The Authority of Jesus Questioned

We are continuing our meditations on the last week before the crucifixion. After Christ had overturned the money changers tables in the Court of the Gentiles in the temple precincts, the Chief Priests and leaders felt that the situation was getting out of their control with the crowd hanging on to Jesus’ every word (Luke 19:48). Their jealousy and fear of losing their financial empire made them acknowledge that their efforts to stop Christ’s popularity had little effect. They said, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him” (John 12:19). They decided that they had to try to undermine the people’s faith in Christ’s spiritual authority. They would ask Him about His certificate of ordination to be a Rabbi. What religious school had taught Him, and under whose authority was He doing these things? Of course, they knew that He had attended no “seminary” or “yeshiva” and that He had no formal authority from men. This tactic, they thought, would discredit and undermine the people’s faith in Him. Before the multitudes of people, they interrupted His teaching.

1One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2“Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” 3He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me, 4John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men?” 5They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” 7So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.” 8Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things” (Luke 20:1-8).

The religious leaders thought they had Him. All the people looked on, awaiting Jesus’ response. Jesus replied with a question for them. If they would answer His question, He would answer theirs. “The baptism of John; was it from heaven or from men?” (v. 4). This put the religious elite into a difficult position because they had rejected John the Baptist’s preaching of repentance for Israel (Luke 7:29-30). Jesus did not evade their question. He used the question to expose the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. In commenting on this passage, William Barclay writes:

He asked them to answer the question, “Was the authority of John the Baptist human or divine?” The point is that their answer to Jesus’ question would answer their own question. Everyone knew how John had regarded Jesus and how he had considered himself only the fore-runner of the One who was the Messiah. If they agreed that John’s authority was divine then they had to agree that Jesus was the Messiah, because John had said so. If they denied it, the people would rise against them because John the Baptist had been perceived as a prophet. Jesus’ answer in fact asks the question, “Tell me—where do you yourself think I got my authority?” He did not need to answer their question if they answered his.

Fearing the crowds, whom they assumed would side completely with them, the religious leaders were humiliated when Jesus would not answer their question. What could they say? They hadn’t believed John’s message about repentance and being ready for the Messiah, but they also knew that most of the people that stood before them had. They did not want to risk inciting a heated debate, perhaps leading to mob reaction. They had to back down before all the people. The lesson for us is to not harden our hearts against the Messiah, but to believe and trust Him. He has all the authority in the world.

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 53. Luke 20:1-19: The Parable of the Vine-Growers. Keith Thomas

The Cleansing of the Temple of Our Hearts

We are continuing our meditation from yesterday of Christ coming into the temple courts and clearing out the money-changers and the sellers of animals (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation). Christ demonstrated a love and concern for the poor, the helpless, and those ostracized from society. He would not put up with the evil injustices that were going on in the temple courts. Do we, as Christ’s representatives, give the same consideration to the injustices that go on around us? Sadly, we are often influenced more by the culture around us than the Christ within us. We do not always see the injustice being done or the opportunities that we should meet right in front of our eyes. Those in Jesus’ day may not have noticed the injustice being done in the Temple. We can become desensitized to sin when we live with it in our midst.

When God arrives in a situation, however, He brings to light those things which have been done in secret. Some of those things about which we have read may have become accepted and tolerated for so long, but there will come a day when “the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the Messenger of the covenant you desire—see, He is coming,” says the LORD of Hosts (Malachi 3:1). He is a defender of those who are vulnerable. When the Day of the Lord comes, He will come with justice.

Because Christ is perfect, He could judge the sin in the Temple. He not only judged but also went on to demonstrate in the most powerful way imaginable what true love is. He sacrificed His own life as a ransom for ours. God’s justice was equally mirrored by His mercy and His great love for us. The reason some people are not receptive to the message, which attempts to set forth the justice and righteousness of God, is often because the mercy of God is not present in a demonstrative way. People instinctively know when something is true and genuine. When Jesus spoke the truth, He did so in love, and people responded. He could say difficult things and reach people’s hearts because He loved them.  Knowing that our own righteousness is nothing and that we all need His grace, we need to have right heart motives if we are to stand for the righteousness of God. At the core of our lives, each of us in turn have an inner court of the temple of our spirit:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:16).

The Lord Jesus wants to come and upturn the tables in our hearts, where the love of food, money, or other things are set up as idols in our hearts. For some, it is a matter of idolizing people or a certain individual, giving them first place in your life rather than worshiping the God who created us. What things is the Lord of Love speaking to you as you read these words? What cleansing needs to come?

In cleansing the Temple, Jesus was not only zealous of His Father’s house but also for the people who were being affected as the Temple became nothing more than a den of thieves. It was not just the dishonest gain and lack of respect that angered Him, but the fact that people were not experiencing anything that would draw them to the Father. His Father’s House was to be a house of prayer! He is zealous today, not for stone and mortar, i.e. not for a building made of hands, but for you.

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 52. Luke 19:28-48, The King Comes to His Temple. Keith Thomas

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

45Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. 46“It is written,” he said to them,” ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” 47Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words (Luke 19:45-48).

It was confrontation time! One person, Jesus, stood against the High priest who was overseeing a corrupt system. The Court of the Gentiles in the Temple had been taken over by money changers and merchants hired by Annas, Caiaphas’ father in law, who had also been High Priest. When birds or animals were brought to the Temple to be sacrificed, they would often be refused for no apparent reason other than the fact that Annas wanted more money. A worshipper that bought an animal inside the Temple precincts would be charged fifteen times more than one bought outside the Temple, but if a person bought it outside the temple, although it was much cheaper, the priests who inspected the animals, would often refuse it, thus forcing the worshipper to buy another animal inside the temple.

