authority, contamination, death, discernment, hypocrisy, money, religion, temple, unclean, worship

Crooks and Robbers, #89

“Jesus Cleansing the Temple,” Jeffrey Weston

45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

Luke 19:45-46

People detest hypocrisy. I’ve discovered that no matter who they are–pagan or devout believer, there is an awareness of this kind of religious evil. As I considered art for this post, I came across dozens, and dozens of different takes on this passage. One could open up a large gallery simply on “Jesus Cleansing the Temple.”

The priests and the merchants had a corner on the market. There was a need for pilgrim to have animals for sacrifices. But it was said that you could buy a pair of doves for 5 cents outside the temple, but once you entered they sold for 75 cents. The pilgrims also needed to change over their native currency to the temple money. That too, made a tidy little profit.

Jesus had visited the temple numerous times. He was dedicated there, and as a boy he taught the elders and priests. On his own pilgrimages 4 times a year, he witnessed the steady commerce that was done. Since the temple work went on 24 hours a day, the tables had to be constantly manned.

The issue here was authenticity. Keep in mind that this would be Jesus’ last visit. In a few days the authorities would publicly beat and then execute him. In some sense, Jesus was making a clear statement. Being fully God he had the right to declare the validity of what was going on. And it wasn’t good.

The temple was there for prayer. It was the place where God and man could meet each other. Every block laid, every pillar set, was a declaration of this idea. God and man reunited, with a sacrifice for sin. It was to be the official place where this would happen. And it would require a sacrifice for sin to open up a way to worship and pray.

“Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst.”

C.S. Lewis

Faith was hijacked by men who really didn’t believe. A flourishing industry had developed–religious language and ideas became the way to fleece those who really did believe. The greed of certain men had compromised real worship. Evil had worked its ugly way into the very core of the faith. It was an terrible thing.

The tables were located in the outer courts. These courts were as far as Gentiles could go–it was for them who wanted to pray. Jesus understood Isaiah, and quotes it in his rebuke, (Isa. 56:7). The religious evil that developed there was truly an abomination–and it had to stop.

We need to be aware that we’re definitely attracted to this kind of hypocrisy. We dare not point the finger too quickly –yes, we need to see it–not to pass judgement, but to understand the hatred God has for this sin. The temple of our bodies belong to him. He will enter our lives–he will flip our tables if he has to, he won’t tolerate our hypocrisy.

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To Seek and to Save, #87

9 “And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””

Luke 19:9-10 (context, vv. 1-10)

The Jewish people regarded salvation simply as being a child of Abraham. Faith was not necessary, but being saved was simply genealogical. It was the exclusive privilege of every Jewish man and woman. It was the sole position of anyone who was descended from Abraham.

There were exceptions however. If an Israelite lived outside of the Law, they forfeited their salvation. If they cooperated with the Gentiles, or if they committed some heinous crime, they couldn’t be a true Israelite. You were saved, just because you had descended from Abraham.

Zacchaeus couldn’t be saved. He had essentially had renounced his salvation when he cooperated with the Romans as a tax-collector. He had made the choice of a living his life outside of what was acceptable to the religious norms. In short he chose to be damned. He had decided to walk the highway to hell, but that was his decision.

When Jesus called up the tree to Zacchaeus, and invited himself to dinner, Jesus was committing a forbidden act. You must understand that Zacchaeus was unclean, a sinner, and any contact with was regarded as a grossly evil action. In short, Jesus had allied himself with an unclean man. Thus Jesus must be unclean as well.

The “righteous” Jew would never ever have anything to do with Zacchaeus. That is why they had such an issue with Jesus’ decision to eat with him. And that’s why Zacchaeus was thrilled to have such an eminent teacher as his guest.

Jesus was seeking to save the lost.

Zacchaeus invited all of his “evil” friends to come and come to join in the feast. It’s funny, when it came to “evangelism,” he did all the work!

Zacchaeus would prove himself as a “child of Abraham” by his amazing repentance. The presence of Jesus in his home sparked life in his heart. Zachaeus’ repentance was remarkable and truly spontaneous. And probably more astonishing was Jesus declaring that Zacchaeus was now a true child of Abraham.

