Mark 11:15-19, 22-25

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

December 5, 2012

 

Mark 11:15-19 – The Cleansing of the Temple by Jesus

 

Jesus was not given to temper tantrums...He never lost His cool ...He was never out of control...and the driving of the merchants out of the temple was not a spur of the moment burst of anger, it was a deliberate, calculated act...if read this event in context of Mark 11 will see on previous day Jesus had entered Jerusalem, went to temple, looked around and then because it was late went back to Bethany about two miles outside Jerusalem...suspect all night long thought about what He had seen in the temple...the temple mount was the holiest place in all of Israel...was place where--

·         Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, at God's command took Isaac, his beloved son, and prepared to sacrifice him before the Lord intervened...

·         King Solomon built the first temple and prayed that great prayer of dedication and all the people of Israel knelt in awe as they saw the fire of the glory of the Lord fill the temple...

·         Isaiah, while mourning the death of King Uzziah, saw that wonderful vision of the sovereign Lord majestically lifted up in the temple...

 

Was a holy place and should have been place of great reverence and awe of God...but that's not what Jesus saw when He went to the temple...listen to how one writer described the scene--

"The noise ... was terrific.  Merchants shouted from their stalls to the customers, and noisy, haggling, pushy pilgrims jostled one another for position.  The incredible din was heightened by the constant bawling of livestock.  The aroma of the livestock, accentuated by the enclosure, made it like a county fair and the Stock Exchange all rolled into one!" [Hughes, p.87]

 

I can imagine Jesus thinking about that scene all during the night and the anger burning within Him...and when morning came He went to Jerusalem to do something about it...as we saw in the last session, on the way into the city, He cursed a fig tree as an object lesson of the danger of barren religion...then went to temple to deal with the corrupt practices there...

 

To understand significance of this event we need to understand something about the layout of the temple.

·         The heart of the temple was the holy of holies...that area could be entered only by the high priest and by him only once a year...

·         Outside the holy of holies was the sanctuary of the temple...only priests were allowed to enter the sanctuary...and they could enter only at prescribed times of service...

·         The next area of the temple was the Court of Israel...all male Israelites over a prescribed age were allowed to enter the Court of Israel to offer sacrifices...no Gentile could enter this area unless he was a full convert to Judaism...

·         And finally, outside the Court of Israel was the Court of the Gentiles...female Israelites and Gentiles were allowed to worship in this part of the temple...

 

Was in the Court of the Gentiles that the moneychangers and sacrificial animal sellers had been allowed to set up their booths...the place where a person seeking God would have come to worship, the place where first century Judaism had its greatest opportunity for missions had been turned into a middle eastern bazaar...and if you've ever been to a middle eastern market place, you know the atmosphere is certainly not conducive to worship...

 

And why had the temple authorities allowed this?...answer is simple...they cared more about money than people...for years there had been markets for selling sacrificial animals and making change for the temple tax on the Mt. of Olives, just across the Kidron Valley from the temple...but the high priest wasn't getting a cut of that money...the religious leaders figured out if they allowed booths inside the temple, arbitrarily rejected sacrifices bought outside the temple, and demanded a share of the profits from the vendors, they could make a lot of money...and in about 30 A.D. that is precisely what they did...

 

And in allowing the Court of Gentiles to be desecrated in that way, they were saying in effect that they had no concern for the spiritual condition of Gentiles and women and others who were not allowed to enter the Court of Israel...

 

Notice the contrasting views of the temple held by Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders...Jesus, quoting Isaiah 56:7, said the temple should be "a house of prayer for all the nations..." ...and that phrase "for all the nations” is especially significant in light of the obvious fact the religious leaders did not care about any nations or nationalities except for Israel and Israelites...

 

But in contrast to making the temple a "house of prayer” they had made it a "robbers' den"...that's amazing... imagine, the temple mount, the most holy place in all the world had been turned into a place where thieves hung out... instead of encountering God there, pilgrims who came to the temple encountered dishonest merchants who were operating with the blessing and under the protection of the high priest...

 

Want you to hear what one person wrote about that:  "It's not difficult to see what angered Jesus.  Pilgrims journeyed days to see God, to witness the holy, to worship His majesty.  But before they were taken into the presence of God, they were taken to the cleaners.  What was promised and what was delivered was two different things.  Want to anger God?  Get in the way of people who want to see him." [Lucado, And the Angels were Silent, p.61]

 

 Mark 11:22-25 – Lessons About Praying with Power

 

The heart of this passage is v.24 and want you to hear it first...Jesus said in v.24, "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you." If just pull that verse out of its context and let it stand alone, can lead to all sorts of theological absurdities...the religious hucksters of our day and the "name it and claim in" crowd have reduced this statement to nothing more than a formula for getting a bigger house, new car, and host of other selfish perks...but that's not even remotely close to what Jesus is speaking of here...

