Jerusalem’s King Arrives
MY HOUSE IS A HOUSE OF PRAYER
Intro: The term “passion” comes from the Latin word for suffering (pati). So when we call the last week of Jesus’ life, “Passion Week,” we are referring to the suffering Jesus endured on His way to Calvary’s cross. The passion of the Christ is His death by crucifixion. We also use the word “passion” to refer to a “strong affection,” or to “an intense, driving conviction.” The week that Jesus died was a “passion week” in this sense, also. His strong feelings are on full display in this passage.
WHAT MAKES JESUS CRY?
Luke 19:41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it,
Luke 19:42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
The disciples have hardly finished their song, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” when Jesus looks up, sees the city of Jerusalem before Him, and weeps, “If you had known…especially in your day, the things that make for your peace!”
The people were cheering, but the Man of Sorrows was crying.
Only once in Luke is the Lord Jesus said to “rejoice” (10:21), and only here is He said to “weep” (this term in the original language implies deep, audible sorrow).
The peace they lack is the “shalom” of God, which has characterized Jesus from birth (2:14) until the final week of His life (19:38).
But the Lord’s people were dull and undiscerning. Israel did not comprehend what His physical presence meant.
Moses once sang of them… Deut 32:28 For they are a nation void of counsel, nor is there any understanding in them.
Their problem was not ignorance or immorality. But their spiritual rebellion against God’s light had so hardened them that they were unable to repent.
The penalty for sin is more sin and more darkness. And we learned earlier that God is willing to hide the truth from those who are either not ready (apostles) or not willing (citizens of Jerusalem, here).
Luke 18:34 But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.
“But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
And for their dedicated rebellion, the Lord would bring severe judgment.
Luke 19:43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side,
Luke 19:44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
“For the days will come” is an OT phrase occurring 20x in the prophets that always preceded a warning of God’s judgment.
illus: All of the words in vv.43-44 came true. With perfect knowledge, the Son of God was prophesying what would happen in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. when it the city was conquered and destroyed by the Romans. General Titus surrounded Jerusalem and set up a giant siege-works around the walls of the city. The stones of the city were torn down, the temple was destroyed, and the streets ran red with the blood of women and children. Caesar wanted to make it impossible for anyone to believe that Jerusalem had ever been inhabited. To that end, Titus tore down everything except for three large towers. These he left standing to show how great the city had been, but that it was no match for the might of Rome. The judgment of God came through His pagan servant, Caesar.
Why were they judged so harshly? They “did not know the time of” their “visitation.”
God had come to them in the person of the Lord Jesus, and they failed to recognize Him.
Answer: SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS
Jesus visits Jerusalem not in judgment but in grace, a visitation that the crowd receives with joy.
But the religious establishment in Jerusalem neither recognized His majesty nor received His salvation – therefore His visitation of grace becomes a visitation of judgment from heaven.
Jesus is the royal Messiah who must be rejected, must suffer, and must die.
At His birth, Jerusalem received Him with joy because they longed for God’s redemption (2:38), but near His death, He weeps in sorrow at their rejection.
Jesus is both victor and victim.
In the temple, Simeon had prophesied that Jesus was “destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel.”
WHAT MAKES JESUS ANGRY?
Luke 19:45 Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it,
Luke 19:46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”
If Jesus Christ has a crying passion for the lost, He also had a consuming zeal for the worship of God.
The journey that began in Luke 9:51 has brought Jesus to Jerusalem here in Luke 19:45. Practically speaking, the journey to Jerusalem was a journey to the temple.
Luke does not record a “triumphant entry” into Jerusalem, but only an entry into the temple.
The week of His Passion is focused almost exclusively in and around the temple.
It was there that Jesus “began to drive out those who bought and sold in it.” All of this took place in the outer court called the “Court of the Gentiles.”
All people whether worshipers or not had access to the outer court. The volume of trade that was conducted in this area happened on a scale equal to the grandeur of Herod’s temple itself.
This commerce was necessary to maintain the expected level of proper worship and for the financial gain of the temple rulers.
Who oversaw the temple enterprise? It was the priests and the scribes, and more specifically, the high priest and his family.
Jesus has already aimed His criticism at them with His parable of the Good Samaritan.
The priest and the Levite in the parable showed no mercy to a fellow Jewish man as he lay bleeding on the side of the road. Only a despised Samaritan stopped to help the wounded man.
Our Lord’s comment was that inside the priesthood there lay something sinister and something merciless towards the common man.
His first task during Holy Week was to purge the temple infrastructure of the outward corruption that was so dominant.
illus: One month before Passover, on the 15th, all bridges and roads were repaired, and all tombs were re-painted white to prevent accidental pollution in anticipation of the multitudes of worshipers soon to ascend on the holy city of Jerusalem. Hundreds of thousands would arrive soon to present themselves before the Lord at the temple. The money-changers also appeared on this day in every country-town, opening stalls from which livestock could be bought for sacrifice at the temple. These men were regularly accredited and duly authorized by the Sanhedrin. One of these even trained to examine livestock to measure their fitness as an unblemished sacrifice by living on a farm for 18 months and learning which faults were temporary and which were permanent. With a few exceptions, all Jews and proselytes had to pay the yearly temple-tribute tax of half-a-shekel, according to the sacred standard of currency. Since so many worshipers would be traveling from foreign lands, it was necessary for them to be able to exchange their home currency for the accepted shekels of the Sanctuary. It was quite a convenience to have the money-changers available in the rural areas during preparation for Passover. This lasted 10 days from the 15th to the 25th of the month. On the 25th the first pilgrims began to arrive in the holy city, so the money-changers moved to the temple to accommodate the worshipers there. All who refused to pay the temple-tribute tax were liable to have their goods/resources taken by compulsion. The money-changers added a fee to every transaction which brought an impressive revenue to the temple enterprise. Both the religious leaders and the money-changers were being paid handsomely for their services. With high profits always comes controversy. And controversy has a way of degenerating into corruption. Many of the poor and most vulnerable were being regularly exploited. This whole scheme was a terrible desecration, and no one knew this better than the average worshipers. They felt trapped by tradition and greed. It was wildly unpopular.
