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CHRIST CLEANSES THE TEMPLE

(SERMON #3 ON THE FINAL DAYS OF CHRIST’S EARTHLY MINISTRY)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, March 16, 2008

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9).


We are moving through the last few days of Christ’s earthly ministry. This morning we saw Him enter Jerusalem, riding in on a colt like King David and King Solomon, fulfilling the prophecy of the prophet Zechariah,

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9).

As I pointed out this morning, the usual population of Jerusalem was about 50,000. But this was the week of the great Feast of the Passover. Over 200,000 more people had entered the city for the celebration, which commemorated the time when the Hebrew people followed Moses out of Egypt, in the Exodus. There are a great many things in the Exodus that are types of the Lord Jesus Christ. For instance, the night that the Hebrew people left their bondage in Egypt, they were told to slay a lamb and smear the blood of that lamb on the doorposts of their houses. God was going to slay the firstborn in every house in Egypt, to force the Pharaoh to let His people go free. But the blood on the doorposts of the Hebrews would be a sign, and they would be spared, because the Lord would pass over that house. That’s where the word “Passover” comes from. Please turn to Exodus 12:23.

“For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you”
      (Exodus 12:23).

The blood on the doorposts saved the firstborn in each house on that first Passover. Now, in this Passover in 30 A.D., Jesus, the Lamb of God, would shed His precious Blood to cleanse the world from sin (I John 1:7). Notice what God said during the first Passover, in Exodus 12:13.

“When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13).

That was the type; the fulfillment of the type was Jesus shedding His Blood on the Cross at this Passover in 30 A.D. Now whoever trusts Jesus will be saved because God will pass over his sins when He sees the Blood of Jesus. The Book of Revelation says,

“Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5).

It is imperative today that we not listen to those who say that Christ’s Blood is the same as His death. The Blood was placed on the doorpost, but the lamb was eaten, as we shall see. That shows very clearly that the Blood and the death are two different things. I am afraid Dr. John MacArthur just can’t see this – and that concerns me greatly.

In the Book of Exodus, Moses told the people that God wanted them to take the lamb, whose blood had been put on the doorposts of their houses, and cook it and eat it. Please read Exodus 12:7-8.

“And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it” (Exodus 12:7-8).

They were to eat the flesh of the lamb. That was the type; the antitype (or fulfillment) was when Christians eat the unleavened bread, in the Lord’s Supper, which now speaks of Christ’s body, broken on the Cross for our sins. In fact, all the different parts of the Passover meal point to Jesus. The cup now represents His Blood shed for the remission of sin. The unleavened bread now represents His body broken on the Cross. When Jesus celebrated the first Lord’s Supper with His Disciples, He told them that the elements in the Passover meal spoke of Him and His crucifixion for man’s sin. Note again that there are two elements in the Lord’s Supper, not one. This clearly shows that the Blood of Jesus is not merely a metonym, another word for the same thing. The Lord’s Supper corrects that, and shows that the Body and Blood are two separate elements – and that Dr. MacArthur is wrong on this vitally important doctrinal point.

All of this occurred during the Passover celebration that the Jewish people had come to celebrate in Jerusalem, when Jesus would be crucified as

“the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”
      (John 1:29).

So this is the background, and the meaning of the Passover that a quarter of a million Jews had come to celebrate in the city of Jerusalem in 30 AD.

The events of that week move swiftly, and I can only touch on them briefly. We saw this morning that Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding a colt, openly proclaiming Himself as the Messiah, the King of Israel. Thousands of people cheered as He rode into the city. They threw down palm branches at the feet of His donkey as a symbol of worship. They cried out to Him,

“Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”
      (Mark 11:9).

But the crowds didn’t really know Him for who He was, their Messiah, and Saviour, and King.

“The multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee” (Matthew 21:11).

This shows that most of them did not fully recognize that He was their Messiah, Saviour and King. They thought of Him the way many people do today – merely as a prophet.

Look at Mark 11:11. When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem that Sunday,

“Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve”
      (Mark 11:11).

