Matthew 21:12-17


“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 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.” 


Jesus has come to clean house


“Matthew chapter 21, that’s where we’re picking up this week.  We left off with verse 12 last week, and we’ll pick up there…Let’s begin with reading Matthew 21, verses 12-17, “Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.  And he said to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer [Isa. 56:7], but you have made it a den of thieves [Jer. 7:11].  Then the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.  But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did and the children crying out in the temple, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant and said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’  And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes.  Have you never read, Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants you have perfected praise [Ps. 8:2].  Then he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and he lodged there.”  Let’s say a word of prayer, ‘Thanks Lord for this time again to be able to seek you in your Word, and to study your Word.  Thank you for these verses, and just a reminder of your heart towards the house of God and towards worship, and our interaction with you.  And so Lord as we come to this time, I pray, I know we come from different places, different places even now, speak to each and every one of us through your Holy Spirit, and to all those who are listening in [or reading this], and we pray that your Holy Spirit would be upon all of us, and even upon myself now as we go through your Word, in Jesus name we pray, amen.’


A different side of Jesus revealed here


This is one of those passages where we see Jesus in a certain state, mindset, disposition that maybe in some instances we’re not even comfortable with, or have a little bit of a challenge just digesting.  And we all like to see Jesus as the loving shepherd who heals the sick, and prays for the children, we like that, we like the passionate teacher that we’ve seen in the hills of Galilee, instructing the multitudes.  Like the gentle Jesus even last week that we saw, riding on the donkey into the city with the multitudes praising him and worshipping him.  And maybe even next week, we like to see the little baby Jesus in the manger there, with Joseph and Mary in the nativity scene.  But then we come to passages like this, and we maybe have a tough time reconciling the way we see Jesus here and the way he’s acting and behaving.  Of course, it’s the same Jesus, same Messiah, same Son of God.  And though we may have to work through a little bit of his anger here and his activity here, yet as we’ll see today, as we go through these verses, we’ll see that this is as much a statement of his love towards us and towards his Father as any other passage that we study, and that’s for sure.  Now, as we’re studying in Matthew, it seems, maybe you remember last week, we were watching Jesus as he came in on the donkey there, and the triumphal entry, and it would seem here, now as we pick up verse 12, that he goes right from the multitudes, right from the whole procession, right up to the temple, and goes right into the temple, and then begins to drive out people and overturn tables.  And it seems that you go from one to the other.  But when we put the Gospels together again, which I continue to reference, but in Mark chapter 11 we actually learn that between verse 11 and verse 12 of Matthew there is a break, there is a day’s break [quite similar to Ezra chapter 6 and 7, there is a large time-break, where the Book of Esther fits right inbetween].  And that is, as he does come from the procession we described in last week’s sermon, he does go into the temple in Mark it tells us, and then he looks around, examines the state of the temple, and then it says that he goes to Bethany with his 12 disciples for the evening.  And now what we are reading in Matthew 21:12-17, it’s the next day.  And based I’m sure on what he saw the previous day, he comes back to the temple with the purpose, clearly this purpose of cleansing out the temple, as we note here.  Now we should note, too, that it’s not the temple building, this does not go on within the temple building itself.  You know, the temple had its different areas, the holy place and the Most Holy Place, but this is in the area of the temple which is outside the temple building, it’s the area of the Court of the Gentiles, that area that surrounded the temple outside the temple.  It was this huge enclosure around the temple proper where this market had been established under the colonnades around the Court.  So it’s the Court of the Gentiles where this takes place in. 


Why is Jesus reacting this way?


