusalem because they did not know the things which belonged unto its peace, but neither did they know the time of their visitation. It would be this combination of not knowing those things which belonged unto their peace, and not knowing the time of their visitation that they would find themselves contending with the one true and living God.

            In the final verses of the nineteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke—not only will you find Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and declaring concerning it how there would not be one stone left upon another, but you will also find Jesus entering into the Temple which stood in the midst of the city and cleansing it of its commerce and merchandise. What’s more, is that as you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus speaking of days which would come unto and upon the city of Jerusalem, and how dark and dangerous days were ahead of this ancient city. This city which would be reduced to ruin, rubble, dust, stone and ashes during the days of the Babylonian army would once again find itself in the same exact place. WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE! THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME! IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN! The words which Jesus would speak over and concerning Jerusalem must needs be carefully read and carefully understood, for the words we find in this passage of Scripture not only show the city of Jerusalem approaching days in which it would be razed and leveled to the ground, but it is also within this passage we find the Temple of the living God being cleansed by Jesus as He would clean up shop and clean house. It would be during these days Jesus would weep over the city of Jerusalem because it did not know the time of its visitation, and it did not know the things which belonged unto its peace. Jesus would speak concerning the city that the days were coming when its enemies would cast a trench round about it, would compass them round about, and would hedge them in on every side. Not only this, but Jesus would also declare concerning the city of Jerusalem that its enemies would lay it to the ground, and its children within it, and would not leave in it one stone upon another. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this reality and truth, for what we find here in this passage of Scripture is a powerful declaration of dark and dangerous days which were coming upon Jerusalem because it did not recognize, nor did it understand the hour and time of its visitation. Jerusalem did not and would not recognize the hour in which it was living, and it would not recognize, nor would it honor the Messiah who would enter into the midst of it through its gates.

            The more I read and consider the words in these final verses of the nineteenth chapter the more I am brought face to face with two distinct actions which Jesus would take in the initial days leading up to His betrayal, in the days leading up to His suffering, and in the days leading up to His death. Luke writes and records how when Jesus was come near unto the city of Jerusalem He would behold the city and would weep over it. It would be in the midst of that weeping Jesus would make three powerful and emphatic declarations concerning the city—namely, that it did not know the things which belonged unto its peace, that it did not know the time of its visitation, and that days were coming when its enemies would lay siege to and surround it that they might overthrow and destroy it. It’s worth noting and pointing out when reading these verses and chapters that Jesus would speak of days coming when enemies would surround and lay siege to Jerusalem that they might destroy it, and then in the very next section we find Jesus entering into the Temple where He would cleanse and purify it. Oh, I would dare say that Jesus’ entering into the Temple was in and of itself a sign and a portent of something greater that would come upon it during those days. What’s more, is that it’s quite telling and revealing to read Jesus’ words concerning the Temple and how it was to be a house of prayer unto all nations, and yet when the city of Jerusalem would be overthrown and destroyed, so also would the Temple. The Temple which was to be a house of prayer unto all the nations of the earth would itself be overtaken, overthrown, and its buildings and its stones cast down. When the enemies laid siege to the city of Jerusalem, and when the enemy sought to destroy the city of Jerusalem, they would not leave the Temple of the LORD untouched and unscathed. When the enemy would come to the walls and gates of the city of Jerusalem it would ultimately enter into the midst of the city, and once in the city it would carry out that which the Babylonians had done centuries earlier in the fifth century before the coming and manifestation of Jesus the Christ. It would be in the fifth century B.C. the Babylonians would surround and lay siege to the city of Jerusalem, would cast siegeworks against it, and would ultimately create a breach in the wall of the city which would allow them to march straight up into the midst of the city. It would be the Babylonians who would first surround and lay siege to the city of Jerusalem, and it would be the Babylonians who would first lay waste to this ancient city of David which would be the place of the throne of David, as well as the place of the Temple of Solomon.

