Tenth Sunday After Trinity August 27, 2000

INI

God’s House Is a Very Special Place!

Matthew 21:12-17

Hymns

18, 370, 467, 50

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there. Here ends our text.

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who said, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it,” Dear Fellow Redeemed,

It’s five minutes before the church service is scheduled to start. Some people are talking, some are finding seats, some latecomers are still filtering in the front door. Suddenly, a three-year-old breaks from his mother’s grasp and shoots down the aisle. Mom comes after him immediately, of course, calling his name and scolding him. “No running in church,” she says. “Remember—this is God’s house!”

If you’ve heard that once, I’m sure you’ve heard it a hundred times. But did you ever wonder about the principle that underlies that statement? Is it true that this particular building is a special place? Is there something different about God’s house, as compared, say, with my house or your house? Is there a reason for us to be especially reverent here, and to respect this place, as we respect no other place on earth?—It might not seem logical at first. As a structure, this place isn’t all that special; on any other day of the week it’s a city hall. But today—and every Sunday—this is God’s house, and according to our text for today, that makes it unique in several important ways. Perhaps this is something you haven’t given much thought to for a while. Let’s listen to what Jesus has to say about church, as we consider the theme—

GOD’S HOUSE IS A VERY SPECIAL PLACE!

  1. A place where profit is absent.
  2. A place where prayer is answered.
  3. A place where praise is accepted.

It was Monday of holy week. Jesus was just days away from the cross and the crown of thorns. On this particular morning, He went into the Temple with His disciples. The sight that met Jesus’ eyes when he entered defied description—penned up in the entryway to the Temple were sheep and oxen and goats. There were cages full of doves. You see, all these were animals that were required for the Jewish sacrifices. Now, certainly it was necessary to have them available somewhere near the Temple. What was unnecessary was to have inside the Temple itself! But the leaders of the Jews had decided to turn God’s house into a sale barn—move the animals right into the church—so that they would get all the profits from the sales. On top of this, they were doing a thriving business of changing money for out-of-town worshippers, so that they would be provided with the half-shekel every Jew needed to pay the Temple tax. In short, Jesus saw a church that was full of the hustle and bustle of profit-making business.

And Jesus was enraged. He cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Profits—money—greed. If this all sounds familiar to you, I’m not surprised. The profit motive seems to govern just about everything in America these days, doesn’t it? I saw some staggering statistics recently on how many people are moonlighting in their own homes, turning a hobby or a special interest into a profit-making second job. And that’s not necessarily bad. But there is one house where our Lord tells us the profit motive is to be absent—and that’s the house of the Lord.

People often ask me why CLC churches don’t put on soup and sandwich feeds, and spaghetti suppers, and bake sales and bazaars, like the other churches do. Why don’t we sell candy door-to-door, or use one of the gimmicky fund-raising schemes so often employed by the other churches? There’s an easy answer: because that’s not the Church’s job! Our job is to deliver the precious Good News that eternal salvation is available in Jesus Christ—that’s what we have to offer people, not cakes or quilts or bingo prizes. We dare not let God’s house become another place where everybody’s scrambling for every available dollar. Describing the mission of the Church, the Apostle Paul said, “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.—2 Cor 2:17.

With this fiery outburst of anger, Jesus defended the honor of God’s house. He showed that this is one place, at least, where human greed and the profit motive are to be absent: a house of prayer, not a den of thieves!—And that brings us to the second feature that makes God’s house such a very special place: it’s a place where prayer is answered.

The merchants and money changers offered no prayer to Christ. Like most of the Jews, they didn’t believe he was the Christ. But there were some people there that day who did. There were those who recognized the presence of the almighty Son of God, and who wasted no time in laying their wants and needs before Him. We’re told about them in a single, short sentence right in the middle of our text—did you catch it? And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

In this morning’s Old Testament Lesson, Moses prophesied that the vast majority of Jews would turn away from the Lord, but that a small remnant would seek Him and be saved. And here we see it happening. Right in the very house of God, the leaders of God’s chosen people were turning their backs on their Savior. Time was running out for the Jewish people. It’s for a very good reason that the Bible warns, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.—Isa 55:6. God’s offer of salvation doesn’t last forever, and the Jews had now arrived at a point in time that was only four short days away from Jesus’ crucifixion. But even at this late date, there were still a few people who were seeking the Lord. A few humble people, afflicted, blind and lame, who in simple faith brought their prayers to Jesus. And they were not disappointed. They found out that God’s house is a place where prayer is answered!

