Cleansing Sacred Space
And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
Since January, the world has experienced unprecedented separation. Social distancing and stay at home restrictions, businesses closed, family and friends are unable to gather. Being separated from those whom we love, and care about can be extraordinarily painful and stressful, frustrating. This is not the way we were designed to exist. God created humanity for community, for relationship; not only with one another, but specifically to be in community with Himself.
In Genesis, in the Garden, we see God and humanity enjoying perfect relationship. But Adam and Eve were deceived, and their rebellion brought death and separation to their relationship with God and with each other and death to eternal life. As bad as this Coronavirus is, it’s nothing compared to the spiritual virus that every human is infected with - sin - a rebellious nature against God. Sin creates the ultimate social distancing from God.
We’re all infected with it. Everyone experiences its symptoms and devastating effects - brokenness, pain, suffering, injustice, disease, war, wickedness, and so on. All are infected, all have sinned, all have rebelled, and all received the consequences of our sin, which ultimately is death - spiritual, relational, eternal distance from our Creator.
So what do we do about this spiritual distancing from God? In short, there is nothing you can do. It is a spiritual problem that requires a spiritual solution. The cure to this virus is not found in a lab, it’s not found in our own efforts. The cure is not found in the works or wisdom of humanity. The cure is a person - the person who bridged the distance between God and humanity. We know Him as Jesus of Nazareth - fully God, fully human - He is Yahweh in the flesh.
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
How did God cure this virus? Bridge this spiritual distance between God and man? Well, being that today is Palm Sunday, let’s begin there. Let’s look at Mark 11.
After riding in on a donkey and people shouting Hosanna,
And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
It’s my opinion that Jesus wanted His disciples to have a good look around, to see the disgrace and pollution in the Temple because He had a lesson for them.
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Jesus does not act arbitrarily. There’s a purpose here, which I believe is very symbolic and it serves as a teaching moment for His disciples. In short, the barren fig tree represented the spiritual emptiness of the Temple and of the religious leaders. The Temple should have been a sacred space of nourishment for the soul, a place where God communed with His people. Instead, it had become a market - we’ll see that in a moment.
So, there was a sense of spiritual emptiness or distance. There are consequences of spiritual emptiness. Without a genuine relationship with our Creator (Yahweh), we are spiritually dead. (This virus - dead in our sins).
So, Jesus and His disciples continued on into Jerusalem. Now we come to what is known as the cleansing of the temple - possibly the second cleansing when considering John’s account. This is where everyone’s like, this is where Jesus got mad, flipped over tables - “Jesus smash!” or “Say hello to my little friend!” This burst of excitement and action in the story - that’s what we get out of it. On the surface that seems to be about it, but there’s more going on here.
There are three symbolic actions taking place here. We’ll cover one this morning and the other two next week on Easter. So what are they? Cleansing, Closure, and Creation. I know you’re like, that is so profound. Hang with me - it’ll make sense as we go.
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
The first action is this:
1. Jesus was Cleansing Sacred Space.
The part of the Temple complex where Jesus went on this rampage was known as the Court of the Gentiles. This was part of Herod’s Temple, and surrounded the proper Temple, which was for Jews only. This outer court was designed for non-Jews to come and worship Yahweh. Even though it was for Gentiles, it was still to be Sacred Space - holy; pure. But the religious leaders of the day had, in a sense desecrated the Temple area. They allowed a holy place to become polluted. It became a marketplace for selling sacrificial animals (sheep, goats, cattle etc.) - and really for their own profit. They could have done this outside the Temple courts. But no! Rather it became a place of idolatry, greed, hypocrisy - the virus had infected the Temple area.
Get the picture here - multiple shops; merchants, their assistants; hundreds of animals crammed into the courtyard, plus all the visitors. Busy. Yelling, running back and forth, buying and selling. Using the courtyard as a shortcut. Noisy. Smelly. How many of these animals were potty trained? This was a sacred place of worship?
Furthermore, the priests, the very ones who were commissioned to help people meet with God in that sacred space hindered and prevented access to Yahweh. If you read Matthews account, the priests condoned these despicable activities. Ironically, later when the lame and the blind and the outcasts came to Jesus in the courtyard, they were indignant! Rankled! If they were British, they would have been “Cheesed off.”
Do you see why Jesus was angry? If you want to know how angry, read Jeremiah 7. That’s where Jesus got, “You have made it a den of robbers.”
The Temple of God served many purposes. It was sacred space, and sacred space is important to God, to Yahweh. We see sacred space in the Garden in Eden, then with the Tabernacle, and then Solomon’s Temple, Herod’s Temple and of course the new Temple, the New Jerusalem in Heaven. This sacred space is important to God because this where God and humanity come together, where spiritual distance is eliminated. The Temple always represents the dwelling place of God with His people.
But, for God to dwell in this sacred space it must be a place purity and holiness - a place where the sin virus is cleansed, washed away. The only thing powerful enough to wash away sin is blood. According to Scripture sin is death but blood is life. The only way to overcome death is with life. The only blood that overcomes death and sin is blood that has never known sin - and that is the blood of Jesus Christ.
So why do we need to know all that on Palm Sunday? There is another Temple that God desires to dwell in. Herod’s Temple was destroyed in AD 70 so it’s not that. The new Temple has yet to arrive, so it can’t be that.
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
In John 15, Jesus says if anyone will abide in Me, I will abide in them.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
If Jesus overturned tables, drove out merchants because zeal for His house consumed Him - if Jesus was passionate about the purity of an earthly Temple - how much more passionate is He about this Temple (our bodies) and its purity and its sacredness? This (our heart) is designed to be a temple, a dwelling place for our Heavenly Father, and His Son and His Spirit. It’s been said that in each heart there is a God-shaped hole that only God can fill - it’s true.
There is only one way for our hearts to become a dwelling place for Christ - that’s through invitation. Behold, Jesus stands at every door, every heart - and He knocks politely, and He asks to come in and He waits for each person to open the door of their heart and invite Him in and put an end to spiritual distancing.
Some people are afraid to let Jesus in because they know He’ll look around and He’ll see things that don’t belong in our hearts. He’ll see the junk, the wounds, the brokenness, the darkness, the virus. He already knows what’s in there so don’t be afraid. The whole purpose of Jesus entering our hearts is to rescue us, and to help us clean up. In my experience, Jesus doesn’t come in like He did the Temple - He’s not going on a rampage, yelling, “Get this cleaned up now!” Not Jesus. What Jesus does is HE takes His own blood that he poured out on the cross and starts cleaning one thing at a time.
If you have never received Jesus, if you listen, you will hear Him knocking. Will you let Him in today? All you have to do say, “Jesus come in. I believe you are who you say you are. You are Lord and Savior. You died and rose again from the grave. I have a sin virus - would you forgive me and cleanse me?”
For those who have received Christ - how’s your temple these days? Any cleansing that Jesus needs to do? How sacred is your space?
To all, it’s simple, but challenging - welcome His conviction (not accusation or condemnation); Confess your sins. Trust in His faithfulness and love to forgive.
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