Los Alamos Church of Christ
This morning we begin the last temperament. We have finished 8 of the ways we connect to God. My plans are to spend September and the first Sunday in October on the Activist temperament. Then we will have some wrap up sermons on the temperaments. We should be finished early this year… in November.
Let’s begin with one of the most activist acts in the life of Jesus… the turning over of the tables in the temple; from the Gospel of Matthew.
ESV Matthew 21:12-13 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants and their customers. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the stalls of those selling doves. He said, "The Scriptures declare, “My Temple will be called a place of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of thieves!"
This is an odd thing. We think of Jesus as the gentle king who brings the peaceable kingdom. Now, Jesus turns over tables; sends coins rolling around the temple; runs out the merchants; even runs the customers out and sends doves flying everywhere. This is odd. Jesus has caused quite the disturbance in Herod’s new Temple.
These money changers served an important job. It was required that a certain coin be given as Temple Tax. But the people who were traveling from all over to the Passover had all kinds of money. So, they would exchange their variety of coins for the special Temple coin. These guys were offering a needed service.
The dove sellers were doing much the same. Some of the sacrifices required doves. Keeping a bunch of doves in your backpack while you traveled from Galilee would have been a chore. So, for a few bucks you could pick up a nice dove for your sacrifices. It too was a needed service.
Why run out the customers? These customers were doing what you were supposed to do… get the proper coins to pay their tax. Get a dove to offer their sacrifices. Jesus is doing something odd. Jesus is disrupting the operations. Jesus is doing something… activist. Jesus is dramatically bringing attention to something wrong.
We typically picture Jesus angry with these money changers and dove sellers for ripping off the pilgrims. But there is no mention of that in either of the Gospels. It does not say Jesus was angry. I used to think Jesus was angry for their dishonesty. In the shadow of the Holy of Holies these moneychangers were extorting their fellow Jews. After further study, that doesn’t seem to be the point of Jesus turning over the tables. They may have been charging too much money, but that does not seem to be the point Jesus is making. Note he drove out all who were buying, too. It wasn’t so much that Jesus was upset with these transactions, as he was making an activist statement!
The key to understanding the point Jesus is making is to chase down the quote. The Scriptures declare, Jesus said…“My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers” is from Jeremiah 7. Let’s go back to 580 something… to listen to Jeremiah’s denunciation.
ESV Jeremiah 7:3-11 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.” For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever. Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are delivered!”- only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD.
That sounds quite activist… Jeremiah stands before these Jews just before 586 BC and preaches that they must stop wicked thoughts and deeds; exploitation of foreigners, orphans and widows; murdering and stealing; adultery and the worship of the detestable Idols like Baal. You cannot do evil and expect the Temple to protect you. They believed the Temple would protect them.
That changes the meaning of what Jesus did all together. Jesus is pointing back to what happened in Jeremiah’s day. The people were rebellious and then counted on the Temple to protect them from punishment. They thought of the Temple as if it were a hideout where the robbers hide so they don’t get caught. The emphasis is on the DEN. The Greek word is sph,laion ; spelaion… a cave-hideout. The Temple according to Jeremiah is not a hideout where you will be safe. Note it didn’t work for Jeremiah’s people. The first Temple was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians.
The activist point Jesus is making is the same. The Temple is not going to work as a secret hideout for the Jews of Jesus’s day, either. They cannot do evil and then run to their robber’s lair to hide in safety.
The crowds wanted Jesus to lead a rebellion. Earlier in the chapter Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus was proclaiming himself as Messiah. They wanted Jesus to drive out the Romans. They had the same mindset as the Jeremiah’s people. Let’s rebel against the Romans and then the Temple, this glorious Herod’s Temple, would protect them. This “aint a goina work”! If you lead a rebellion, Rome will smash this place as easily as I just turned over these tables.
Jesus was not upset with unfair business practices. Jesus, as Activist, is predicting that if they do not accept Him as Messiah and if they continue on the path of rebellion expecting the Temple to save them they will end up just like their ancestors in 586 BC. Herod’s Temple was going to be destroyed! It would not be a safe cave/hideout for robbers.
Wow, sure enough, the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Jesus was telling the people to turn from their trust in the Temple. Jesus was telling them to place their trust in HIM the Messiah… not the stones of this magnificent temple.
Jesus, the Activist, is attempting to save his people. They were on the wrong road. They were headed to destruction. They needed to place their faith in Jesus the Messiah.
If this is an activist sermon, we need to bring this concept home; to us; to Los Alamos, NM in the good ol’ USofA; in September, 2016. What would Jesus say to us? Do we have a similar attitude toward our hideout? Do we view our country in much the same way as the Jews viewed their Temple?
What would Jesus say about our faith in our country?
--We are after all the most powerful country in the world… undisputedly.
--We are the most influential country in the world… everyone wants to be us.
--We are the most prosperous country in the world… we have Apple and Amazon.
--We have the most military might… no one even close. Our military is undefeatable.
--We are the leaders of the free world… what we say goes.
--Democracy may not be the best form of government, but it is better than all the rest.
--We won 46 Olympic Gold medals, 121 medals all together; almost twice the 2nd place… British.
--We live in the safest, proudest, wealthiest, best country in the world!
And if you don’t believe me, just ask any American. We are an arrogant bunch.
As Americans, is our faith in our hideout?
TIM Jeremiah 7:3-11 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of the America: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: “USA, USA, USA.” For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land from sea to shining sea. Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to your nation, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are Americans!”- only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this country, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD.
There is a level of faith in America, which seems to be right there with the Jews of Jeremiah’s day and the Jews of Jesus’ day. There is an assumption that we must be God’s people. America is the home of the free and the land of brave… because of that… nothing can triumph over us. American arrogance is scary.
We are not safe just because we live in America. We are safe when we…
--truly execute justice one with another,
--do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow,
--do not shed innocent blood in this place,
--do not go after other gods
We are safe when we follow the way of the Messiah. That way is explained in the very next verses of Matthew 21…
ESV Matthew 21:14-16 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that Jesus did, and the children crying out in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant, and they said to him, "Do you hear what these are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, "' Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise'?"
After Jesus turns over the tables and runs out the sellers and buyers… Jesus immediately shows us the way of the Messiah… He heals the blind and the lame. The children begin singing, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" The kids point to Jesus as the King. Back to back with the tables being over turned we see Jesus healing the blind and the lame and doing wonderful things. The point is… Jesus is our refuge!
Our faith must be in the Messiah.
Our trust must be in the one who causes the blind to see.
Our protection is in the one who causes the lame to walk.
Our hope is in hearing the children sing… Hosanna to the Son of David!
I believe there is protection within the body of Christ. I believe Satan cannot reach us who are in the fellowship of the community of Christ. As long as the body…
--lives holy lives.
--does not oppress any of the weak.
--places its faith in the LORD.
This body can be the den of… not robbers… but righteous; a den of the righteous!
ACTIVIST Mark 12:29-30 “Hear, O Righteous One: The Lord our God, the Lord is your protection.
You shall love the Lord your God…
…with all your heart, loving holiness,
…with all your soul, championing the oppressed,
…with all your mind, focused on truth.
…with all your strength, upholding the right.”
My temperament is God’s gift to me.
My temperament is my gift to God.
My temperament is my gift to the body.
My temperament is my gift to the world.
September 4, 2016
Los Alamos Church of Christ