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After He had a thorough examination of all that was in the temple on His final visit there to give the nation of Israel their final notice, Jesus left the temple and was walking away when His disciples came up to Him to call His attention to its buildings.  “Do you see all these things?” He asked.  “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”  This was the temple Jesus had taught in many times before, the temple that had been the focus of Jewish worship and culture since it was rebuilt again after the exile.  This same temple that Peter and John were on the way up to prayer in Acts 3, and the temple that Paul tried to enter to join in the purification rites as suggested by the elders of the church in Jerusalem where he was apprehended.  The second temple, as it is called, will serve to teach us what we need in the matter of focus so that we have absolute focus.

Jesus went up to the temple shortly after the wedding at Cana at the beginning of His ministry.  In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here!  How dare you turn My Father’s house into a market!”  That was the first time those at the temple saw and heard of Jesus Christ, so that the first presentation we are shown of Jesus in the temple was not a mild and gentle Jesus, but of an angry and furious Jesus who was attacking people with a whip made out of cords.  Understandably, He was challenged and was asked, “What miraculous sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do all this?”  So much for the image of the gentle Jesus carrying a lamb… what we see here, especially if you were present that day minding your own business as it were, be it buying or selling and preparing to make your public sacrifice to God so that you would get your blessing, is a stranger, a young man, a religious zealot no doubt, rummaging in the temple.  If you were there that day and that was the first time you saw Jesus… what would you think of Him?  What would have been your first impression of Him?  Do you realise that Jesus was not concerned about your first impression of Him?  If He was, then He would have sought an audience with the priests and debated with them over a conference or council meeting about the correctness of allowing buying and selling in the temple courts.  He would have been mindful that winning friends was a good way to influence people, as someone once wrote and sold a lot of books about.

However, Jesus had no concern about winning friends and influencing people, certainly not amongst those who seemed important.  His entire focus was on the work the Father had given Him to do, which was to save the world by being the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, and to reveal the Father to those He would choose to reveal them.

When Jesus went up to the temple that first time, that first Passover, a week or so after He had called His first disciples and displayed His glory at Cana, He was there on an inspection tour of the temple to see if things were in order.  To see whether the temple was a fitting place for Him to lay down His life in, and He found it not suitable.  So much so that after He chased out those who had turned His Father’s house into a market, He told those who questioned His authority to “Destroy this temple…”  Jesus issued a demolition order on the temple of His Father… He was not going to preserve it because it was useless… useless for the purposes of God because it had not been built to the exact plan shown to Ezekiel, and further more, it was being used as a common marketplace, meaning, merchants were using God’s so-called temple when Zechariah had written:  …there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord Almighty.

When He returned to the temple at the end of His ministry in Matthew 21.12-13, again He found the very people He attacked in John 2.14-16 a couple of Passovers ago were still there… selling, buying and exchanging money, and this time He quoted from Isaiah 56.7 and Jeremiah 7.11, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers,’ as a reminder to the Jews of what happened to the first temple shortly after the Lord said that through Jeremiah.  The whole nation was destroyed, temple and all, except for a few thousand survivors and the exile lasted 70 years.

The next day, as He returned from Bethany, He found that the market was back again in operation, and again He drove them out, quoting Isaiah 56.7 and Jeremiah 7.11 once again, except this time He said, “Is it not written:  ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?  But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’   The wording is in past tense, meaning, the work is finished, there is no salvation left for the temple, it was beyond salvage.  They had been making it into a den of robbers the day before, but the next day, because they still did not repent of their ways, then there would be no further respite.  The temple demolition order was sealed.

At His first visit, He was an unknown, so ignoring His actions and His words was in a way humanly and religiously understandable… after all who is this young Upstart… surely demon possessed and a madman, running through the temple courts with a whip, disrupting the orderly worship and praise, and of course, the prayers of God’s people at worship, even as money was changing hands.  But now, at this final visit, Jesus was not a nobody anymore.  His ministry and following had proved that, and still… still they did not listen and had not listened.  Even if they had listened that first time and removed the market from the temple, it would not have spared the temple from demolition… it would just have spared those who used the temple as a market from condemnation and destruction.