Time is running out for our world of today, too. Sin and depravity and corruption are increasing day by day—and if you don’t believe it, all you have to do is pick up a newspaper or turn on the television. The vast majority have turned away from the Lord in indifference. But a Day is coming when no one will be indifferent to God! On Judgement Day, a million desperate prayers will suddenly be offered up by those who shunned the Lord in their lifetimes—but by then it will be too late. Jesus warned the unbelieving Jews, “When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you.’—Luke 13:25.

It is late—but it’s not too late, yet. There is still time to seek the Lord and find Him. There is still healing to be found, here in God’s house, for those few who will seek Him in faith.

Why is this building such a very special place? Because this is the place we come to lay our petitions before our Lord Jesus. And just as He did for those poor, afflicted souls in the Temple that day, Jesus answers our prayers! What is your affliction? Maybe it’s some physical disease or illness that torments you. Perhaps you suffer from bouts of depression, or the loneliness of old age. Maybe you’re a parent trying to deal with a wayward son or daughter, or a spouse caught in the throes of marital problems. Whatever it is, you’ve come to the right place for relief! Jesus loves to answer prayer, and the bigger your request, the better. Like the hymn says, “You are coming to a King, LARGE petitions with you bring!”

There’s one affliction, of course, that we all share—and that’s the disease of sin. Every week, here in God’s house, we lift our voices together and pray for healing from that affliction. We say, “O most merciful God, who has given Thine only begotten Son to die for us, have mercy upon us and for His sake grant us remission of all our sins!” And as often as we ask for it, our Lord grants forgiveness. Think of it—what a wonderful miracle it is that occurs here at Ascension Lutheran Church every Sunday morning! In humility and shame we confess our sins, and as soon as we do, God applies the shed blood of Jesus to them and erases them from our record. No conditions—no strings attached. For Jesus’ sake our past sins are simply wiped out. The gnawing guilt is gone, and in its place is the healing and peace and joy that our Savior won for us on the cross. As Isaiah says in his familiar 53rd chapter, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.—Isa 53:5.

God’s house is indeed a very special place! Here Jesus silences the distracting noise of commerce, and here Jesus answers our prayers for healing. But there’s something else. Here Jesus graciously receives the praise of His people. God’s house is a very special place, because it’s a place where praise is accepted!

Parents: have you ever noticed the unexpected wisdom that often comes from the lips of a child? Every once in a while you’ll hear a little kid innocently blurt out some statement that’s profoundly true, even though it never occurred to any of the grownups around him. That’s what happened in the Temple. While almost all the grownups were finding fault with Jesus and complaining about His attack on their business, a group of children were singing Jesus’ praises at the top of their lungs! This, of course, the Jews could never stand for! And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say?

Well, how hypocritical can you possibly get?! Here the chief priests were perfectly happy to put up with the noise of sheep and cattle in the temple, and the raucous cries of the moneychangers. But as soon as these children begin to praise Jesus as the promised Messiah, all of a sudden—my goodness!—the noise hurts their ears!

It reminds me very much of the liberal, “mainline” denominations of our day, where any noise is tolerated except the pure sound of the Gospel! In these churches, preachers are allowed to discuss any topic under the sun—current events, civil rights, “alternate lifestyles”, social reform—as long as they stay off the subjects of sin and grace. But God’s house is the place where sin must be clearly identified, just as Jesus did that day in the Temple. And it’s also the place where Jesus Christ must be clearly identified for what He is—the promised Messiah, and the only possible means of salvation for poor sinners. And if grown-up, intelligent men won’t give Jesus the praise He deserves, why then He’ll take it from the mouths of little children! The chief priests said to Him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?

When those little children sang their glad hosannas to Jesus, He did not stifle them or tell them to be quiet. He graciously accepted their praise. The same is true of us. When we come here to God’s house in childlike faith, to offer praise to our Redeemer for ransoming us from the grave and winning for us a place in heaven, our Lord does not turn us away. Unworthy though we are, Jesus gladly accepts the praise of our lips, and it pleases Him. When you think about it, what could be more pleasant than for a group of heaven-bound believers like us to gather together to talk about salvation, learn more about salvation, and sing the praises of Him who earned salvation for us!? The Bible says, “Give to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!—1 Chr 16:29. But attending worship services is much more than a responsibility; it’s a privilege. Even more: when you’re in God’s house on the sabbath day, praising His name, He’ll make sure that it’s a great blessing for you and your family as well!

If you could be instantly transported to any place in the world, where would you go? Is there one place so special that just being there would give you complete happiness and satisfaction? You might think that there is no such place on earth. But King David would disagree with you. There was one place he loved so much that his only desire was to be there continually. By now you’ve guessed the place I’m talking about. David said, “One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple.—Psa 27:4. God grant to each of us the same zeal toward God’s house—it is, after all, A VERY SPECIAL PLACE! AMEN.

—Paul Naumann, Pastor

Sermon Preached August 8, 1999
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA


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