            In the final verses of the nineteenth chapter we find Jesus drawing near to and approaching the city of Jerusalem, and as He drew near to the city He would weep over it—not only because Jerusalem did not know the hour of its visitation, and not only because Jerusalem did not know the things which belonged unto its peace, but also because He knew the days were coming when its enemies would surround it round about with siegeworks and ramparts and battle weapons that they might overtake, overthrow and destroy it. Jesus would weep over the city of Jerusalem because He knew that it had missed the hour and time of its visitation, and He knew that they did not know, nor did they understand the things which pertained to its peace. Jesus knew there were days which would come upon the city when it would be surrounded on all sides and hedged in by enemies before the enemy would ultimately break through the walls and gates of the city and would lay it all to waste within the earth. Jesus knew and understood that there were days ahead which would be incredibly difficult and trying for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and He knew that those who were wise, those who were discerning, those who understood, and those who heeded His words would flee the city and would escape to the surrounding towns, the surrounding cities, the surrounding villages, and even the surrounding nations and lands. The words which Jesus spoke at this time would serve as a powerful warning of the days which were ahead for the city of Jerusalem as enemies would march up against it, as enemies would surround it round about, and as enemies would lay siege to it. Jesus knew and understood that there were days ahead for the city of Jerusalem in which all the buildings together with the walls would be cast down upon each other as the city would itself lie in a tremendous pile of ruin, rubble, dust, dirt and ashes. What’s more, is that Jesus knew the Temple itself would be cast down and burned to the ground with fire, and that not even the Temple would remain untouched and unscathed. Jesus knew that the Temple of the LORD would itself be reduced to a pile of ruin and rubble there in the midst of the land—a reality which is actually quite astonishing when you think about the fact that Jesus would enter into the Temple and not only cleanse it, but would also proceed to teach within its courts.

            As you continue reading in the final verses of the nineteenth chapter you will find Jesus entering into the Temple and beginning to cast out those which sold therein, and those which bought. The question I can’t help but ask myself and wonder is how many times Jesus would enter into and come to the Temple and behold the commerce and merchandise that would take place in the midst thereof. How many times had Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem and looked upon and beheld the great atrocities which were being committed within the courts of the Lord’s house? It would be during the days leading up to His suffering and crucifixion Jesus would choose to enter into the Temple—and not only enter into the Temple, but before He would daily teach in the midst therein He would first cleanse the Temple of all those who bought and sold therein. It is something worth noting and pointing out when reading these words that Jesus would begin His time in the city of Jerusalem weeping over it as He entered it—and not only weeping over the city, but also entering into the Temple and cleansing it of that which men had turned and transformed it into. It would be during those days the Temple would be turned and transformed into a house of commerce and a house of merchandise rather than a house of prayer, and before Jesus would teach in the midst therein He would first cleanse the Temple of that which was an affront and an offense to the living and eternal God. Jesus would enter into the Temple, and before He would begin teaching day in and day out in the midst therein He would first cleanse the Temple and prepare and make it ready for the words which would be proclaimed in the midst therein. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Jesus cleansed the Temple—not only would He cleanse the Temple to prepare and make it ready for the words which would be prophesied and proclaimed therein, but He would also cleanse the Temple to prepare and make it ready for the days ahead when the city of Jerusalem would be given over into the hands of its enemies, and the Temple would be overthrown, cast down and destroyed therein. Jesus would cleanse the Temple as a sign and as a portent of that which was to come in the das ahead, for enemies would once more return to the gates, and enemies would once more return to the walls, and enemies would once more return to the courts of the Temple of the LORD.

            The final verses of the nineteenth chapter show a clear and present contrast of opinions and views concerning Jesus which were present during those days. If you begin reading with and from the forty-seventh verse of this chapter you will find Jesus daily teaching in the Temple, but how the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy Him. Jesus had entered into the Temple of the LORD and had exercised a certain degree and measure of authority in the midst of it, and it was this demonstration and exercising of authority that so infuriated the chief priests, the scribes, and the chief of the people. We must needs pay close attention to what is taking place here, for what took place is something that has taken place within and throughout the centuries and generations since—even within our generation and days in which we are living. As you read the words written and recorded within the final verses of the nineteenth chapter you will find the chief priests, the scribes and the chief of the people seeking to destroy Jesus, while in the opening verses of the twentieth chapter you will find that as Jesus taught in the Temple of the LORD and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon Him with the elders. It would be as the religious system and community during those days came upon Jesus in the midst of the Temple that they would ask and confront Him concerning the authority He would dare perform such things among them in their midst and within the Temple. What I find to be so absolutely challenging when reading these words is that in the final verses of the nineteenth chapter we find the chief priests, the scribes, and the chief of the people seeking to destroy Jesus, while in the opening verses of the twentieth chapter we find the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel coming upon Jesus with and for one very specific purpose. Please do not miss and lose sight of what took place within this passage of Scripture, for at the end of the nineteenth chapter we find the religious system and community seeking to destroy Jesus, while in the opening verses of the twentieth chapter we find some of—if not all of those same individuals once more coming unto Jesus. Not only this, but Scripture doesn’t record how the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel came unto Jesus, but rather that they came upon Him, thus suggesting and denoting a certain degree and measure of malice, a certain degree and measure of anger and rage toward and against Jesus.