Annas presided over everything that was going on and was responsible for this system of purchase and trade, which exploited the poor. The Temple tax also had to be paid in Israelite Shekels. Visitors from different nations would be short changed and robbed, but there was nothing they could do against it, such were the corrupt practices that went on in the temple courts. Instead of a place where the Gentiles could pray and seek God, they smelled animal dung and the clink of coins. It would have saddened any true worshipper who understood how people were being treated in the Name of God. Mark records how Jesus responded to such behavior in the House of God:

15On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts (Mark 11:15-16).

The Lord’s passion for His Father’s Name and glory burst forth in controlled anger. Later, the Apostle John writes: His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17). His courage and zeal captured their hearts. How they adored Him for what He did that day. He was outraged at the religious leader’s insolence and greed. Just picture the scene: the money rolling everywhere, people scrambling for all they can grab as tables are overturned, doves flying in all directions, getting their freedom instead of being used for dishonest profit. The picture is one of bedlam inside the Court of the Gentiles. God had spoken that His house would be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7), but instead they were selling animals and birds.

Can you imagine the leading Jews being challenged by someone whom they believed was an illegitimate son from Nazareth? Their thoughts turned towards violence toward the One who challenged their practices (v.47). Where did He get the authority to do and say such things? They may have thought: “How can He assume to tell us we cannot sell our goods in the Temple precincts?” Surely, Jesus must have known that this behavior would not earn Him any friends or favors in the Temple Courts. His brave actions exemplified His passion and fervor for His Father’s house. May this same attitude be in us too, a passion for the household of faith.

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 52. Luke 19:28-48, The King Comes to His Temple. Keith Thomas

The Bride, the Wife of the Lamb

Over the last few days we have been thinking of Scripture about the end of the age, that when Jesus comes, all those who have called upon the Lord and repented of sin, will be married to the Lord and live with Him as His bride. Let’s read what John the apostle writes in the Book of Revelation:

Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long (Revelation 21:9-16).

 The wall around this city is 144 cubits thick. That is equivalent to 216 feet. We are also told that the size of the New Jerusalem is 12,000 stadia and as wide as it is long which today measures 1400 miles wide and 1400 miles long. That is an area extending from California to the Appalachian Mountains of the Eastern United States, and from Canada to Mexico. The ground level alone is nearly two million square miles. Don’t forget, though, the distance is as high as it is wide and long (verse 16). If each story is a generous 12 feet, that would make 600,000 stories. Billions of people will be able to live there with many square miles per person. The dimension of the city is a perfect cube. In Solomon’s Temple was a room that only the High Priest, once a year, with the sacrificial blood of a slain animal, entered beyond the heavy curtain that kept man separated from the very presence of God. This curtain was the one that was torn at the very time of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross (Matthew 27:51). The room of the Most Holy Place, where God alone dwelt, was a cube of twenty cubits (1 Kings 6:20)The New Jerusalem’s dimensions reflect the fact that God wants for man to live with Him forever. It is a picture of man being invited into the very presence of God and to enjoy Him and His people forever in the Holy of Holies.

How wonderful it must have been for John the Apostle, the person who wrote down the Revelation, for He sees his own name on one of the foundation stones (Revelation 21:14). We don’t yet know how our efforts for Christ in this world affect others, only God knows, but it is interesting that John gets to see that his life has made a difference for eternity

 22I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:22-27. Emphasis mine).

The New Jerusalem is the place where Christ enjoys eternity with His bride. A place where there will be oneness of heart and mind, where we will live with Him forever and ever.

They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads (Revelation 22:4).

What joy that will be! To see the face of Christ, behold His beauty, and live in relationship with Him. Are you beginning to see the value that God Himself places on you? “What is man that you are mindful of him?” David said. How special we are to God, for of all the places in the Universe for the Lord God Almighty and His Son to live, God chooses to live with man in the New Jerusalem. No matter where you are, the God of heaven is looking for you to come to His home and live with Him forever and ever. The invitation is for you and your family. There’s nothing you can do to earn it, for it is only by grace, God’s undeserved favor. Will you give your life to Him? He wants you to know that Heaven is your eternal home.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Wedding of the Lamb. Keith Thomas

The Dwelling of God is With Men

In the last few days we have been meditating on God’s plan for the ages, to call for a world-wide people who will enter into a marriage covenant with Jesus. Our Bridegroom will come for His Bride and will dwell with those who will respond to His love. He has been building a home for His Bride. In Middle Eastern weddings it is the bridegroom’s responsibility to prepare or build the place where the couple will live after the wedding.

Let’s look now at the place that our God has prepared for those who love Him:

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son (Revelation 21:1-7. Emphasis mine).

The holy city descends from above. Notice that it’s not something that we build on Earth but something that Christ has built and descends to Earth for His people. It’s not New Washington or New London, but it is the New Jerusalem, the place where God has promised to dwell forever. He told Solomon that in Jerusalem He had put his Name forever: “My eyes and my heart will always be there” (1 Kings 9:3). Could that be the reason that there is so much warfare about the city of Jerusalem? I believe God’s enemies want to stamp out the name of the God of Israel from Jerusalem completely, and for the embodiment of Satan himself, the Antichrist, to sit enthroned on the sacred mount at the center of Jerusalem (2 Thessalonians 2:4).

Verse 2 says that the New Jerusalem comes down prepared as a bride. Some explain the sentence by saying that the city itself is the bride. Those that hold to that position remind us that we are being built into a temple as living stones: “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). To counter that argument, though, Revelation 21: 27 says that those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will live there, not that they are it! We are told that God Himself will live with them. This city will be our dwelling place and God Himself will live with us. Yes, the waiting is hard, but oh, so worth it when the time comes.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Wedding of the Lamb. Keith Thomas