 

If you'll look at this statement in its larger context, will see Jesus is talking about praying with power...this entire conversation about prayer sparked by the disciples surprise at seeing a fig tree Jesus had cursed on the previous day had withered...Jesus told them, in effect, "Don't be surprised by that.  It's possible for you to pray with similar power."...and if you'll look carefully at what Jesus said just before and just after that amazing statement about prayer in v.24, will see He points out two things that will invariably keep us from praying with power...listen to what Jesus said in Mark 11:22b-25...

 

I.  Being out of fellowship with God will keep us from praying with power

1.   Notice that Jesus prefaces this entire discussion with the command in v.22 "Have faith in God."...that phrase means to trust God...have confidence in God...live with an attitude of dependence upon Him...faith is the entry point of our relationship with God...apart from faith we cannot know God ...as Paul put it, "By grace are you saved through faith..." ...but not only is faith the entry point of our relationship with God, it is also what keeps the relationship going...faith is the heart, the substance of our daily walk with God...we are saved by faith and we live each day by faith...and it is very important to note that the object of faith is not faith...it is God...Jesus didn't say to have faith in faith...said to have faith in God...

2.   And that life of confidence, trust, dependence on, or faith in God is one thing which gives power to our prayers...in v.23 Jesus said those who live by faith will be able to move mountains...the statement about casting the mountain into the sea is very interesting...when Jesus spoke these words was coming from Bethany, crossing Mt. of Olives, heading toward Jerusalem...from top of Mt. of Olives can actually see the Dead Sea off to the east... it's possible as Jesus spoke, He motioned to the mountain and then to the sea as He spoke...in Jewish imagery a mountain understandably signifies something big, strong, immovable...and by using this figure of speech Jesus was saying, "To have the kind of prayer life which helps you with the really big problems, you must be right with or have faith in God."

3.   And then Jesus added a very significant qualification...notice the phrase in v.23 "and does not doubt in his heart"...the word from which English word "doubt" is translated is compound word...first part means "two" and second part means "judge"...literally means to have "two judges"...Jesus not talking about person who has an occasional doubt as we all do...talking about person with divided loyalties...a person can't decide whether live by faith in God or faith in self...one moment turns to God but next moment turns to self or others...

4.   And what Jesus saying in v.23 is if don't have right relationship with  God...if don't live daily life of trust in and dependence on Him...if have divided loyalties...not going be very effective in prayer...

5.   But there's more to it than that...not only does being out of fellowship with God keep us from praying with power but...

 

II.  Being out of fellowship with other people will keep us from praying with power

1.   Look at what Jesus said in v.25 - "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions."...

2.   That's a difficult and disturbing statement...what mean?...is saying we earn for­giveness by forgiving?...don't think so...biblical message is God's forgiveness to us is free...must not  confuse with cheap...while free to us, very costly  to God...Jesus came to our world...took on human  form...suffered and died...took upon Himself the  penalty for our sins...that great and mysterious act  makes our forgiveness possible...not forgiven because choose to forgive...forgiven because accept what Jesus  did for us...

3.   But there is no surer sign that we have been forgiven than our willingness to forgive others...conversely, a harsh, unforgiving spirit toward others is a sure sign that we do not know what means to be forgiven by God...

4.   If we characterized by spirit of bitterness, resentment, anger, or criticism toward another person, that spirit in  itself is an unconfessed sin...and that unconfessed  sin separates us from fellowship with God and the  continuing forgiveness we all need...and we simply cannot pray with integrity if that kind of spirit is present in our lives...

5.   Must never forget the Christian life reaches in two directions... it brings us and God together...but it also brings us and other people together...and unless both dimensions, the vertical and the horizontal, are right, then neither of them are right... Apostle John said it very clearly...listen to his words:  "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also." [I John 4:20-12]

6.   If you're not right with people that is a sure sign you're out of God's will and one consequence of that is you won't have much of a prayer life.

 

Basically in our world there are two prevalent life philosophies...one was expressed rather pointedly by young college student when he was asked if he was religious...his response was, "I used to be.  When I was a kid, I was taken to church.  But now that I've come to college and matured I don't feel the need for religion anymore.  The way I see it, religion is like training wheels on a kid's bike.  It's fine, until you get your bearings, can think for yourself, stand on your own two feet.  Then, you don't need religion anymore." [Brian's Lines, Jan/Feb 1996, p.21]...other view expressed by Jesus when he said in Mark 11:22, "Have faith in God."...those two competing life philosophies have been around since the beginning of time...one says life is best when we trust ourselves...the other says that life is best when we trust it to God...

 

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