Sacred Space II
Let’s look again at Mark 11:15–17 and what we call the cleansing of the Temple. Remember, this is the week of the Passover festival, which is one of three major festivals for Israel. Jerusalem is packed with Jews and Gentiles from all over, plus the Romans. They are there to worship and encounter Yahweh. Unfortunately, the Jewish leaders had allowed the temple area, the court of the Gentiles to become a marketplace. What was to be sacred space had become a place for commercialism and profit - filth and greed.
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.”
We must ask the question, since Jesus was on His way to the cross, to His own crucifixion, to become the Passover Lamb, why worry about the Temple? Why spend His time and energy on something that would later be destroyed in less than 40 years? And would also become obsolete in a few days?
We said last week that there were three symbolic actions taking place.
1) Jesus was Cleansing Sacred Space.
Let’s talk about sacred space for a moment, because this is connected to the next two actions. Sacred space is important to everyone - it’s not inherently a religious thing. Children often create a secret hiding place - maybe in a closet. When I was young, we had a secret hideout in the woods with a secret handshake. Couples usually have sacred space - this is our spot where he proposed … (tree). Historical monuments have a sense of sacredness (e.g. Pearl Harbor.) I have a chair where I sit in the morning with my Bible and coffee - becomes sacred space ….
So, you can see that sacred space is important to everyone. We’ll find this in every nation, every culture, every person. Why? We’re designed to be like our Creator, and sacred space is important to Him. How important?
The Garden of Eden was sacred space, where the divine and human, the spiritual and physical overlapped - where God walked with Adam and Eve. Sacred Space. Then later, God said to Moses build a Tabernacle -
And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.
We see this throughout Scripture - God creating sacred space to be with His people and for His people to be with Him. Think of it like this - ever since spiritual distancing entered this world, God has fought for sacred space. What did Jesus do in the Temple? He went on this rampage if you will, to clean the temple - He fought for sacred space.
Sacred space is important to God. He longs for people to be in His presence. However, we cannot approach God however we want. We are fallen and broken people, we must approach God on His terms. In the OT, God prescribed how to approach Him in purity and cleanliness - not just moral purity, but physically, emotionally and spiritually. The sacrificial system was designed to allow God’s people to approach Him, worship Him and occupy sacred space. The sacrifices were not necessarily a means of salvation - salvation has always been by faith. The sacrifices where not always about sin and forgiveness. But they were always about becoming acceptable in God’s sight to be in that sacred space. This is not so much for His benefit as it is ours - to be in God’s presence in a sinful and fallen condition would not bode well for us ….
This should not be any surprise to us. How many of us expect others to clean up before they enter our space? Before you come in the house - wipe off your feet. Before you eat dinner - wash your hands. You want to smoke? Fine, not in here. And if there is a special occasion - a wedding, prom, important business meeting … we clean and dress up. So if we expect this of other humans, how much more should God require this of humanity?
So, Jesus was cleaning sacred space. The second symbolic action in Mark is this -
2) Jesus was Closing a Door.
- putting an end to the old requirements. Wasn’t like God made a mistake - “This sacrificial system didn’t work so let’s try something else.” The OT law and sacrifices were for a particular people (Jews), for a particular time, and for a particular reason - all planned by God. That time had come to an end (at just the right time in history, Jesus died - Rom. 5). God did away with the old to bring in the new - why? For a new particular people - for in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, but all are one in Him.
In short, Jesus became the fulfillment of the Law - everything that the old sacrificial system was - its purpose, all its requirements and objectives - all fulfilled in Christ. Jesus closed that door - meaning the way people approached God and were forgiven by God in the past - closed. The new way is in and through Jesus Christ. So, the third symbolic action here is
3) Jesus was Creating a New Door.
Or a new way to approach God; a new way to have access to God without the blood of goats, bulls and lambs etc.; a new way to be reconciled to God; a new way to be forgiven of sin, and to have our hearts and minds consciences purified.
For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;
then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
What does all this mean? Today is Resurrection Sunday - the day we celebrate the greatest day of all history - the day when Jesus the Messiah rose from the dead. See, when Jesus died on the cross, Isaiah 53 (700 B.C.), tells us that Jesus was smitten by God. Afflicted. Jesus was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. Upon Christ, God placed our punishment that brought us peace. And when Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, He did so to conquer death, which means those in Christ no longer fear death and spiritual distancing from God. Jesus rose again to reconcile us to God, to give us 24/7 access to that sacred space - the presence and fellowship of God the Father.
Pay attention - this is critical - little curve ball. Some may think that everyone has access to God! No. Jesus did not die and rise again so that everyone has access to God. Jesus died and rose again so that everyone can have access to God - access to that sacred space.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Sin and unbelief keep us out of the sacred space - God’s presence (Book of Hebrews said they could not enter the “sacred space” or the “Promised Land” because of unbelief).
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Jesus said if you want to enter that sacred space - you must be born again - born of flesh and born of Spirit - His Spirt.
So how do we do this? Believe. Receive. Confess. Romans 10. John 3:5, 16-18