            ANGER AT AUTHORITY! ANGER OVER AUTHORITY! ANGER WHEN THE LORD EXERCISES AUTHORITY OVER HIS HOUSE! ANGER WHEN THE LORD EXERCISES AUTHORITY OVER HIS HOUSE! ANGER WHEN THE LORD EXERCISES AUTHORITY OVER THE HOUSE OF HIS FATHER! What I find to be worth noting and pointing out when reading these words is when you think about and consider how Jesus would enter into the Temple and would exercise dominion and authority over the Temple and everything that would take place within. It would be this demonstration of authority and this demonstration of dominion that so angered and infuriated the scribes, the chief priests, the elders, and the chief of the people. It would be this demonstration and manifestation of the authority of Jesus within the Temple that would anger and infuriate the religious community and system during those days, for they firmly believed that He had absolutely no right, nor any authority to perform such things. What’s more, is that as you read the Scripture you will find that not only did Jesus enter into the Temple and cleanse it by driving and casting out those who bought and sold therein, but Jesus would also declare that the Temple was to be a house of prayer. Jesus wouldn’t merely enter into the Temple and exercise dominion and authority over that which took place in the midst therein, but Jesus would enter into the Temple and emphatically declare that it was to be a house of prayer. Moreover, Jesus would enter into the Temple and declare it to be His Father’s house, and even to be His house. We know that the words which Jesus would quote and declare at this particular time would not only be words which the prophet Isaiah prophesied and declared in days past, but so also were they words which the prophet Jeremiah would prophesy in days past. Not only this, but Scripture even makes reference to and alludes to this fact, for Luke records how Jesus would declare and say unto them, “It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.” In order to truly understand the tremendous significance of this declaration I am absolutely convinced we must needs consider the words which were prophesied and spoken by the ancient Hebrew prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, as their words help us understand the purpose for this demonstration of authority and dominion over the Temple:

            “Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: For my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil. Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from His people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The LORD God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him” (Isaiah 56:1-8).

            “The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Stand in the gate of the LORD”s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD. But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the LORD< and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. Do they provoke me to anger? Saith the LORD: Do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces? Therefore thus saith the LORD God; Behold, mind anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burnt, and shall not be quenched” (Jeremiah 7:1-20).

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which Jesus spoke in the midst of the Temple—and not only the words which He spoke in the midst of the Temple, but also the actions He committed and performed in the midst thereof—and I can’t help but get the strong sense within my heart and spirit that in addition to exercising dominion and authority over the Temple as the house of prayer, Jesus would also quote the words of the prophet Jeremiah as a sign, as an indictment, and as a portent of that which was to come. When the prophet Jeremiah spoke of how the Temple of the LORD had become a den of thieves he would go on to declare how the LORD would do unto that house what He had done to His house which was at Shiloh. Jeremiah was instructed of the LORD to stand in the court of the Temple of the LORD, and there in the court of the Temple of the LORD he would faithfully proclaim unto all those who came unto the house to worship that the house had become a den of thieves, and that because of their wickedness and because of their abomination the LORD would not only do unto that house what He had done to His house which was in Shiloh, but so also would the LORD overthrow and cast down that sanctuary. When we read of Jesus quoting these words which the prophet Jeremiah had spoken during his generation we are actually witnessing Jesus doing more than making a declaration concerning the Temple of the LORD being transformed into a den of thieves. What we are witnessing and beholding during these days and during these times was Jesus making a declaration and proclamation that would not only link those days to the days of Jeremiah, but also linking the Temple of the LORD which stood in that generation to the Temple of the LORD which would stand in the generation in which Jeremiah prophesied. Jesus’ words would directly link the two generations together, as both generations would essentially be last days and end times generations. The days and generation in which Jeremiah prophesied would indeed be last days leading up to judgment and wrath, while the days and generation of Jesus, the apostles and the early Church would also be last days leading up to the judgment and wrath of the LORD. When Jesus referenced the Temple of the LORD being a den of thieves and quoting from the same passage of Scripture in which Jeremiah would prophesy judgment and wrath upon the Temple of the LORD, He would actually be linking the two Temples together, and would declare that these Temples would essentially face and share the same destiny and fate.

