With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I can’t help but pause and remember one year in my college bible study when we made each other valentines with bible verses. At the time the popular verse rang so dear to me since I was so new in my faith. But now that I’ve grown in my relationship with God, I feel like they limit Jesus’ expression of love for us. I’m challenged to think about the moments when He convicted His disciples. What about the times when He was angry with them? What about the time He flipped tables in the temple?
Recently, I was invited by a post on social media by a former bible study leader of mine posing the questions: “Do we confuse love with gentleness?” and “Can Jesus’ love for us come across as anger?”. He pointed me to the point in the Gospel where Jesus goes into the temple where people are misusing the market place and angrily flips the tables. Sure, it’s a story that I’ve heard countless times, but it’s usually someone pointing out that Jesus got angry, so it’s ok for us to be angry too. I never looked at it through this lens of love. When I started to dig into what God’s word really said about it, I realized it is in all four of the Gospels (Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11: 15-19, Luke 19:45-48, and John 2: 13-16). I was shocked. Each apostle felt that this story was important. They all wanted to highlight this event in Jesus’ ministry. Why? What was so significant?
In Matthew, Jesus overturns tables, restores the temple, and then proceeds to heal the blind the the lame. He turned the temple from a “den of robbers” to a “house of prayer”.
Mark focuses on Jesus teaching after driving out the money changers. Mark writes Jesus as blunt, kicking out the money changers and then He tells the disciples about His resurrection.
Both Luke and Mark’s renditions are very similar, they both show Jesus teachings leading to persecution, yet His followers are so enamoured with Him that it Jesus untouchable by the people who want to harm Him.
John makes Jesus seem angrier than the other Gospels, in my opinion. He shows His anger more violently through the use of whips. But in the end, the goal is the same; He only wants to turn God’s house back into a place of worship.
That’s Jesus’ goal in all the Gospels, to restore and renew God’s kingdom, starting here in this temple that has fallen to sin and corruption. Each Gospel focuses on what happened AFTER Jesus overturned the tables and set right the temple. They show Jesus rebuilding what the temple should be.
“When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Luke 19-45-46)
Jesus restores the temple to being a house of prayer, a place of hope, safety, relief, repentance, forgiveness, and healing. Jesus’ initial anger gives way to God’s compassion, mercy, and love. He is so angered by the sin that He sees, He cannot bear His children to suffer in this way. Jesus overturned the tables to make room for His love in the people’s heart. He kicked out the sin and den of robbers to make a sanctuary of worship, hope, love and healing. He destroyed the very thing that kept us from him – He destroyed sin and conquered death to bring us into an eternal love and grace. He only wanted what was best for His people: Himself! Jesus took the temple and restored it to the original temple, a meeting place with God.
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
I think the craziest thing is that now God’s temple is our bodies. Jesus wants to flip tables in our hearts. He wants to shake the idols out and make room for a safe, hope-filled, loving worshipful place where we can encounter Him more fully. Jesus longs to restore our tired, broken, aching hearts and restore it to the glory that He knows it is capable of.
What do you need to give up to him? What tables need to be flipped over? Where do you need to allow worship and healing instead of a den of robbers? Where do you need to let Jesus’ resurrection reign in your life?
Maybe your heart has fallen to sin and corruption; maybe you (like I did) find yourself reading this and thinking: my heart is a den of robbers, not a house of prayer. Well if that’s the case, my friend, I have two pieces of good news for you. First and foremost, Jesus wants to flip the tables and restore your heart. He wants His resurrecting love and peace to reign in your heart. He wants to be safe haven for you. All we have to do is surrender control of our hearts to Him and allow the tables to be flipped.
Secondly, you are not alone. One of my recent journal entries was a cry out to God to cleanse my heart. I have been brought to my knees about how I have been living my life behind closed doors. In public, I try to appear like I have it all together, but in reality my heart is a den of robbers. Deep, deep down I do not always trust that God’s grace is enough to heal me from the sins of my past. I still feel defined by them. During those times, my life is not glorifying to God and I lead a life full of sin. When I read these verses and came to the conclusion that Jesus loved me so much to make my dirty, broken, messy heart His new temple, my thoughts about myself started changing. As much as Jesus cared about the temple in the Gospel, He cares more deeply for my heart. He started overturning the idol of disbelief and distrust and showed me that He alone defines me and He alone completes me. This transformation of heart is still a work in progress, but Jesus continues daily (yes daily) to redeem my heart. No matter how many times I fail, He allows His resurrecting grace to reign in my life, always encouraging me to turn to Him, rather than the temptation of sin.
Thank you Jesus that you care so deeply about the temple that is my heart! Please continue to flip the tables in my heart and replace them with the safe house of prayer and worship, surrounded in your love.