Monday, July 8, 2013

Jesus Clears the Temple

Sunday school lesson for July 7, 2013, from Matthew 21. This was the final lesson in a series on love. This one was illustrating how we need to love God's family. Jesus showed love for the Gentiles by clearing the area where they were allowed to worship, and then He showed love for everyone by healing their diseases and defending the children who were praising Him.

Passover was always a very busy and exciting time in Jerusalem. You might remember that every year the Jews celebrated the day that God sent Moses to save them from bondage in Egypt. God had sent ten plagues on Egypt, and the last one involved the angel of death passing over the Israelites and not killing their firstborn, while every Egyptian family lost at least their firstborn child and the firstborn of their animals. Then Pharaoh let them go, and ever since then, they have celebrated how God saved them.

Many years passed. Israel had kings, and then when the kings and the people got too evil, God sent the people of Israel and Judah into captivity. Eventually He allowed the people of Judah to return to their homeland. However, it wasn’t the same, and before they knew it, another kingdom took over their area. Rome conquered many countries and expanded their kingdom, and they oppressed the Israelites with taxes and in other ways. The Jews didn’t like the Romans or their tax collectors. The prophets had said that a deliverer, descended from King David, would come one day to save them, and a guy named Jesus was fulfilling these prophecies left and right. They thought that it was only a matter of time before He would deliver them from the Romans in the same way that God had delivered them from the Egyptians.

So that day when Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, they could hardly contain themselves! Here was their deliverer! “HELP! SAVE US, Son of David!” they cried as they threw down palm branches for the donkey to walk on. “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Save us!”

("Save us" in Hebrew and Greek are as follows. They are pronounced in variants of "Hosanna!")

הושיעה נא

After Jesus got through the crowd, He reached the temple, where He found a horrible sight.

The Pharisees knew that people came from all over Israel to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, and part of the Passover was sacrificing animals. It could be so annoying to have to bring all your animals with you to Jerusalem, so the Pharisees had an idea. Why not sell animals right next to the temple so that people could buy them there and not have to carry them a long way? Great idea, right? In addition, they charged a temple tax so that they could keep the temple in good condition, but they only took a certain kind of coin. So they had to have people nearby who could exchange the people’s money so they could pay their tax. Another great idea, right? There were some problems with this, though, and they really got Jesus steamed. First of all, the money changers charged a bunch of extra money to exchange money. They were just as bad as the tax collectors! Secondly, the animals for sale could get super expensive. But worst of all, they were doing it in the Court of the Gentiles! This was a part of the temple where people who weren’t Jews but wanted to worship God were allowed to come and worship. Some of the people in the crowd couldn’t go into the main part of the temple because they weren’t Jews. So if the only place they were allowed to worship was full of the Jerusalem version of a shopping mall, where could they worship? They had nowhere!

The Bible only tells of two occasions where Jesus turned violent, and both were for the same reason. The Pharisees were using a place that was supposed to be used for worship to sell their wares, and greed had no place in the temple! So Jesus rushed into the Court of the Gentiles and began to throw the tables and benches where the sellers and money changers were doing their thing. He shouted, “My house is supposed to be used for prayer! How dare you steal from the people here?!” Not only were they stealing the people’s money, but they were stealing the only place where the Gentiles were allowed to worship!

When He was done chasing the greedy people out, He turned to the people nearby who couldn’t see or walk, and He healed them. A lot of kids had followed Him, and they were still shouting, “Save us, Son of David!”

The priests and teachers in the temple heard the commotion and came out to see what was going on. When they heard what the children were yelling, they were upset. Remember how they didn’t think Jesus could be God? They realized that the kids were saying that Jesus was the promised deliverer, a messenger (Messiah) from God, and He could save them…and the kids were very happy about it!

The Pharisees were upset with what the kids said, and they said, “Um, Jesus, don’t you hear what they’re yelling?”

Jesus replied, “Um, Pharisees, have you read Psalm 8 lately? It says that God wants children and infants to praise Him!”

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