            THE INTRINSIC LINK BETWEEN TWO TEMPLES! THE CONNECTION BETWEEN TWO GENERATIONS OF WRATH AND JUDGMENT! There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find and what we behold in the midst of the Temple during these days is not only Jesus exercising dominion and authority over the Temple by cleansing it, but also prophetically speaking over it a similar judgment and wrath which had come upon the Temple during the days of Jeremiah the ancient Hebrew prophet of Judah. By cleansing the Temple during those days, and by quoting the words which the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah had prophesied during his generation, Jesus would not only link the two Temples together in their plight and their fate, but Jesus would also prophesy and foreshadow a judgment, a devastation and a destruction that would come upon the Temple of the LORD which stood in the midst of Jerusalem. By using the words which Jeremiah the prophet had prophesied and proclaimed during his days and generation Jesus would issue a dire warning during those days concerning that which was coming ahead—a reality which was seen and manifested in the words He would proclaim over the city as He wept upon drawing near to it. It would be in the previous verses we find Jesus declaring concerning the Temple, as well as the city of Jerusalem that the days were coming when enemies would cast a trench about them, when enemies would compass them round about, and would keep them in on every side. Not only this, but Jesus would also declare how the enemies would lay both the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of the LORD to the ground, and would not leave one stone upon another—a same and similar reality and manifestation which would take place during the days of Jeremiah. Jeremiah would prophesy concerning the city of Jerusalem—and not only concerning the city of Jerusalem, but also concerning the Temple of the LORD—that a great judgment and wrath of the LORD would come upon them in the days which were ahead. Oh we must needs recognize and understand this absolutely astounding and remarkable truth, for it is this truth which helps us to understand that which is found during the days in which Jesus taught in the midst of Jerusalem.

            While it is indeed and while it is in fact true that the words Jesus used and quoted during those days directly linked the two generations together—and not only the two generations, but also the two Temples of the LORD together—there would be something else that would link the two generations and the two houses together. If and as you read the words which are found in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of the gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke you will find that at the end of the nineteenth chapter the scribes, the chief priests, and the chief of the people sought to destroy Jesus, and how they could not find what they might do, for all the people were very attentive to hear the words which Jesus spoke. In the opening verses of the twentieth chapter we find the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel coming upon Jesus as He taught in the Temple—and not only coming upon Him, but also demanding of Him by what authority He would perform such actions in the midst of the Temple. When the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel came upon Jesus they did so being absolutely infuriated, enraged, angered and outraged at His actions within the Temple. The chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel did not and could not understand how or why Jesus would and could perform such actions in the midst of the Temple, and they came upon Him demanding to know by what authority He performed such things. Oh we must needs recognize and pay close attention to this, for it brings us face to face with the response of the people during the days of Jeremiah. If and as you read the words which are found in the prophetic book of Jeremiah you will find that the people during those days—and not only the people during those days, but also the prophets, the priests and the princes—came unto and came upon Jeremiah that they might put him to death. If and as you read the words which are written and recorded in the twenty-sixth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah you will find this prophet once more standing in the midst of the court of the Temple and proclaiming a similar message to which he had prophesied during the days of Josiah king of Judah. It would be the days and times which were represented in the twenty-sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah—the days of Jehoiakim king of Judah—the people of Jerusalem would rise up against Jeremiah and even seek to kill him because of the words he prophesied and proclaimed concerning the Temple of the LORD. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the twenty-sixth chapter beginning to read with and from the opening verse of the chapter:

            ”In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the LORD, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’s house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word: IF so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings. And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, to hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened; then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth. SO THE PRIESTS AND THE PROPHETS AND ALL THE PEOPLE HEARD JEREMIAH SPEAKING THESE WORDS IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD. NOW IT CAME TO PASS, WHEN JEREMIAH HAD MADE AN END OF SPEAKING ALL THAT THE LORD HAD COMMANDED HIM TO SPEAK UNTO ALL THE PEOPLE, THAT THE PRIESTS AND THE PROPHETS AND ALL THE PEOPLE TOOK HIM, SAYING, THOU SHALT SURELY DIE. WHY HAST THOU PROPHESIED IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, SAYING, THIS HOUSE SHALL BE LIKE SHILOH, AND THIS CITY SHALL BE DESOLATE WITHOUT AN INHABITANT? AND ALL THE PEOPLE WERE GATHERED AGAINST JEREMIAH IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD. WHEN THE PRINCES OF JUDAH HEARD THESE THINGS, THEN THEY CAME UP FROM THE KING’S HOUSE UNTO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD, AND SAT DOWN IN THE ENTRY OF THE NEW GATE OF THE LORD’ SHOUSE. THEN SPAKE THE PRIESTS AND THE PROPHETS UNTO THE PRINCES AND TO ALL THE PEOPLE, SAYING, THIS MAN IS WORTHY TO DIE; FOR HE HATH PROPHESIED AGAINST THIS CITY, AS YE HAVE HEARD WITH YOUR EARS. Then spake Jeremiah uno all the princes and to all the people, saying, The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard. Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent Him of the evil that He hath pronounced against you. As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you. But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears. Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God. Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying, Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a fest. Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? Did he not fear the LORD, and besought the LORD, and the LORD repented him of the evil which He had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls” (Jeremiah 26:1-19).

