Looking for the Safe Answer

Looking for the Safe Answer

Sunday the crowds were going crazy waving their palm branches and laying their coats in the road as Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, riding a donkey, just like the prophets said. Their streets were alive with cries of

“Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD” (Mark 11:9–10)        

But, on Friday they would scream “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Mark 15: 12-14)

What happened between the cheers of the crowd and the cross?

Monday an angry Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple. They had a good thing going and were not happy when their meal train came to a stop! However their business was interfering with those Gentiles who came to the Temple seeking the One True God! Jesus would not tolerate that.

Tuesday was a busy day. Matthew dedicated four full chapters and part of two others. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John also devote a lot of time to the events of Tuesday.

Since this is a blog and not a book I want to simply focus on the early events that set the context for the rest of the stories of that day.

As Jesus walked back into the Temple area He found the religious leaders waiting for Him!

The chief priests, scribes, and the elders were demanding to know by what authority He acted and taught as He did! (Mark 11:27-28, Matthew 21:23). Translated that means, “What gives You the right to interfere with our business?”

Why did they ask that question now?

The priests, scribes, and elders were the religious leaders of Jesus day. They were the “Spiritual Formations” Team of their time. It was their duty. The Sanhedrin, the ruling religious body, even had teams who would go out and investigate every popular teacher or rabbi to make sure their teaching was appropriate and to challenge any messianic type claims. And there were a lot of men claiming “to be somebody” in that day as the Pharisee Gamaliel noted (Acts 5:33-39)

Because of their responsibility to oversee the things being taught, their question was legitimate. Well at least on the surface.

The Pharisees and scribes had been following Jesus’ ministry since it began. They had already studied Him. They objected when He forgave sins, and were furious when He healed on the Sabbath. They knew His authority and His power. So our question is, why did they decide to ask this question now?

Perhaps they were feeling threatened as they saw and heard the reaction of the crowds on Sunday.

To be perfectly honest, it was probably Jesus’ outburst of anger and the authority He demonstrated as He drove the money changers out of the Temple area. That display by Jesus hurt them deeply, in their pocket book!

How does Jesus answer their question?

Honestly they had their answers. For the last three years they have followed Jesus’ ministry – they knew the answer to their question. The problem was not a lack of knowledge, it was much deeper.

And Jesus said to them, I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me. (Mark 11:29–30)

It’s seems like an odd answer, even evasive. But, it’s not. Jesus was asking a very straight question of the leaders, and it was one they refused to answer!

The Jewish leaders were looking for a safe answer

They reasoned among themselves to try to find the safe answer.

• If we say the baptism of John was from God then He will ask us why we didn’t believe him.

• If we say it was from men then the people might stone us because they think John was a prophet. Hmm…

What is the safest answer? Their safe answer was “We do not know”

In the words of Warren Wiersbe “The Jewish leaders were caught in a dilemma of their own making. They were not asking “What is true?” or “What is right?” but “What is safe?” This is always the approach of the hypocrite and the crowd-pleaser.” (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 151). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)

In the crisis of the moment they wanted to be safe!

That appeals to many of us. Safety is always a great concern for most of us, however

  • John the Baptist never played it safe. “You brood of vipers” he said to the Pharisees and Sadducees when they came testing the waters.
  • Jesus never played it safe either. He formed a one man revival team and drove the riff raff out of the Temple area. Knowing that death by crucifixion was only a few days away Jesus walked right into their back yard and declared the truth of God.

With His next breath Jesus tells them a thinly veiled the parable of a man who owns a vineyard and rents it to vine growers. When he sent his servants to collect the rent, they beat, shamed, and even killed the servants. Finally he sent his son. The vine growers killed the son and threw him out of the vineyard.

And the chief priests, scribes, and elders knew He was talking about them. That is not safe. But, then again,      perhaps it is right and true. Jesus came to die, so safety was not really the issue.

Have you been playing it safe?

When was the last time “playing it safe” kept you from bold obedience to Christ? How often have you traded safety for obedience?

Too many times I have not shared the gospel because it just seemed awkward (unsafe) at that moment.

Or how many times have you chosen not to be involved in things around you or in people’s lives who needed help, because

“This is just not a good time”

“If I say anything it won’t make a difference anyway”

Don’t those sound like a good and safe answers?

Something to think about

  • John the Baptist never played it safe. He spoke the truth, without compromise.
  • Jesus never played it safe. He walked into the vineyard and confronted the vine growers who had beaten, shamed, and killed the owner’s servants. He walked in knowing that they would also kill the son.
  • Your God is not safe. He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. And He sent His Son to die. And that is the point of Easter or Resurrection Sunday!