Verse 12, “Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves.”  Now, I guess the question.  Why is Jesus reacting the way that he does?  Is it his behavior, or maybe some would question, is his behavior a bit extreme?  And some may even say it’s a bit fanatical, maybe some would say it goes a bit overboard, ‘I mean, he’s just angry, and he’s tossing over tables.’  Some may wonder that.  Of course his answer is ‘No, he isn’t going overboard, he’s not extreme in what he does, but what he does is really the right thing to do.  I mean, there’s a certain heart to what is going down here.  And that is because what is going down in the temple there is actually restricting the true worship of the LORD.  And that is a big deal to God, when true worship and access to him is hindered in one way or another, that’s always consistently a big deal to God.  You see that throughout the Bible.  He wants men and women to know him, to walk with him, and to be able to worship him.  And he wants that, that’s what he desires.  And when things get in the way, when people get in the way, especially, he gets pretty upset about it.  In just a couple weeks, [when we’ll be] in Matthew chapter 23, you can just imagine the voice of the Lord as he says this to the religious leaders because of the way they’ve been leading people astray and away from him.  He says this, “But woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men.  For you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”  He just rebukes them, he says, ‘You guys don’t even, you think you do, but you’re not even in the kingdom of God, and then on top of that, Woe to you, because you actually hinder people, people who are seeking me out, and you get in the way and lead them another way, and seek to prevent them from finding me, ultimately from coming into the kingdom of God.  And that’s a big part of what’s going down here, folks are getting in the way, to a degree or not making it easier, allowing people to enter in, to enter into the presence of God. 


Jesus came to restore true worship, to set his Temple in order, the way they’re supposed to be


And so Jesus is now here as the LORD of the Temple, and as the LORD of the Temple, he’s coming to restore true worship, he’s seeking to set things in order the way that they’re supposed to be and intended to be, removing all the manmade obstacles, getting rid of all the stuff that’s making it difficult for seekers to enter in.  And as you see there, he’s just upset, upset because of what is going down in the house of God, the way it’s being administrated, the way it’s being run, ah man, is just getting in the way of people’s seeking the face of God.  I tell you, that’s true even today, the way Jesus is here you can be sure, that to Jesus it’s the same way today, yesterday, and tomorrow, he’s the same. 


When man gets in the way


In the Church [Body of Christ], in the house of God, when it is such that things are difficult for people actually to see Jesus and to come near to him and really worship him, when things are set up in that way, so it’s difficult, you can be sure that God is upset with that---when man places religious practices in the way---so the focus is more the church than God, there’s no doubt God is upset with that.  When man develops programs where the attention is more on certain individuals and upon man than him, that’s certainly something that is going to be upsetting to him.  When man develops doctrines, doctrines which end up confusing the people or clouding their understanding of Christ and of God, getting them to focus on other things other than eternal things.  That’s something that God will judge.  Even Peter said that in his last Epistle, speaking of the heart of God, you sense the heart of God when it comes to folks who get in the way, specifically with false teaching.  2nd Peter chapter 2, verses 1-3, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.  By covetousness they will exploit you with their deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”  Peter says, man, these guys with this false teaching, just getting in the way of people’s seeking God and understanding God, their destruction is coming, and it’s not going to delay, that’s for sure.  Well, the night before, Jesus inspected the Temple, what he saw he didn’t like.  So now he comes, next day, cleanses the Temple. It is interesting, maybe you’ve noted this as you’ve studied the Gospels, in John chapter 2, this is the 2nd time Jesus does this.  He did this three years earlier, it’s right around Passover time now, it was right around Passover time then, obviously going up for the Feast earlier in his ministry, beginning of his ministry, he goes in, and based on what’s going down, he cleans house then.  You may remember, that time he actually makes a whip out of cords, he makes a whip out of cords and he uses it to drive the people from the Temple.  Now that’s quite an image, Jesus with a whip of cords, just swinging it and slapping and driving people out of the Temple.  That’s a lot different than a little manger scene, with a whip.  And, who knows, maybe some of the same folks that were there three years ago are there now, doing what they’re doing today, they were the same folks that were there, I would imagine, as they’re sitting at their tables doing what they’re doing, and look up and see him again [Oh no!  Not that guy again!].  I’d just like to see, get a picture of their faces when they see him again, and then doesn’t he go at it again, flipping tables, pouring out their money.  Then when he poured out their money and overturned their tables, he said this, “Take these things away! Do not make my Father’s house a house of merchandise.”  And then the disciples, as John notes, there in chapter 2 of John, they noted that this was a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy “The zeal for your house has eaten me up.”  And that’s the heart here, he’s got zeal for the house of God, he’s got passion for God and people, and to see what people are doing here, it just eats him up, and he begins to just clean it up. 