Once the tribute taxes were paid and all the sacrifices were purchased, what was the daily routine at temple like during the Feast?
illus: The large quantity of animals that were daily sacrificed at the temple was so great as to almost be unbelievable. Day after day, masses of victims were slaughtered there and burned. Despite having thousands of priests available and on duty during one of the great Jewish festivals, the number of sacrifices was so enormous that the fully staffed priesthood could barely keep up with the demand. Josephus recorded that in 66 AD, the year the temple was finally completed, that 255,600 lambs were sacrificed during Passover.
It is this operation that Jesus interrupts.
Answer: SPIRITUAL CORRUPTION
He justifies His action by quoting from the prophets.
“My house is a house of prayer” comes from Isaiah 56:7. “You have made it a ‘den of thieves’” (robbers) comes from Jer 7:11.
It was not simply what the people were doing – all the buying and selling – that made Jesus angry; it was also what they were not doing – praying to God in His house of worship.
When Luke first mentions the temple, he refers to it as a place of prayer (1:10). Prayer is the essential purpose of the temple.
Without it, the temple cannot be God’s dwelling. He dwells in the place where His people seek Him and where they speak to Him.
The second part of the quotation comes from Jeremiah where he condemns the lies and the deception and the false worship that was being performed at the temple in one of Israel’s dark seasons.
“You have made it a den of thieves/robbers,” says Jesus.
When Luke uses the terms for thieves/robbers, it always refers to violent criminal activity.
Luke 10:30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.”
Luke 22:52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs?”
Now we know exactly what the Lord thought about the corrupt temple commerce enterprise and the leaders responsible for it.
The rabbis taught that the Messiah would purge both Jerusalem and the temple from undesirables such as Gentiles, aliens, and other foreigners.
Jesus reveals Himself to be a very different kind of Messiah. Here in this text, He clears the temple for them, not of them.
WHAT ENDEARED JESUS TO HIS HEARERS?
Luke 19:47 And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him,
Luke 19:48 and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.
Answer: HIS LOVE FOR SOULS AND COMMITMENT TO TRUTH
Once it had been purged, the temple in Luke becomes the redeemed arena where Jesus’ teaching takes center stage.
Luke 20:1 Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him
Luke 21:37 And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet.
Luke 21:38 Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.
When was the first time Jesus taught in the temple in Luke? He was just a boy of twelve and had gotten separated from his parents.
Luke 2:46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.
Luke 2:47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.
In Luke 19, grownup Jesus is still busy doing His Father’s business at the temple, just as He was when He was twelve!
Where does the opposition to Jesus and His mission come from in the text? Not from humanity at its presumed worst (angry heathens), but from humanity at its alleged best (those knowledgeable about God and authorized to serve in God’s house).
As a boy, Jesus amazed the temple authorities. As a man, that same exceptional teaching incited murderous thoughts from the same leadership group.
Remarkably, when His opponents challenge Him, not once does Jesus endeavor to embarrass them – not once does He seek to defeat them.
Instead, He seeks to engage their minds and hearts about what the coming of the Kingdom of God meant and how that pointed to Him as the King.
Someone who cared for the souls of others
It broke the heart of Jesus when He considered how deceived and how blinded the citizens of Jerusalem were to the good news.
They did not comprehend that peace from heaven was standing there in front of them. They missed their time when God visited them.
Yet some saw His tears and heard His sobs. It knit their hearts to Him. They were overwhelmed as they witnessed His love for others.
Someone who stood for what is right
Not only did He demonstrate extraordinary love, but Jesus also championed the difference between right and wrong, especially when it came to the worship of God.
It was wrong to make God’s approval a commodity. It was wrong to offer atonement for sin as something to be purchased at just the right price. It was wrong to turn God’s house into a den of thieves when it should have been a house of prayer.
When He arrived in Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus loved the lost and stood for truth. And when He did, the people’s hearts melted before Him. They longed for Him to show them more of what God is like.
And when the religious leaders, who were the targets of His rebuke, decided to terminate Him, they could not because the people favored Him entirely.
He held them spellbound with His teaching – “all the people were very attentive to hear Him” = “all the people hung on His words.”
The term implies allegiance and devotion. They now belonged to Christ. And their commitment to Him provided a significant barrier for the religious leaders’ plan to get rid of Him.
Mal 3:1 “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.
Mal 3:2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like launderers' soap.
Mal 3:3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.”
Alfred Edersheim – His presence awed them, His words awakened even their consciences; they knew, only too well, how true His denunciations were. And behind Him was gathered the wondering multitude, that could not but sympathize with such bold, right, royal, and Messianic vindication of temple sanctity from the nefarious traffic of a hated, corrupt, and avaricious priesthood.
We can only lament that some of the same sins which made Jesus so angry in Jerusalem are so common in the modern church. Rather than having a burden for lost souls, or a heart for the poor, and a spirit to pray, we are often lazy in evangelism, greedy in materialism, and stingy with our prayers. But Jesus came to clean things up and purge away corruption, and it is important to note how He did it: by teaching the Word of God to the congregation. Jesus did not simply drive people out of the temple, but He claimed it for His pulpit, and started preaching the kingdom of God.