Friday, October 10, 2008

Matthew 21 - Hijacking God's Temple

((Sorry folks, but the sermon is in outline form this week. I just ran out of time.))

KNU International English Church

Josh Broward

October 12, 2008

Video: from the movie Jesus of Nazareth. (Start at 8:30 of part 22, then go down to the response section to continue with part 23, and watch at least until 2:54.)

Intro: Jesus’ triumphal entry and clearing of the temple. Quick journey (maybe a sprint) through Matthew 21 (3 prophetic dramas and 3 stories with sharp points – 1 story will wait until next week). Fasten your seatbelts! We’ve got a lot of text to cover.

Drama 1: Triumphal Entry (21:1-11)

Background story: Solomon’s coronation (crowning as king)

David was the first great king of Israel. King David was dying.

God chose his son, Solomon, to be the next king. David confirmed this.

One of David’s other sons - named Adonijah - developed a plot to become the new king instead of Solomon. He began parading through the streets on chariots with a great show of force and with many leaders began claiming to be king.

Read: 1 Kings 1:28-41.

Note the connections between these two stories:

  • There was a false claim to the David’s throne.
    • Jesus will say later that the religious leaders are making a false claim of authority or ownership.
  • Solomon was the true king (the son of David)
    • The people around Jesus shout: “Praise God for the Son of David!”]
  • Solomon rode on a donkey for his coronation ceremony.
    • Jesus rides on a donkey, for his “coming out ceremony” as the Messiah or King of Israel.
  • Both crowds shouted with praise and celebration
  • In both stories, the people trying to steal the power are surprised by all the commotion from the true leader.
  • Solomon was the king of peace
    • Jesus’ ride on the donkey demonstrated peace and gentleness
  • Solomon built the1st Jewish temple
    • Jesus brought in a whole new way of thinking of the temple.

Jesus was making a prophetic act, declaring himself the Messiah King.

Drama 2: Clearing the Temple (21:12-16)

Background story: The temple history

The temple was to be a permanent “house” for God’s presence in Israel.

God’s dream for the temple: Isaiah 56:1-8.

- a gateway of grace and healing for all people, Israelites, marginalized, and gentiles.

Fast-forward to Jesus’ time:

Herod, appointed ruler of Judea by Romans, built a huge beautiful temple in Jerusalem to win the support of the rich and priestly class.

Herod was a ruthless, violent, oppressive ruler. By teaming up with Herod (or his sons), the priests were taking sides against their own people.

Pictures and diagrams of the temple

Center: Holy of holies

Holy Place

Court of Priests

Court of Israelites (men only – no women or eunuchs)

Court of Women

Court of Gentiles

- ancient stone: Any gentiles entering the actual temple will be killed

- Market place (money exchange for temple currency and animal sales for sacrifice)

- Abuse of power – bad rates and high prices

- Hard to pray when you’ve just been cheated by the temple.

- Hard to pray when surrounded by chaos, poop, and injustice.

They had hijacked God’s temple!

Jesus does a small act of prophetic judgment in classic prophetic style.

    • Showing God’s anger at the abuses in and of the temple.
    • Showing God’s intention for the temple:
      • Center of justice, healing, and grace.
      • House of prayer for all people.

Drama 3: Cursing the Fig Tree (21:18-20)

  • Not just a cool magic trick showing Jesus’ powers
  • A living drama, a prophetic miracle
  • Israel is the fig tree (Trees and vines were very common images for Israel.)
  • Fruit = righteousness, good living (also a very common image)
  • Message: Israel’s religious leaders don’t have the fruit of righteousness. The temple leaders have failed. God is judging them and starting something new.

Transition: Question of Authority (21:23-27)

  • Religious authorities (priests and elders): “Where do you get the authority to do this?”
  • Implication: “We are the ones in charge. We didn’t give you any authority. You don’t have the right to mess around in our house.”
  • Jesus: “I get my authority from the same place as John the Baptist. If you had believed him, you would believe me. God sent us both.”