The Temple, our churches, are meant to be “a house of prayer”


That’s the ticket, man, the Temple is to be the place for worship, true worship.  The Temple is to be a place where men and women can sincerely seek the face of God.  And so as it says here, the second time where Jesus is cleaning house, Jesus says it is written “My house shall be called a house of prayer”, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.”  And when you picture a house filled with prayer, you picture a Temple where it’s filled with prayer, that says something to me, it says there’s a God in heaven that wants to know man intimately.  When he says “My house shall be called a house of prayer” and there’s a house filled with prayer, that says there’s a God that wants to know me intimately, of course, that’s what it says.  [i.e. if God weren’t interested in our prayers, he wouldn’t be interested in us.]  He wants to know us, he wants to commune with us, he wants to hear from us.  And he wants to speak to us.  So a house of prayer, Jesus the LORD of the Temple, he comes to set worship in order here, but he also clearly, the point is he desires intimacy, intimacy between God and man, and he’s zealous about it.  That between you and I, between God’s people and God the Father there would be indeed intimacy.  And this racket that’s going down in the Temple, man, is completely getting in the way.  In an interesting way, when it says “My house shall be called a house of prayer”, when he says that, he’s quoting from Isaiah chapter 56, and in Isaiah chapter 56, verses 6 and 7, the prophet there speaks of the Temple there in the future.  And when he speaks of the Temple in the future, he describes it in this way, as sons of foreigners, Gentiles, non-Jews, “who would join themselves to the LORD, wanting to serve him, wanting to love him”, God says there through the prophet, he says “he’ll bring these people to his holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”  For all nations, doesn’t matter where you’re from, doesn’t matter your ethnic group, doesn’t matter your background, God’s house is to be a house of prayer for all nations.  And I like the sense of it there, he says “I’ll bring them to my mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer---make them joyful in my house of prayer.”  When his house is a house of prayer, when it’s in the state it’s supposed to be in, there is this sense of the blessing of God.  He says “I’ll make them joyful in my house of prayer”, they’ll be joyful in my house of prayer.  And that’s a statement of God’s people coming together, and being such in the house of the Lord that there’s this sense of blessing, there’s the sense of joy, the Spirit of God is working.  And what Jesus sees at this time, it’s certainly not that way.  It’s very carnal, man’s doing his deal, getting in the way [reminds me a church I used to attend, they had fruitbasket fundraising sales, where what was supposed to be the house of the Lord, turned into a house of merchandise, where the minister we had was the chief merchandiser-salesman-promoter], and people taking advantage of people.  So God goes in, Jesus goes in and cleanses house.  Now I pray, I pray that it’s the way God intends it to be here in this place.  You know, some of you guys know this was an old mill, it’s an old mill, it’s not your typical church building, it’s not a cathedral with the pews and all that, it’s just an old mill that, when we started renovating this five years ago, there was even up here on this third floor, there were conveyers and boxes, and didn’t look anything like a church.  I think some people even struggled, coming into the building, they’d pull up outside during the week, having heard us maybe on the Radio, and they look at this place going, ‘Church, this doesn’t look like a church.’  Maybe some of you even used to work here, or, maybe when it was the Unemployment Office, some of you unfortunately had to come here now and then and work things out.  But today, right here, it’s a place where God’s people gather [and do pray, it is a house of prayer as well, in a very real sense---see], and if we are gathering in the right heart and attitude, there is a sense of the blessing of God.  We note that as we study through his Word.  And the blessing, he says, “I’ll bring them to my house, and they will have joy in my house of prayer, they’ll experience the joy of the Lord.  [Now let’s put Isaiah 56 in proper context here, although it still applies to the church nowadays.  Like the pastor says, Isaiah 56 is written about the time of the future, in the Millennial Kingdom of God, when there will be a Temple yet again, with Jesus in his glorified state inhabiting it.  If you read all of Isaiah 56, it is about the proper keeping of God’s 7th Day Sabbath.  Let’s read it. “Thus says the LORD:  ‘Keep justice, and do righteousness, for my salvation is about to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.  [i.e. 2nd Coming]  Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who lays hold on it; who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and keeps his hands from doing any evil.  Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD[obviously, at that time] speak, saying, ‘The LORD has utterly separated me from his people’; Nor let the eunuch say, ‘Here I am, a dry tree.’  For thus says the LORD: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, and choose what pleases me, and hold fast my covenant, even to them I will give in my house and within my walls a place and a name better than of the sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.  Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants---everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast my covenant---even them I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer.  Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices [which will yet again be offered in the Millennial Kingdom (why?  Don’t ask me), cf. Zechariah 14:16-19] will be accepted on my altar; FOR MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL NATIONS.  The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, ‘Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him” (Isaiah 56:2-8).   Now that’s putting Isaiah 56:7 in proper context with the chapter that verse is contained in.  The principle applies now, but the key role of Sabbath keeping, along with the entire Law of God, is clearly expressed in verses 1-8.  These will be reinstituted at Jesus Christ’s return to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords.  Verses 9-12 of Isaiah chapter 56 aptly describe the people whom Jesus is driving from the Temple in this account in Matthew 21, as well as describing false shepherds, tares, within the Lord’s holy flock.  Be sure to read those verses.  To view the whole issue about Sabbath vs. Sunday observance, log onto a balanced presentation of the facts about this touchy issue.  And to see what days the early Church was observing and how they were observing them, see]  And that’s just a statement of the blessing of God, the Spirit of God working in our midst.  I pray, even in this old mill building, as we’re here, that we come with such a heart, that it’s like this house of prayer, it’s a house of prayer where God is blessing and where God is working.  Now maybe you come to church, and you come here maybe, and it’s not your experience, you have to be dragged here.  You either drag yourself, because you just think you should come, or somebody else drags you, and you’ve come just to appease them.  I mean, you’d be miserable if you didn’t come, miserable to be here, but you’d be more miserable if you didn’t come [because the wife’s the one dragging you, hehe], so here you are.  Or maybe you come, and when you’re here you struggle with just feelings of heaviness and emotional battles, and it’s just, it’ not a place of joy for you, for whatever reason you’re here.  If that be your case, I challenge you to consider “My house shall be called a house of prayer”, I challenge you, try it, try praying a little bit before you get here, praying maybe Saturday night [or Friday night for Sabbath-keepers] that God would just work in your heart, try praying on your way here, maybe as a family praying.  And while you’re here, open your heart to the Lord, don’t just get through the service, don’t just put in your dues to make your spouse or your children or whoever happy.  Just open your heart to God.  If you’re going to be here, be here and experience the blessing of God.  Because there is blessing as God’s people come together, and it’s a thing of joy, the work of God in our hearts.  Take advantage of the opportunity. 