            It is necessary to pay close attention to the words which are found in the twenty-sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah, for this would be the second time the prophet Jeremiah would be instructed to stand in the court of the LORD’s house. Not only was the prophet Jeremiah instructed to stand in the court of the house of the LORD, but he was also instructed to proclaim a similar word and a similar message to that which he prophesied and proclaimed during the days of Josiah king of Judah. What’s more, is that here were find Jeremiah during the days of a new king, and yet he was still instructed of the LORD to once more stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and to faithfully proclaim the word of the LORD concerning the house, as well as the city of Jerusalem. We must needs pay close attention to this, for what we find in this chapter is not merely Jeremiah standing in the court of the LORD’s house, but the priests, the prophets and the people alike raising themselves up against Jeremiah seeking to put him to death. The priests, the prophets and the people were greatly offended with the prophetic declaration and proclamation Jeremiah would issue during those days, and as a direct result of this they would seek to put him to death. Oh that we would recognize and consider this, for it seems and appears that just as Jeremiah himself would stand in the court of the house of the LORD twice—first during and within the days of Josiah king of Judah, and second during the days of Jehoiakim king of Judah—so also do the gospels seem to paint a powerful picture of Jesus Himself entering into the court of the LORD’s house—and not only entering into the LORD”s house, but twice cleansing the Temple. There seems to be a powerful evidence within the gospel narratives that Jesus would have entered into the Temple of the LORD and brought cleansing to it on two separate occasions—the first which was found and presented in the gospel narratives written by the apostle Matthew, John Mark and the physician Luke, and the second written and found in the gospel written by the apostle John. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the second chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John concerning Jesus in the Temple of the LORD:

            “After this He went down to Capernaum, He, and His mother, and His brethren, and His disciples: and they continued there not many days. And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the Temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when he had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the Temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them, that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house and house of merchandise. And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:12-17).

            BY WHAT AUTHORITY DO YE THESE THINGS? WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO DO SUCH THINGS WITHIN THE HOUSE? WHAT AUTHORITY DO YOU HAVE TO COME INTO THE TEMPLE AND ENGAGE IN SUCH BEHAVIOR? WHEN RELIGION IS OFFENDED AT THE AUTHORITY OF THE LORD IN HIS HOUSE! THE HOUSE DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU! THE HOUSE BELONGS TO THE FATHER! THE HOUSE BELONGS TO THE LORD! As I sit here this morning I can’t help but think about the tremendous fact that the scribes, the chief priests and the elders of Israel took great offense and great issue with Jesus entering into the Temple and overturning the tables of money, casting out those which bought and sold, and driving out that which had been bought and sold therein. In all reality, that which the scribes, the chief priests and the elders of Israel took great offense with was Jesus exercising dominion and authority over the Temple, as His actions denoted and suggested that He was someone who somehow had full authority, full right, and full dominion over the Temple and that which took place in the courts thereof. The question we must ask ourselves is how we respond when Jesus shows up within our church buildings, and within our assembles and begins to exercise His dominion and His authority. How do we react and how do we respond when Jesus shows up within our churches and within our gatherings and begins to exercise dominion and authority over what takes place within it? The scribes, the chief priests and the elders of Israel took such great offense with Jesus’ actions because His actions demonstrated that He was in charge and that He had authority over what would and what could take place in the midst of the house of the LORD. Jesus’ entrance into the Temple, and His overturning of the tables of money, and His driving out those which bought and sold was a powerful demonstration of an authority that was found within Himself—an authority that enabled Him to bring cleansing in the midst of the Temple. It was this very authority which the scribes, the chief priests and the elders of Israel had such a difficult time with, for in the opening verses of the twentieth chapter we find them coming upon Jesus as He taught in the midst of the Temple asking Him by what authority He performed such actions. Oh, I would dare say that when the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the people of Israel came upon Jesus in the Temple, they came upon Him with such anger, with such great malice, and with such great rage and fury within their souls, and demanded Jesus give them an answer as to what authority he performed such things.