When we finally decide we can mingle with the lost, just like Jesus did, we can expect to see miraculous things. We won’t contaminate ourselves–it doesn’t work that way. When we reach out, we can count on the “Jesus” who now lives inside of us to touch the outcast. He wants to, and all he needs is for us to find the lost, and be with them.

I must implore you to “seek and save” those who are outside the norm. Ask Jesus to lead you to them–and quit worrying about what other Christians might say and think.

“The church is not a select circle of the immaculate, but a home where the outcast may come in. It is not a palace with gate attendants and challenging sentinels along the entrance-ways holding off at arm’s-length the stranger, but rather a hospital where the broken-hearted may be healed, and where all the weary and troubled may find rest and take counsel together.”

   James H. Aughey

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authority, contamination, decision, faith, fishing, miracles, offense, Peter

Jupiter vs. Jesus, #54

Jupiter, Creator: Hulton Archive | Credit: Getty Images

“However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Matthew 17:25 (context vv. 24-27)

Jupiter was the king of the gods in the Roman empire; it was believed that he ruled the sky and thunder, he made the rain to fall. His temple in Rome was built on the highest hill (naturally) in 294 B.C. He was the head honcho of the Roman pantheon, and his cult following could be somewhat fanatical.

A tax was collected from Israel to support his temple, which caused hard issues among the Jewish leaders. They obviously didn’t want to support Jupiter, “no ifs, ands, or buts.” Not only were there spiritual reasons, but they had real patriotic issues too. Rome could be pretty insistent though.

Not completely sure about this. But apparently rabbis and priests were exempt from paying this. This is the setting for “Jesus-Peter-and-the-fish” in Matthew 17. Everyone’s eyes were now on Jesus: “Would He pay the tax, or not?”

Jesus specifically uses the word, “skandelion” for offense. We should know that this is the root word for scandal, or scandalize. That might bring us much needed clarity.

Jesus didn’t seem to bat an eye. There doesn’t seem to be any hesitation. Peter is dispatched to go catch a fish, the very first one, and when he reels it in he’s going to find in it’s mouth a coin, a drachma–that coin will pay the tax. This is a miracle, albeit a strange one.

Why? In the light of the spiritual implications did Jesus, and Peter, find themselves “indirectly” supporting Jupiter’s temple in Rome? Wouldn’t taking a stand against this religious cult be loyalty to God and declare a commitment to the nation of Israel?

Was Jesus ‘selling out’ and compromising His faith?

There’re lot’s of things we should say. First, how do we look at our government and its evil issues? How do we determine the steps we should take to be holy and separate from the world and its anti-christ system? What about the Old Testament stance of Daniel, or “the three Hebrew children” warming themselves in the king’s furnace?

I have lots of questions.

“Everything except God has some natural superior; everything except unformed matter has some natural inferior.”

-C.S. Lewis

   

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blood, contamination, faith, loneliness, separation from God, unclean

Simply the Hem, Entry #39

“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

22 “Jesus turned and saw her. 

“Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.”

Matthew 9:20-22

I really don’t have a faint idea of her sickness. But I think to bleed constantly must’ve been tiring. Physically, and emotionally–exhausting. She had to ‘plan’ her days carefully to accommodate all of this. Things were never easy for this woman. It truly crippled her life; it would’ve consumed her.

This Jewish woman was suffering with an issue of blood for 12 long years. She had sought help from one physician after another, and spent all her money paying doctor’s bills. But she had not been helped. In fact, her problem got worse. And we need to remember, that she’d be completely ostracized socially–a total write-off, a reject.

Leviticus 15 explains this:

Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. 21 Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 22 Anyone who touches anything she sits on will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 23 Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, they will be unclean till evening.

(vv. 19-23)

Fourteen years of being unclean; it seems like a half of a lifetime. She was cut off from any solace of the Temple–that would’ve denied her a sacrifice for her sin. Not only was 14 years a long time, her physical disease had powerful implications spiritually as well. She would have carried around her sin like a heavy coat. She would never know the peace that infuses grace.

Her only hope was Jesus, plain and simple. His reputation as a healer and a teacher had spread like crazy through the country (even King Herod followed His ministry!)

She had one overriding desire. Nothing but a healing would be acceptable.

Perhaps Jesus had already passed by her? After all, He was on His way to a simple resurrection! But in her thinking, she could still touch Him, perhaps she just stretch out and grab the tassel of His robe. And guess what; she was healed, completely. A lightening strike!

