In Matthew 21, after Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy (Zech 9:9), he came to the temple courtyard. There he found the scene of a market-place, a yard-sale, or a flea market with a variety of kiosks. Lots of noise. Lots of bartering. Lots of people. Lots of money exchanging hands. Lots of profits to be made. Jesus is clearly upset, even angry. It was a righteous anger – he did not sin in his anger. (like many of us do when we’re angry) He overturned the tables of the money-changers. He tore down the cages housing the doves. Maybe he even opened the animal pens and drove off the lambs and goats. V12 says he drove out all who were buying and selling there. What was he most angry about? What motivated him to make such a scene? Matthew helps us understand.
Matthew intentionally gives us a picture of Jesus’ Kingly authority. He rode in like a King on the back of a donkey in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. That same King who the people loved and praised and shouted “Hosanna” – that same King is now seen exercising his Kingly authority to do whatever he wants to do. If Jesus is King, then he is King all the time… in everyplace… and over everything. If Jesus is King (and of course he is), then he’s not just a King who is to be praised. He is a King to be obeyed. He is King with all authority in heaven and on earth. This is the lesson of Palm Sunday for us here this morning.
As King, Jesus can walk into the courtyard of the Temple and overturn the tables of the money-changers and vendors. What really ticked Jesus off (remember he didn’t sin), was not really the money-changers or any particular vendor or kiosk. What really got him going was where this all took place. Right in the front yard of his Father’s house. The Temple is his house, and the courtyard, his front yard. He’s just arrived back to his home to find a yard sale that is not supposed to be there. And He responds not unlike how any of you would respond to protect it and preserve it. The courtyard was the place where non-Jewish outsiders could approach God in prayer and worship. In v13 Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7 “My house will be called a house of prayer…” It’s sacred space. This is a sacred place where people enter the presence of God. The focus is prayer. Meet God in prayer. Not buying and selling. Not exchanging money. Not haggling for a better price. Those are things to be done over in the business section of town, but not here taking up sacred space. Not here where the only purpose is to provide a place where people connect with God. A place of meditation and worship. A place of peace and refreshing to the soul.
I came across a Tozer devotional last week. Although A.W. Tozer died in 1963, he’s still considered by many to be a modern-day prophet. He pastored in the Alliance and then edited the Alliance Life magazine. He also wrote over 40 books. The devotional I read started out this way: In exercising our right to self-determination, we often treat God as “visiting royalty” rather than sovereign King and Lord of our lives. (A.W. Tozer) This is right on! We are guilty of treating Jesus only as visiting royalty. Do you know when that happens? It happens when we enjoy all his benefits and celebrate in worship here on Sundays… but then the rest of the week we don’t obey him or allow him to exercise his kingly authority. He’s treated as royalty on Sunday but ignored the rest of the week. He’s sovereign King with sovereign authority on one day… but disregarded the next day. You can’t only relate to the part of King Jesus you like – what makes you feel happy and comfortable, safe and secure. You must relate to ALL of Jesus -allowing him into the front yard of your soul, to overturn all the stuff that’s not sacred and godly… to drive out what you have allowed to take the place of prayer and worship in your soul. The courtyard has moved. Your heart, your soul, is the holy place where God dwells and meets with the believer. Your soul is now sacred space.