            WHAT SIGN SHEWEST THOU UNTO US, SEEING THAT THOU DOEST THESE THINGS? TELL US, BY WHAT AUTHORITY DOEST THOU THESE THINGS? OR WHO IS HE THAT GAVE THEE THIS AUTHORITY? Please don’t miss the words which are found in these passages of Scripture, for in the gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find the chief priests and the religious community of that day asking Jesus what sign He would and could show and demonstrate unto them that He had the right to engage in such actions in the midst of the house of the LORD. In the gospel narratives written by the synoptic authors we find the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel asking Jesus by what authority did He perform such things, and who was it who gave Him that authority. WHAT SIGN AND BY WHAT AUTHORITY! Listen closely to that which the scribes, the chief priests and the elders of Israel were speaking unto Jesus the Christ, for not only were they questioning His actions which were being performed in the midst of the sanctuary and house of the LORD, but their questions were based on signs and authority. The scribes, the chief priests and the elders of Israel had an incredibly difficult time with the actions of Jesus, for they perceived Him as not being one who had the authority, nor as the one who had the right to engage in such actions and behavior in the midst of the Temple. The chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel essentially wanted Jesus to prove to them how He could and why He would enter into the Temple of the LORD and engage in such actions and behavior. The chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel did not believe that Jesus had any authority and any right to enter into the Temple and act the way He acted. In the hearts and minds of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel they did not believe that Jesus had any authority, nor any right within, over and upon the Temple of the LORD, and because of these thoughts they demanded of Jesus that He reveal unto them what actually enabled Him to do so. It’s important to note that this question was asked because they did not, would not and could not recognize the authority that was given unto and placed upon Jesus. What’s more, is that if you have to question authority you are ultimately demonstrating the issue and offense you have with authority. The scribes, the chief priests and the elders of Israel did not recognize Jesus as having any authority—especially not the type of authority that would allow and afford Him the ability to exercise such dominion and authority within, over and upon the house of the LORD.

            Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves as we read the words found in the gospel narrative of Luke is how we react when Jesus not only shows up in the house, but also begins exercising dominion and authority within the house. What do you do and how do we respond when Jesus enters into our houses of worship and our assemblies and does not immediately or initially say anything, but simply begins to overturn tables, and drive out that which has no place within the house? Do we take great issue and do we take great offense with Jesus showing up in the house—and not only showing up in the house, and not only exercising dominion and authority over and within the house, but also referencing the house as belonging to both He and the Father? There is not a doubt in my mind that there are a number of houses of worship, and a number of churches that have great need for Jesus to enter into—and not merely enter into the midst thereof, but also begin to exercise dominion and authority. With this being said it’s important for us to recognize and understand that the only reason we would take any issue and have any offense with this type of action in our midst is if we first and foremost have an issue with Jesus Himself. Please note and please understand that if you have issue and you have offense with Jesus Himself you will most certainly have issue and take offense with the authority He sets out to exercise within the house and in our midst. Those who respect, those who honor, those who glorify, and those who magnify Jesus as both Christ and Lord can and will allow Him to show up in our midst and do anything and everything He wants and desires. Those who take issue and who have offense with Jesus’ actions in the midst of the house of worship are those who have issue with Jesus Himself as a person and as the second person in the trinity. We do not and will not ask Jesus by what authority He does those things He does in our midst when we respect and honor Him for who He is as the eternal Son of God. The trouble the scribes, the chief priests and the elders of Israel had with Jesus was not merely a question around the authority He claimed to possess, but with Him as who He claimed to be. The trouble the religious system had was with the authority and identity of Jesus, and it was this offense with authority and identity that caused them to seek out means to destroy Him.