When the church becomes “a den of thieves”


Verse 13, “And he said to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’  Jesus is concerned.  You know, three years earlier he had come, three years earlier he had cleaned house, set it in order.  [How long do you think it stayed that way?]  And as with the cycle of man, men quickly return to their old patterns, and they’ve gotten right back to it here.  You know, Nehemiah had to deal with that, city of Jerusalem, Nehemiah, remember in the book of Nehemiah, he sets things up, gets the walls of the city rebuilt, and instructs the people to honor the Law of God, to honor the Sabbath, and he has to fight for it, I mean, it’s amazing, he has to even look over the walls and warn the people [that were bringing in things to sell on the Sabbath day], ‘If you guys come around here again…’ they just want to come in [on the Sabbath], they want to do business, they want to just do their deal, and not honor the LORD.  He has to fight for it.  Then later in the book of Nehemiah he comes back a number of years later and it’s right back to the way it was before.  He had worked so hard to set it straight.  [Comment:  Nehemiah, Ezra, Zerubbabel, they all had the indwelling Holy Spirit, while the general Jewish population didn’t.  That was the core problem, which we should not have in our churches (but yet we do at times).]  Jesus three years earlier, cycle of men, right back to the old patterns.  The reform of the time didn’t last very long [probably lasted until Jesus got out of sight of the Temple on his way home again], and here we are again just a few years later, he saw things that were just of great concern.  He had a zeal and passion for his Father and for his Father’s house, so he just cleans up again.  And I’m sure what he saw, rather than seeing the joy of the Spirit of God working there, the blessing of God, what he saw was a lot of frustrated people, just frustration and irritation and carnality.  He didn’t see the blessing and the joy of the Lord. 