I am following Dr. A. T. Robertson’s A Harmony of the Gospels, Harper and Row Publishers, 1950 edition, in giving the order of events. Jesus went into the Temple three times. John 2:13-17 tells us that He drove the money changers out of the Temple at the very beginning of His three-year ministry. Then, here, on Palm Sunday, after riding a donkey into the city, hailed by the crowds, Jesus went into the Temple, but didn’t do anything. He just looked around and went back two miles to Bethany to spend the night. He returned to Bethany each evening that week, until they arrested Him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

On Monday, Jesus came back to Jerusalem and entered the Temple a third time, to purify and cleanse it. Please turn to Mark 11:12-14.

“And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it”
      (Mark 11:12-14).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

The fig tree, I believe, is symbolic of Israel…At least we can say with confidence that when our Lord came into the world, there was no fruit evidenced by the nation of Israel. There was only the outward leaves of a ritualistic, lifeless religion. This the Lord condemned. The nation of Israel went through religious form, but they had no power [from God]. They had turned what God had given them into a dead, lifeless ritual without vitality and virility which no longer was accomplishing God’s purpose. And I am of the opinion that God will deal the same way with the organized church [today] which has turned its back upon the person of Jesus Christ (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 112).

There are a great many “dead” churches today, where the Gospel is not central and salvation through Christ is not the main event in the services. I am particularly disturbed by the so-called “emerging church” movement, that is turning many churches back to the ideas and formalism of medieval Catholicism. I do not think this will help them any more than the ritualism of the Jews helped them in the time of Christ. That is my opinion, based on my study of the Scriptures and Christian history.

Jesus brought revival to dead orthodoxy. That is what we need today – real revival, like the Puritans and their descendants in the First Great Awakening experienced.

There was a clash with the religious leaders when Jesus said and did things to promote a revival of religion. There will be a clash with the religious leaders of our time if we follow His example. They want to keep things in the churches as dry and dead and formalistic as possible, so things can go on as usual. Jesus did not want that. And that is why He cleansed the Temple. Please stand and read Mark 11:15-19.

“And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city” (Mark 11:15-19).

You may be seated. I am of the opinion that we need some “temple cleansing” in the churches of our day. I do not believe a pastor ought to be churlish. Not at all. But I do believe he ought to follow Christ’s example, occasionally at least, and “reprove, rebuke, exhort” (II Timothy 4:2). That is, after all, a command directed to preachers, isn’t it? I believe we occasionally need some good old-fashioned preaching that will chase out the money changers and challenge the authority of the “scribes and chief priests” that are running our dead churches. We need old-time preaching that will bring about a “back door” revival, and clean up the churches. We need preaching on Hell, the absolute necessity of real conversion, and some sermons on the phoniness of “decisionism” – the subjects Jesus constantly preached. If we don’t have that kind of preaching soon, I am afraid it will be too late, both for our nation and our world.

Of course, that kind of “temple cleansing” preaching will bring the same reaction among religious leaders now that it did then. Please stand and read verse 18 aloud,

“And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him” (Mark 11:18).

You may be seated. Dr. A. W. Tozer has often been called a “twentieth century prophet.” Listen to Dr. Tozer carefully. He said,

If Christianity is to receive [new life] it must be by other means than are now being used…there must be a new type of preacher. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting.
       Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the throne. When he comes…he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom…He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the one and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath (A. W. Tozer, D.D., “The Gift of Prophetic Insight,” in Of God and Men, Christian Publications, 1960 edition, pages 22-23).

That was the kind of preacher Jesus was, and preachers should follow His example, no matter what it costs. We should preach without fear or favour,

“Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted…ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

And we should do so,

“Whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear”
      (Ezekiel 3:11).

But I do pray that you will hear this old preacher and repent, and turn from your formal, dead religion to Jesus Christ. The greatest joy in my life, as I feel sure it was with Jesus, is to see people turn and be converted, to see them live the Christian life in the fellowship of the local church. And I pray that you will be one of them. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 11:7-18.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Would Be Like Jesus” (by James Rowe, 1865-1933).