            I sit here today thinking about this narrative within the public life and ministry of Jesus the Christ and I am finding myself encountering the truth of how we would respond if Jesus the Christ and Lord suddenly and without warning or advanced notice showed up in our midst and began overturning tables and casting out that which was an affront and an offense in the sight and presence of the Father in heaven. What would we do and how would we react to Jesus if He showed up among us in our midst and began to make the declaration that the house of worship we gather in is to be a house of worship, and yet we have made it a den of thieves and a den of robbers? How would we react if Jesus showed up in the midst of our sanctuaries and in the midst of our services and began exercising His authority, His agenda, His dominion, His purposes, His power and His plans among us in our midst? Would we embrace this authority with open arms and with hearts that were wide open and laid bare before Him, or would we immediately question His authority and demand Him show and demonstrate unto us what gives him the right and the ability to come into our sanctuary, and into our house, and into our midst overturning tables, casting and driving out what does not belong there, and then demanding the house be restored as a house of prayer? The question we need to ask ourselves in the sight and presence of the living God is whether or not we believe that Jesus truly does have authority, dominion, power, and even the right to enter into the midst of our sanctuaries and into the midst of our services and immediately start exercising authority over everything that does not belong in the midst thereof. One of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves when we enter into the house is whose house is it anyway. There is a great need to enter into the house and ask ourselves who does the house truly belong to, for how we answer this question can and will determine how we act within the house, and how we respond when Jesus shows up. It’s worth noting and pointing out that Jesus emphatically declared of the house that it was His Father’s house, thus removing any doubt and uncertainty whose house it truly was. This declaration made by Jesus concerning the Temple being His Father’s house demonstrated the strong and powerful reality that the house did not belong to any man, but that the house belonged to the one true God. Because the house belonged to the Father which was in heaven it was His will, His plan, His purpose, His agenda, and His desire that would be fulfilled and accomplished within the house.

            I have to admit that the more I read and consider the words found in these passages of Scripture the more I can’t help but see a powerful connection and link between the days of Jesus when He entered the Temple of the LORD and cleansed it, and the days in which Jeremiah walked the earth when he would stand in the court of the LORD and prophesy the word of the LORD concerning the Temple. As Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, and as Jesus would speak over the city, He would declare concerning the city and the Temple that there would not be one stone that would be left upon another, and that every stone would be cast down upon the other. Jesus saw days coming when the enemy would march and advance against the city of Jerusalem and that the Temple of the LORD would not go untouched and unscathed by the judgment and wrath of the LORD. Jesus saw a time coming when enemies would surround the city of Jerusalem and would be outside the walls and the gates laying siege to the city that it might overthrow and destroy it. The prophet Jeremiah saw a similar day coming during his generation, for not only would he prophesy concerning enemies surrounding, laying siege against, and marching upon the city, but so also would Jeremiah see the days coming when the LORD would do unto the Temple and unto the house of the LORD what He had done to the house in Shiloh. Of course we know that enemies would not invade the house of the LORD in Shiloh, but we do know that the LORD would remove the symbol of His glory and His presence from that house as a sign of judgment and wrath against and upon it. It would be the removal of the symbol of the glory and presence of the LORD that would be the ultimate portent of the judgment and destruction that would come upon and befall that house. During the days of Jeremiah he prophesied a similar fate to the Temple of the LORD, as he saw a day coming when the enemy would march into, against and upon the city of Jerusalem, and would cast fire into the sanctuary. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Jesus quoted the words of Jeremiah there in the court of the Temple He was prophesying and proclaiming a fate over that house similar to the fate of the previous Temple which would stand in the midst of Jerusalem.

            There is a great and powerful need to pay close attention—not only to the actions of Jesus within the court of the Temple of the LORD during those days, but also the words He proclaimed, for His actions would speak and accomplish one thing, while His words would accomplish something entirely and vastly different. The actions of Jesus would cleanse the Temple of that which would defile, pollute and corrupt it, but it would be His words that would actually set in motion the events which would bring about the destruction of the Temple of the LORD. It would be the words which Jesus spoke—words that were not His own, but words which had been prophesied and proclaimed generations earlier during the days of Jeremiah—that would actually seal the fate and destruction of the Temple of the LORD, for when Jesus used the words of the prophet Jeremiah He would emphatically declare and proclaim concerning the Temple that it would suffer the same fate, the same destruction, the same devastation, and the same judgment that had been poured out upon the Temple of Solomon which had previously stood in the city of Jerusalem and upon the Temple Mount. Jesus’ words would accomplish something much greater than His actions would, for if the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel only knew what His words would actually mean for the Temple of the LORD. The one thing I find so absolutely captivating when reading the words written and recorded in these verses is that Jesus’ actions within the Temple demonstrated His authority over and in the midst of all those who were present therein, as well as His authority over the Temple and house itself. Jesus’ actions would demonstrate His authority over the Temple and over the sanctuary of the living God, however, His words would not necessarily demonstrate authority as much as they would demonstrate something far greater—something which I am absolutely convinced very few understood and picked up on. It was the words which Jesus spoke that not only linked the Temple which stood during those days to the Temple which stood in the days of Jeremiah, but would also be a portent of judgment and wrath that would come upon the city as surely and as certainty as it came during the days of Jeremiah. When Jesus referenced the house being made a den of thieves that which He was doing was emphatically declaring that the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD would experience the same fate as the Temple and sanctuary which stood in the midst of the city centuries earlier. Roughly six centuries earlier there would be another Temple which would stand upon the Temple Mount there in the city of Jerusalem, and that Temple would itself be razed to the ground and reduced to a pile of ruin, rubble, dust, stone and ashes.

