“And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. And he taught daily in the temple.”

In the gospel lesson for us this morning, we hear Jesus’ emotional response concerning Jerusalem as he entered into the Holy City one last time before his death. The gospel says, “And when Jesus was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.” Jerusalem was also known as the city of peace. That is what the name Jerusalem means. The temple, which was the center of Jewish life and worship, was constructed during the peaceful reign of Solomon and was the pride and joy of the ancient people of Israel. However, the history of Israel shows us that the Jews had a problem with taking the presence of God for granted, turning away from Him, and following after the false gods of other nations and of their own hearts. The Most notable occasion of this type of idolatry occurred during the times of Isaiah and Jeremiah when God sent them to confront Israel sins. Nearly 700 years later, God would send his only begotten Son to the people of Israel…and the situation had not improved. In fact, it had only gotten worse. Ultimately, Israel would reject Jesus, persecute him and kill him, even as their forefathers had rejected, persecuted and killed the prophets who came before. However, killing God’s Son was worse than killing God’s servants and would finally reveal just how hard the heart of the Israelites had become.

So as Jesus enters into Jerusalem, he weeps. He weeps because he loves Jerusalem. He weeps because of the hardness of His people’s heart. He weeps because he knows that they will reject Him…His love…His salvation. Furthermore, the city and its inhabitants will be judged. Jesus predicts that the great city will fall…and it does. Some 40 years after the resurrection of our Lord. Rome digs trenches around the Holy City…burns it to the ground…and absolutely and finally destroys the temple in such a manner that “not one stone is left upon another.”

This is a brief picture of what is transpiring in the heart of our Lord as he entered into Jerusalem during that final days of his holy life.

So as he approaches the temple he enters in and finds a lot of religious busyness going on. To the common eye, things in the temple are going on like they normally do. Sacrifices are being offered. In fact, animals are being sold to worshipers who have made the long journey to Jerusalem for the Passover. To be sure, there is price gouging. But of course, the people from out of town would be willing to pay it for the sake of convenience. After all, who would want to have to keep up with sheep and goats on such a long journey if one could just pay a little more money and pick up a sacrificial animal at the temple. It was so convenient. And therein lies the problem. The people had reduced the worship of God to a matter of convenience. This is what our Lord sees as he enters the temple…and he is not happy. As he drives out those who are buying and selling he quotes the words of Isaiah and Jeremiah…words that tell us all what is really going on… Jesus says…it is written “My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.” The temple was to be a place of prayer. The place in which God communed with man. The place where God is glorified for his benefits and honored in all his majesty. The place where men show their thanksgiving and joy because of God’s provision, power and salvation. But it had been changed into a den of thieves. A place of self-seeking greed and manipulation. Our Lord, in his mercy, restores order to their worship so that he could teach the people, in the holy temple, one last time before his crucifixion..

In the gospel of John, we also learn something very profound about the temple. We learn that Jesus’s body is the true temple. That may sound strange to us, but we must always remember what the temple represents. The temple always signified the place of God’s presence. The place where God would meet with men. The place where men would come to meet with God. If this is the case, then it is easy to see how Jesus’ body is the true temple because Jesus Christ is God incarnate. To see Jesus…To be with Him…is to be in the very presence of God…and yet according to the New Testament…the temple is not merely Jesus’ physical body…by virtue of our baptism…by virtue of receiving the Lord’s Supper…we become members of the body of Christ and the Body of Christ…the Church, you and I, together with all the faithful united with Christ are called the new temple…we are the place where God has promised to dwell. We are the new temple indwelt by God’s Spirit.

In the epistle this morning, St. Paul says that he would not have us to be ignorant concerning the spiritual gifts. Through baptism, the Corinthian church had received the Holy Spirit and St. Paul is teaching us that the Holy Spirit gives each one of us gifts…gifts that we are to use to build up the Church. And it is here that I would like to pause and ask a few questions. What should be a proper response to the truths that we have heard this morning? Certainly praise. What have we done to deserve any of this? God has chosen you. God has chosen us. He has chosen to abide with us. He has chosen to call us to himself. To forgive us all our sins. To welcome us into his fellowship and to use us to bring others to Him. For instance, have you ever thought that your career is not really “your” career. Instead, perhaps it is your own mission field that has been given to you by God? Does it scare you a bit to think that God wants to use you to bring others to his Son? Let us not be afraid. Instead, let us be filled with courage and hope. He will not forsake us. Jesus will patiently teach us. We, however, must be open to him. We must learn to submit our hopes, our plans, and desires to his will. We must learn what it truly means to pray “Thy kingdom come…Thy will be done.” Since we are by God’s grace, the temple of the Holy Ghost…let us make sure that this temple is truly a house of prayer.

Which brings us to the Collect for this morning and shows us how the lessons connect together and teach us this morning. The Gospel teaches us that God’s temple must always remain first and foremost a house of prayer. The Epistle teaches us that the Spirit grants unto us spiritual gifts so that we may be faithful witnesses to Jesus and join Him in his Divine mission to “seek and to save that which is lost.” As the hymn says “The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”  We are God’s temple, by virtue of our baptism we are made members of Christ’s Body and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Through the Passion of Christ and the Sacraments of the Church we have been made into the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is what the epistle of 1st Corinthians teaches us.

Finally, The Collect teaches us to pray. It shows us that true prayer is centered on God’s will alone. True prayer does not presume. Instead it confesses its own weakness and asks the Lord to conform all of our desires to the pattern of His holy will and pleasure. As we seek to obey God’s will, let us learn to ask for his grace and will, moment by moment. Let us stay open to our Lord. His will. His grace. His high calling.

Let us pray:

Let thy merciful ears, O LORD, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and, that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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