We call the church “God’s House.” In Jesus’ day people called the Jerusalem Temple, God’s House. They said it was the house of God! It was the place where God chose to dwell among his people. The Bible tells us in the middle of the Jerusalem Temple was a room called Holy of Hollies. In that room was the ark of the covenant. Above the ark was God’s Spirit.
The Jerusalem Temple was called “holy.” In Hebrew word for holy is “qadosh.” It means set apart or separated. The opposite of holy is “profane” or “common.” So, the temple was a holy place because it had been set aside as the dwelling place of God and nothing else.
Because the temple was holy, people took the time to make a pilgrimage to the temple for holy days. Jesus and his disciples were no different. When the Feast of Passover approached they made their way to the Temple. The holy place set apart for praising and worshipping God.
When they entered God’s house, Jesus didn’t find what he expected. He expected to hear Hymns being sung. He expected to see rabbis teaching the Scriptures. He expected to see people kneeling in prayer. He expected to smell incense and burnt offerings to God. He expected the Temple to be full of people worshipping God.
That isn’t what he found. Instead of prayers, he heard the clanging of cow bells, the bleating of sheep, and the clanking of coins. Instead people kneeling in prayer, he saw buying, selling, making deals and trading. Instead of the nice smells of incense and burnt offerings, he found the foul smells of sweaty animal and of sheep and ox dirt.
Instead of worshippers, he found people cheating and stealing. The sights, sounds, and smells Jesus faced were those of the marketplace not of the temple. Marketplace’s atmosphere had taken over the temple. If it was no longer separated from the world; it was no longer holy.
Jesus couldn’t take it. He cleaned it up and make it holy. He drove out the people and their animals. He turned over tables of the money changers. And he said, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
What Jesus did was very significant and radical. People believed the temple was holy and Jesus said it wasn’t. They wondered, “Who is he to do that? What authority did he have to make that kind of a statement? Only God can decide that the temple was no longer holy.”
So, they asked him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” This amazed those who were listening. It had taken 46 years to build the temple, and it wasn’t finished yet. How could he rebuild it in three days?
The Jerusalem Temple was destroyed just as Jesus predicted. It has not been rebuilt to this day. But Jesus’ prediction did come true. The temple he was speaking of was his body. God dwelt in him. They destroyed his body just as he said. And three days later he was raised up. So, Christ’s death and resurrection changed everything.
The followers of God no longer need to go to temple and make sacrifices to atone for their sins. Christ’s death was and is the only sacrifice ever needed for the sins of the world. Through his death and resurrection Christ replaced the temple with himself. No longer would God dwell in the Holy of Hollies. Jesus became the presence of God in our midst. He lives in our heart making each of us a Holy of Hollies; a walking temple.
The Bible says that we are God’s holy people. (I Peter 2:9) It also says that each of us are living stones built into the temple of God. (I Peter 2:5) He dwells in our hearts just as God dwelt in the temple. God has set us apart to be a holy people just as the temple was a holy place.
Are we really holy? Are we set apart and different? You might say, “I have accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior so I am holy and saved.” That is right in part. Because you have accepted Christ, his blood covers your sins and you are saved. Your faith is counted to you as righteousness. You will go to heaven because of Jesus’ death. But are you living a holy life?
Are you living for Jesus? As Christians we are saved by Jesus. We are called to live holy lives for Christ.
You know the ten commandments. Jesus said if you think about doing these things you have done them. I wonder how many of us are guilty of having broken all the commandments. Our hearts are wicked. They have been filled with every kind of desire the marketplace can provide. We have all sinned and fallen short of his glory.
Let Jesus come in and cleanse our hearts like he did the temple. As Easter approaches ask Jesus to cleanse your hearts. Allow him to come in and overturn the moneychanger’s tables. Drive out the sellers of sheep and oxen. We can dwell in Christ and he in us and we will be walking talking breathing temples of the living God. And the holy of hollies where the spirit of the living God dwells will be in our hearts. Shalom and Amen!
Scripture: John 2:13-22