This is just one of Tuesday’s stories but it carries a heavy punch!

So that you don’t miss out on the events of Jesus’ journey to the cross I recommend you read the Scriptures listed below.

Scripture Reading

  • Matthew 21:20–26:5
  • Mark 11:19-14:2
  • Luke 20-21

Have you been playing it safe?  I would love to know what your plan is for not playing safe in the future. You can start the conversation by writing in the comment box below.

I am looking forward to tomorrow as we move forward in the journey.

Jesus Destroys the Robber’s Den

Jesus Destroys the Robber’s Den

On Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem, not on the back of a powerful prancing white stallion, but on the embarrassingly humble and small back of a donkey. He came in to Jerusalem that day just as Zechariah promised almost 550 years earlier (Zechariah 9:9). That evening He returned to Bethany, probably to the home of Lazarus (John 12:1).

The next morning Jesus walked back into Jerusalem, back into the Temple area.

It is Monday of Holy Week.

Three years prior Jesus had opened His public ministry with a scene very similar to this one. (John 2:13–25) The business men of the Temple had encountered the angry Jesus. That day Jesus’ cry was “Stop making my Father’s house a place of business!” Now towards the end of His life He cleansed the Temple for the second time! This time it was recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Why drive out the business men?

Once again the temple is defiled by the “religious business” of the leaders. They had turned the court of the Gentiles into a place where foreign Jews could exchange money and purchase sacrifices. What had begun as a service of convenience for visiting Jews soon turned into a lucrative business. The dealers charged exorbitant prices and no one could compete with them or oppose them.

The exchanging of local currencies for money that could be used to pay the annual Temple tax had become quite a money making operation with the High Priest himself getting a percentage of the profit.

Animals for sacrifice were also sold in the Temple area. Animals used for sacrifices had to be free from any blemish or imperfection. And of course all of the animals sold in the Temple area were “guaranteed” to be acceptable by the priests for sacrifice. The priests of course received a percentage of the profits. Some of the lambs being sold were from the priest’s flocks, raised outside of Bethlehem.

The court of the Gentiles in the temple allowed the Gentiles (non-Jews) an opportunity to enter the temple area and learn from Israel about the true God. They were permitted to go in it but were forbidden to go any further than the outer court. The entire Temple area was considered holy, but it became increasingly more holy as one entered farther in east to west.

The presence of this “religious market” turned many Gentiles who may have been seeking, away from the witness of Israel. The court of the Gentiles was used for mercenary business, not missionary business.

And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” (Matthew 21:13)

By calling the temple My house, Jesus was affirming that He is God.

Jesus is quoting Isaiah 56:7 where God declares that one day gentiles will come and worship with joy and prayer at the temple. Actually it was part of a long sermon that Jeremiah delivered in the gate of the temple, rebuking the people for the same sins that Jesus saw and judged that day.

Jesus called the temple a den of robbers because the place where robbers hide is called a den. The religious leaders, and some of the people, were using the temple and the “Jewish religion” to cover up their sins.

Ironically the only place the gentiles were allowed to pray and worship in Jesus’ day was the outer court where buying and selling had taken over.

One has to wonder how many gentiles seeking after the true God were turned away by the noise, and the greed at the edge of the temple.

What does God want in His house?

Prayer among His people (1 Tim. 2:1ff).

Real prayer is an evidence of our dependence on God and our faith in His Word.

People being helped (Matt. 21:14).

The needy should feel welcome and should find the kind of help they need.

Power in God’s house

The power of God working to bring new life and to change people into the image of His Son!

Praise is another feature of God’s house (Matt. 21:15–16). Here Jesus quotes Psalm 8:2

Something to think about

  • What about us today? If Jesus were walking around our churches what are we doing that would offend Him because it is driving away people who are seeking Him?
  • What about you? As a believer your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). What activity is going on in your life that may be keeping others from getting to know Jesus?

Readings for Monday of Holy Week

  • Matthew 21:12-16
  • Mark 11:15-18
  • Luke 19:45-48
  • Isaiah 56:1-8

It is my prayer that as we focus on the events leading up to the cross that you can fully grasp the magnitude of sin and its consequences in order to fully understand the light and hope of Sunday morning!

I would love to start a conversation of what God shows you as a result of taking this journey with us this week! You can do that by writing in the comment box!

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