Matthew 21:10–17; Mark 11:15–18; Luke 19:45–48
I recall some years ago taking my son with me as I made a house call to someone who had recently visited the church. During the drive, a discussion about God’s forgiveness came up. My son was 11 or 12 years old at the time and trying to understand as best he could how to grasp the concept and describe it. I was trying to explain it the best I could. As we were riding along talking and enjoying the time (or at least I was, and hoped my son was as well J) he gave this illustration in his own words: “It sounds to me like God’s forgiveness is kinda like Him taking a vacuum cleaner to our hearts and cleaning everything out.” To me, my son’s illustration made more sense than how I was trying to explain it, and I remember it to this day. It made me realize then and it reminds me now that I try to make things too complicated at times.
My son’s illustration helps me when I think of what I’m calling Day Two, the Monday after Palm Sunday and prior to Easter or Resurrection Sunday. During Sunday through Wednesday of Passion Week, Jesus spent each night in the town of Bethany, just 2 miles east of Jerusalem on the opposite slope of the Mount of Olives. He probably stayed in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. One of the events that occurred on Monday, as described in the Bible, is Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple the second time. The first cleansing Jesus made is mentioned in John 2:13–17. In Matthew 21:12–13 we read, “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.” The Temple was supposed to be a place of worship, but true worship had been replaced with merchandise and the sale of goods.
Another event that happened that day, shortly before Jesus arrived at the Temple, was His cursing of the fig tree (Matthew 21:18–19; Mark 11:12–14). From a distance, the fig tree looked promising and gave the appearance of producing fruit, but, upon closer examination, in reality it did not have any fruit. The two events were related in the sense that the Temple was for true worship, and true worship produces genuine and substantive fruit. Neither was happening, and Jesus “called them on it.” He cursed the fig tree and it became barren. He cleansed the Temple of the merchants because of their interference with and interruption of the true worship of God.
As we think about having our hearts prepared for Easter, today is a good day to ask God to search our hearts and cleanse us of any unrighteousness – to help us not have just the appearance of serving Him but have hearts that are pure and sincere toward Him. After all, the apostle Paul describes our bodies as the temple of God in I Corinthians 6:19–20. We were bought with a price, and we are to glorify God in our bodies. We can’t glorify God with “dirty” hearts.
A good prayer to pray today comes right from Psalm 139:23–24. Don’t rush into this prayer. Honestly think about it first. When you think about the words and sincerely desire God to answer your prayer, you will be dramatically changed for His glory. Will you join me in sincerely praying this prayer today? Ask God for personal forgiveness and cleansing that you may be prepared to worship Him in sincerity without interference or interruption. And from that worship you will produce genuine and substantive fruit that may abound to your account.
“Dear God, I pray as David prayed in Psalm 139 and ask You to ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’ Thank You for cleansing me and making me a clean vessel to serve You purely today. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
– by Pastor Greg Joyner