            As I sit here today I can’t help but think about the authority Jesus exercised over the Temple and over everything which took place therein, while also at the same time thinking about the words Jesus spoke and how those words would wonderfully and powerfully speak to something very few truly understood and realized during those days. The words which Jesus spoke concerning the house being a house of prayer was an indictment concerning what the house had become during those days, and how it was no longer fulfilling and serving its role and function in the midst of the earth. Not only this, but Jesus’ words concerning the Temple becoming a den of thieves would link that Temple to the Temple which stood centuries earlier during the days of Jeremiah. Not only this, but just as Jeremiah would stand in the court of the house of the LORD—not once, but twice—so also would Jesus stand in the court of the house of the LORD. The one fundamental difference between the days of Jeremiah and the days of Jesus was that although Jeremiah would indeed prophesy judgment, wrath, devastation and destruction upon the Temple and house of the LORD, he would never enter into the court and begin driving out those who were present therein. You will never read in the prophetic book of Jeremiah how he fashioned a cord and with it drove out those who bought and sold in the Temple. Jeremiah would indeed prophesy the word of the LORD concerning the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD, however, he would never exercise dominion and authority over it as Jesus the Christ did. It would be Jesus the Christ who would enter into the court of the house of the LORD and would not only overturn tables, and not only drive out those who bought and sold, but He would also drive and cast out that which was sold and bought therein. Jesus’ actions would be a powerful demonstration of authority and dominion within the court of the house of the LORD, and His authority over the Temple and sanctuary, yet it would be His words that would actually accomplish something much more severe and much more tragic. We know from Scripture that the scribes, the chief priests and the elders of Israel sought to destroy Jesus after He had engaged in actions in the midst of the sanctuary, however, I am absolutely and completely convinced that His words carried a far greater message and far greater and graver implications than His actions actually did. In fact, I would dare say that the actions of Jesus were essentially a precursor to the words He would speak and proclaim in the midst of the house of the LORD, for His actions would be a sign and portent that the words He spoke would essentially and effectively set in motion events which would cause the Temple of the LORD to be reduced to a pile of ruin, rubble and ashes.

As I bring this writing to a close I feel it is absolutely necessary that we not only pay close attention to the words which Jesus spoke in the court of the house of the LORD, but also His actions. I am absolutely and completely convinced that His words are just as strong and just as powerful as His actions were—if not more powerful and more striking, alarming and severe. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of that which took place on this particular occasion, for not only did the religious system and community seek to destroy Jesus, but so also would the religious system question His authority. We must needs pay close and careful attention to this, for it brings us face to face with the absolutely incredible reality of how we can and how we will respond when Jesus shows up in the midst of our sanctuaries, in the midst of our houses of worship, and in the midst of our assemblies and congregations and starts exercising His authority in our midst and over our service and the house we think belongs to us. There is something truly powerful and captivating about a Jesus who shows up and not only immediately begins exercising His dominion and authority over the sanctuary and house of the LORD, but also begins to speak in the midst of it. Not only this, but we read these narratives and accounts and think that the actions of Jesus were the greater of the two events which took place in the house of the LORD on this day. The truth of the matter, however, is that it wasn’t the actions of Jesus which carried the most weight and significance on this particular day, but rather His words which carried the full weight and significance of His presence in the Temple. It would be His words that would directly link that Temple to the previous Temple which stood during the days of Jeremiah, and it would be His words that would mark that Temple for judgment, for wrath, for devastation and for destruction. Oh that we would truly recognize and understand this, and that we would allow ourselves to come face to face with Jesus’ presence in the house, for when He shows up—not only should He be given free reign to exercise dominion and authority over the sanctuary, but so also do and so also will His words set in motion that which can and will either make or break the sanctuary and house of worship. OH that we would ask ourselves whether or not we are truly willing to give Jesus full and complete control within our sanctuaries, and are willing to truly allow Him to exercise His dominion and authority in our midst without responding as the Pharisees did—not only questioning His authority, but also seeking to destroy Him.

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