You see, the temple… the second temple as planned by God… as shown to Ezekiel, was designed to provoke one thing from the Jews – “Son of man, describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins.  Let them consider the plan…”  The second temple was destroyed in such a way as to cause the Israelites to remember the shame of their idolatry that cause the first temple to be destroyed.  The temple that Jesus entered in John 2 was not the temple built according to the plans given to Ezekiel… but a prostituted version of the first, built by Herod to appease the Jews for the Romans, made to display the grandeur and pride of Herod… it is in fact the third temple, for the temple built after the exile was removed. 

So see and understand; the temple Jesus ordered demolished was not the temple God had ordered them to build, and as such, it never served its purpose of convicting the Israelites of their shame to prepare them for the Messiah.  That is why when Jesus appeared on the scene, His appearance did not conform with what the religious of His days had in mind for the Messiah.  They had a ‘magnificent’ temple that drew the attention of Jesus’ disciples… Some of His disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God.  It was a proud and beautiful temple, a temple of a nation who wanted to forget their shame and pretend everything was fine between them and God when they knew the real Ark of the Covenant was no longer in the Holy of Holies.  If there was an ark, it was a fake, for the Lord had said, “In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land, men will no longer say, ‘The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord.’  It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made.”  It was His way of announcing the arrival of the New Covenant and the new ark that would begin with people who believed in the message of Jesus in John 3.16.

The temple of Ezekiel was to have been an ark-less temple, a temple to remind the people that they had broken the old covenant and the New Covenant had to come… that until that came, their sins would not be forgiven them, even when they make the blood sacrifice and burnt offering.  It was to be another 400 years of slavery, just like the 400 years in Egypt… except this time, it was a ‘slavery’ to God… all the temple worship, the feast days and the blood sacrifices were only for God’s benefit, not theirs, just as their forefathers’ labour in Egypt was for the pharaoh’s benefit, not theirs.  For despite all the observance of the feasts, the sacrifices, the worship, there would be no Mercy Seat to sprinkle the blood on for the forgiveness of sins.  The 400 years of ‘slavery’ at Ezekiel’s temple was to prepare them for the One Moses spoke about who would come out of the desert like Moses to lead them away from the slavery of the temple worship to a new way of worship through faith in Jesus Christ, the way of worshipping in spirit and in truth, and not by works and blood.

It never happened that way, and so when Jesus came out of the desert and began to perform His signs, wonders and miracles before the latter day pharaoh and his advisors, Herod, the pharisees and sadducees, these latter day slave masters were not prepared to let their people go either.

You see, Jesus was not sentimental at all about the temple He found in Jerusalem because, in the first place, it was not the intended temple, and secondly, He knew as long as it stood, it would distract His disciples.  That is exactly why He gave the order for the temple to be torn down… it did happen 70 years later though in AD70 by the Romans.

Why did it take 70 years to be torn down… another ‘coincidental’ number to the years of exile in Babylon of the old Israel?  Because… whether you like it or not, from the very beginning… the church, as we call the fellowship of disciples, had began to entertain Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes.  What do I mean?  I mean this:  Peter’s version made no mention of God as being God the Father of Jesus Christ, even though he did say, “Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”  It was not, “Exalted to the right hand of God, He received from His Father the promised Holy Spirit…”  His sermon urged his listeners to repent for the forgiveness of sins, to receive the Holy Spirit and to save themselves… without an emphasis on the revelation of the Father revealed by Jesus.  Jesus was not spoken of as the Son of God… only hinted at.  And so, the early emphasis was on repentance for the forgiveness of sins, to receive the Holy Spirit and to save oneself from God’s wrath… the raising up of the sons who know their Father was not a major emphasis, and with the infiltration into the ranks with converts to Judaism like Nicolas of Antioch and later with James the Younger’s law loving doctrines, the truth is the early Jerusalem church turned the work the Lord had in mind to something that was already akin to Babylon.  It was not until we hear Paul preaching in Acts 13.33 that we see the clear annunciation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God when Paul quoted Psalm 2.7 to Jews in Antioch, ” ‘You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.’ “

The Jerusalem church’s love for the temple of Herod obviously grew, until Acts 21.26 even Paul was convinced to go there for a purification rite.  The sentimental attachment that was shown by Peter and John to the temple, for they were going up to the temple to pray in Acts 3.1, completely infiltrated the Jerusalem church, a church that Scripture tells us was only all too keen to return to the law, even in part, and appease those who were zealous for the law in order to keep them in the church.  The seed of Babylon the Great was already in Jerusalem, thus that city was sacked so that the disciples might be set free, at least in part.  Just as the Jews were set free from the 70 years in exile by Cyrus, so the Romans were used to set the church free from Herod’s temple… but unfortunately, the temple of Herod still lives in the heart of the church… and so we see two millenniums of grand architecture, all trying to emulate the temple of Herod.