We don’t bleed, but we sin all the time.

All of us are like this woman. We don’t bleed, but we sin all the time. Romans states, “we all have sinned, we all have fallen short of the glory of God.” Isaiah graphically describes all of us “to be like and unclean thing.” The Hebrew word for those two words is “menstrual cloth.” All the good we do amounts to something less than zero.

Each of us have definitely sinned. We’re very much ‘defiled’ even at our very best. Sin has completely ruined us. We are foul.

We must reach out, and keep reaching out, grabbing a hold of Jesus. We must seize Him, even if it’s a tiny tassel of His robe. We must snatch it and never let go; until He heals us and restores our lives. We know He can.

“Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help. He is the Balm of Gilead, the Great Physician who has never yet failed to heal all the spiritual maladies of every soul that has come unto Him in faith and prayer.”

-James H. Aughley

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broken people, contamination, forgiveness, Jesus Christ, Kingdom of God, mercy, parable, Pharisee

Forgiveness Finds a Place at Simon’s Table, Entry #36

“And Jesus answering said to him, 

“Simon, I have something to say to you.” 

And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

Luke 7:40, (context, 36-40)

This has to be one of my favorite passages of scripture. Simon, who is a Pharisee, has invited Jesus for dinner. I suppose he intends to impress Him, or at the very least he wants to Jesus to look more favorably on his religious sect. It’s simple PR work for him. (Maybe even tax deductible?)

But in comes this woman, and she spoils everything. The ESV translation describes her as a “sinner” and a “woman of the city,” (whatever that means?) She bursts into the dining room wielding an alabaster flask of ointment. She kneels and weeps, and uses the locks of her hair to rub the perfume on the dirty feet of Jesus.

She is crying, and I have to believe she’s very aware of her sin–nobody has to tell her that she has wasted her life. Simon, on the other hand, finds her behavior with Jesus quite objectionable. He’s obviously disturbed by her presence, and he only can only see her outside actions, his vision never really extends to see her broken heart.

And yet Jesus is quite aware of the tension that’s now developing. He’s spiritually sensitive to all that’s swirling around Him, and we see Him jumping at the chance to teach Simon (the Pharisee) a lesson on true forgiveness.

It seems that a certain moneylender had two men that owed him money. One was indebted with just a modest sum; the other was bound by a huge debt. It seems that both men couldn’t repay what they had borrowed. So inexplicably, the lender cancelled the debt of both of them, the little and the big. These men were now free. They owed nothing–not a red cent.

OK now. Who will “love him more?”

Jesus compares the responses of these ‘ex-debtors’ and takes it to a very logical conclusion. “Who will love him more?” Simon obviously understands this line of reasoning, and we hear him responding correctly to Jesus’ lesson on mercy and grace.

Simon realizes there are those out there who are terrible sinners, they are wicked and have walked in sin and darkness for a very long time. They’re irrevocably stained by their sin, it has shaped them to the point that their personalities have been altered. Sadly, they know all of this, and it breaks their heart in two. They tell no one, but God knows.

The schooling Simon receives is the Kingdom logic that corrects his definition of God’s mercy. The kindness that God bestows on us is proportional, those who “owe” much are forgiven much. And as a result they love much.

When you see a person weeping at the altar, overcome by their sense of sin and they seem terribly broken, you’ll understand the love they now have for Jesus. A tremendous debt has been forgiven, and they get up and walk away as free men and women. They now finally understand how to love. They have been forgiven.

“The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.”

― John Stott

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A Definite Drunkard, Entry #34

Please think about this image for a second

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Matthew 11:19, (context, vv. 16-19)

What part does excessive “eating and drinking” don’t we understand? It doesn’t seem entirely ‘religious,’ especially in the thinking of us who observe the life of a pastor or a shepherd. We demand a certain restraint, a standard of separateness from common sinners. That’s seems to be our personal view anyway.

Is gluttony wrong? Is getting a bit tipsy also unacceptable, especially when it comes to “true” religion? Quite often it seems, we have a pious approach toward what we think is ‘true’ faith. We often believe that truth equates to being an ascetic, separate from common sinners. We believe if we are truly holy we will segregate from the ungodly.