Story 1: Two Sons (21:28-32)

  • I love how Jesus makes them answer.
  • Jesus: “You religious leaders are like the first son. You’re all talk and no action. John the Baptist showed you the way of the Kingdom. Tax collectors and prostitutes (people who openly rejected God) have now repented and put their trust in God again. They are walking in the Kingdom but you are still on the outside because you won’t admit you’re wrong and change what you really care about.”

Story 2: The Leased Vineyard (21:33-46)

  • A vineyard is one of the most popular images of God’s people.
  • Jesus:
    • You religious leaders don’t own this temple or God’s people. God is the owner.
    • You are bad tenants, bad caretakers.
    • You are milking God’s people and abusing God’s messengers and cheating God.
    • You are using religion to steal what is really God’s.
  • Again Jesus makes the religious leaders answer.
  • Leaders: “He will put those horrible people to a horrible death and give the farm to good caretakers.”
  • Jesus: “That’s right, and you are in big trouble now because you are rejecting the Owner’s Son, me.”

(one more story for next week)

Summary of Matthew 21

Religious leaders have failed in two ways.

  1. They believed they were the owners of the religious institutions.
  2. They acted as if the temple was there to serve them. (They inverted the religion in upon themselves, like wearing glasses backwards.)


  1. God is the owner. Leaders are only stewards or caretakers.
  2. The point of the temple was to create a gateway of healing and grace for the world.

Jesus came as the Owner’s Son to make things right.

The right response is repentance and trust in God’s grace.

What about us?

First, we need to ask: “What is “the temple” for us”

Temple” in the New Testament:

  • Jesus’ body was the Temple of God, the living house of God’s presence in the world (John 2:19-22)
  • Paul: God’s people corporately and individually are God’s temple because God’s Holy Spirit lives in us. As the church, we are the body of Christ, the living embodiment of Jesus’ presence in our world (1 Corinthians 6:18-20, 2 Corinthians 6:14-16; Ephesians 2:19-22).
  • Peter: You are living stones God is crafting into a temple, a site of mercy and praise and healing and welcome to the world. In this temple, you serve with Jesus as royal priests offering your lives as sacrifices to God (1 Peter 2:4-10).

God is calling us to be this kind of temple. God is calling us to be this kind of people. Life is holy, and we are holy. The holy God lives in us. We are the living stones of his holy temple. We live and move in him. He lives and moves in us. Amazingly, God has chosen us to be his body, his house, in our world. Religion, spirituality, Christianity is about living out the presence of God in our world.

Easy for us to judge these Jewish leaders. (We preachers are especially good at that! “They hijacked God’s temple!”)

Easy for us to fall into the same trap. Our religion can go down the same road. We can hijack God’s temple, too. We can hijack God’s religion and make it serve our own interests pretty easily.

Basic Mistakes

Living the Truth

Religious practice is focused on us

Focus is outward – helping people experience God’s grace and healing

Believing and acting like we are the owners of our bodies, our lives, our church

God is the owner of the temple (our life, our bodies, our church).

Church becomes a roadblock for outsiders

Church becomes a gateway to God’s grace and healing for outsiders

Making religion focus on security and protection of our self-interests

Allowing religion to speak a voice of challenge and justice to us and to our leaders

“Triumphal Entry” every Sunday, but polite inattention the rest of the week

Full-life temple theology

Constant experience and expression of grace

Today we have “come to church.” But this room is not “the church.” This worship service is not “the church.”

We are “the church.” We are the living presence of God in the world. Our bodies together and alone are the body of Christ in the world.

If you want to be a Christian, go to church every day. Have a worship service every minute of the day. You are a living vessel of the Living God. Live out the functions of the temple in your daily life. Be a gateway for the world to experience God’s grace and healing. Live a constant experience and expression of God’s grace. That is what religion is all about. That is what the temple is all about. That is what Christianity is all about. That is what we are all about. Live and share God’s unlimited grace all day every day.

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