Jesus, on the other hand, allowed no such sentimentality to distract Him.  The Jewish insistence of using Herod’s temple as God’s temple, and yet entertaining mammon in its courts, had condemned the nation to be scattered again.  Israel would now be robbed of its second chance to be used as a nation to advance the Kingdom of God that would be given to the little flock, not the large flock, which is Israel in general.  Like the 27,000 of Gideon who were sent home with the honour of the victory given to the 300, so the honour of releasing the New Covenant would not come from the nation as such, but from just a small band.  In fact, Israel would not be seen as the originator of the New Covenant, but an opposer of the new through men like Saul of Tarsus, and the polluter of the new through men like James the Younger’s disciples.

Their insistence of having mammon in the courtyard had robbed Israel of its second chance to be the nation that God would use to release His salvation.  It robbed them of the opportunity to have God sacrifice the Lamb in their temple, and so God gave His Lamb to the Gentiles to be slain outside of Jerusalem.

The temple was unsuitable at the first inspection, so it was condemned, and even when He went there again and again, as if to give them another opportunity to make it right, they did not.  So it was demolished.  However, that demolition was delayed, yes, delayed by the church itself whose apostles began to return to the condemned structure for prayer meetings.  Jesus’ focus is absolute, there is no sentimentality in Him concerning things that appear good but are a hindrance.

Likewise now, inspect your temple, that is, yourself, for you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and see what has to be thrown out, and then when you have done that, inspect the temple everywhere… as Jesus did in Mark 11.11… He looked around at everything…  Look around at everything that is in the whole temple of God, the ‘church,’ and see if it is suitable for the task appointed it.  Has it been turned into a marketplace?  Has it become a den of robbers?

You see, Jesus’ focus from the day He came out of the waters of the Jordan to the day He ascended to God’s right hand has not been on the church concerting the word, no; or on the multitudes coming to Heaven through death, no.  No matter how wonderful, how good, how powerful… whatever superlative adjectives you can think of about the ministry of Jesus, salvation, Kingdom of Heaven, Kingdom of God on Earth, signs, wonders and miracles… even the millennium, nothing, not one little thing, represents that which God had in mind originally when He first put Adam in the garden to live and never die.

Every single aspect of our lives right now and every part of our work, even in the millennium, is still condemned and subject to death.  We may not die at all, yes, especially if we are the ones to witness John 11.26, but our works will still die.  Even our millennial work will die at the end of the millennium when fire comes out of Heaven and destroys everything… and all that remains will be the words of Jesus and those who abide in His words.

Nothing we have between now and the end of the millennium is acceptable as God’s original plan, no, for that is not resurrected until New Earth and New Jerusalem.  So, just as Jesus’ focus was not on the beautifully decorated stones of the temple and its beautiful gifts, so likewise, our focus is not on the good works of the church and its beautiful decorations… but rather, our focus must be like Jesus’… when He said, “I have come to bring fire on the Earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!  Do you think I came to bring peace on Earth?  No, I tell you, but division.  From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.”  And it might just mean that we may have to present ourselves at the temple just like Jesus did at first with a whip in His hand to chase out the money changers who buy and sell God’s gifts. 

For focus for you and I from now on is not on the return of Jesus, not on the days of distress, not even on the millennium, but on New Earth and New Jerusalem, on when the last enemy, D/death, is truly destroyed… so that our hopes, our dreams, all that God has for us, will be with us, never to be taken away by death.  And not just with us, but our lives, hopes and dreams will be resurrected to what God had in mind originally, only infinitely indescribably better than perfect, for perfection has been perfected.

Absolute Focus to be continued…

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