It seems that Jesus doesn’t relate to, or accept this viewpoint. He’s single-mindedly serving the Father, in perfect holiness and in true connection with Him. And yet we see Him cavorting with tax-collectors and sinners. We observe Him actually sitting with those we reject as ungodly or unholy.

I must say this before you start looking for rocks to stone me with!

Scripture clearly tells us that we’re to live holy lives. We’re to be wise and have self-control in everything. We should always remember our own ‘black hole’, and begin to see our new life as really incredible. We must allow the “fruits of the Spirit” to grow inside us. And lived rightly, it’s a place of real holiness; and certainly not the ‘pretend’ righteousness of the Pharisee.

Listen very carefully: The Pharisees reject and label those who seem to flaunt the religious norms, but broken believers will truly forgive others, like those who have been radically forgiven themselves. There is a stark difference.

But think about it, aren’t we all a tiny bit ungodly?

Don’t we somehow grade people by their outward appearance and the level of their attainment? It absolutely astounds me that Jesus seems far more comfortable with the outcasts than He does with the Pharisees of His day. He sits with them, and eats and drinks in a fashion that we would regard objectionable.

Jesus loves every person. He loves the unmade, and the unvarnished. He loves being with the ungodly. Yes, He does understand the awful nature of sin; the horrible damage it inflicts on a person’s soul. And yet I’ve come to the conclusion that all my righteous and holy religion is nothing but a very bad smell in God’s nostrils.

Jesus isn’t afraid that we will somehow taint Him by our words, conduct or behavior. He passionately loves those who we deem as outside the norm of our religion. Jesus loves being with ‘nasty’ people. I think He purposefully seeks out the wrong ones!

It fascinates me that Jesus is never afraid that the leper will corrupt or defile Him. He isn’t fearful that somehow He will be contaminated. That’s exactly what the Pharisees thought. But instead it’s the reverse with Jesus. He heals us, and it’s always a one-way current. He touches us, but we’ll never ‘poison’ Him!

Just maybe our awful failure in evangelism is due to our inability to really relate with the lost. We withdraw and then wonder why the unsaved don’t understand the things of God. Have we become so religious that sinners don’t feel comfortable with us, or Him? Could it be that we’re a bit off course? Are we really filled with His Spirit?

“The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”

-Billy Graham

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contamination, decision, disciples, evangelism, Holy Spirit, lordship, power, temple, worship

The Doves in the Temple, Entry #11

“And he told those who sold the pigeons, 

“Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 

John 2:16, (context 13-17)

The temple was meant to be a place where people could seek and find God. It was meant to be a place of seeking, of sacrifice, and a place of worship. It had no other purpose other than linking man to God. It wasn’t architecture, it was ‘reconciliation.’ The temple was God’s plan of making a way for sinners to engage Him.

Along the line somehow it became corrupted. Unscrupulous man had a way figured to make money off of pilgrims. The temple required temple currency, hence the money-changers who made a tidy little profit. The birds, lambs and bulls were suddenly provided to the worshipers as a convenient way to ‘sacrifice.’ (That made it easier if you had the cash to spend.)

“So he took some rope and made a whip. Then he chased everyone out of the temple, together with their sheep and cattle. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins.”

John 2:15

Was this wrong? Did Jesus really make a “whip?” Did He really flip over tables like some sort of ‘religious’ brawl from some old western movie? I have to believe He did do this. Chapter 2:17 explains things like this:

“The disciples then remembered that the Scriptures say, “My love for your house burns in me like a fire.”

Jesus loved God’s house, at least for what it was designed for at the beginning. (Some translations use the word, “zeal.”) God’s heart is for fellowship with man. He desperately wants to engage us, to bring us directly into the “holy place of the Holies.”

He wants us there for the companionship. He seeks “friends.”

The doves? Jesus never hurt them. His anger wasn’t directed at them, but rather at the humans who made the birds available to be sacrificed. The Lord didn’t focus His displeasure at those fine feathered ones in the cage, rather He commanded that they be removed from the temple. No whip was used here, only understanding of the need for a kinder approach. (They’re just little birds after all.)

He really wants to fellowship with you. He will do whatever it takes to remove things that should’ve never been there in the first place. He ‘discerns’ the issues, and is very gentle, not an ounce more than is necessary will be applied to your life. He is supremely wise and astonishingly kind.

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”

-Francis de Sales

   

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