It’s more dangerous to be in the Temple than on the Road to Jericho


And so that’s why he said “It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves [Jeremiah 7:11]  A den of thieves.  Now, it is interesting, the road from Jericho to Jerusalem.  If you go to Israel, as we do on the Israel trips, you note, it’s a lot of dirt and hills and a lot of caves, lots of caves in Israel.  And that’s true of Jericho to Jerusalem, along that road there where they would travel, there would be a lot of dens and caves.  And historically we are told that it wasn’t uncommon for robbers to be hiding out along those areas.  So if you were traveling that road, you could potentially get robbed.  That’s possibly why Jesus in sharing the parable of the Good Samaritan, in that parable he mentions the Jericho Road, and mentions this person whose attacked by robbers and beaten, and so the Good Samaritan comes and tends to this person.  So it wasn’t uncommon.  It was common for folks even to travel in groups, not to travel alone on this road, because it was dangerous to go from Jericho to Jerusalem.  And that’s where Jesus has come from, with lots of those people.  They’ve come from Jericho up to Jerusalem.  But it’s interesting, he’s quoting from Jeremiah, and he’s actually saying, that it’s more dangerous to be in the Temple than probably to be on the Road of Jericho.  He says ‘You’ve made the Temple a den of thieves.’  I mean, ‘This is the house of God, it’s supposed to be a place where I go in and I get ministered to, where I have God work in my life, where I can go and experience love from other people and encouragement, and you guys have made it a den of thieves---a den of thieves, where thieves are hiding out in the very house of God.’  It’s safer to travel the road to Jericho alone than to come into the house of the Lord.  Well, you see his heart towards that.  [Comment:  You often see this “den of thieves” mentality when you find churches of the hierarchal church government style, filled with ministers just in it for the paycheck and retirement benefits, just in it to secure their members’ tithes and offerings.  You also see it in the churches preaching the Health & Wealth gospel, where they want your tithes and offerings for themselves, but do little or nothing to put it toward the actual preaching of the Gospel of Salvation.]  Man, he’s pretty angry, pretty angry as we can see. 


Interesting history of why this marketing system was set up in the Temple in the first place


You know, to a degree, the market that was going on, the market system that was set up, to a degree it was there, initially for a good purpose, providing animals which were needed for sacrifice, the sacrifices of course, Passover and other times.  And there would be people who would travel from great distances, even from other nations.  And so to be able to come and to purchase a sacrifice at the Temple was a good thing.  It was, I’m sure, set up for good, initially.  And then to have the money exchangers, you know, the Roman government was just something that was seen as unclean, and so you wouldn’t want to use your Roman money in the Temple.  So they had their own Temple currency [Temple Shekel] and so the money exchangers, you could come and they would exchange your Roman currency into the Temple currency, the Temple Shekel.  And so I’m sure that was initially all for good, just to make it easier for you.  What’s happened over time is just the heart of man.  People began to take advantage of people, and while it was initially probably useful, but now it’s become abusive to the point that there’s people making a lot of money, especially the priesthood [and the high priest Caiaphas and his father-in-law Annas were the ones who really owned the “rights to buy and sell” at the temple, and were raking in a huge profit.  The Temple of God for them was merely a huge money-making business.  Jesus of Nazareth was threatening that business for them and the entire priesthood under them.  When Jesus drove out these moneychangers and those who sold cattle, sheep, and doves, he was forcing the high priest on this 10th day of Nisan, “to select the Lamb of God” for sacrifice.  That is what is especially most significant about Jesus’ timing of his purging of the Temple.  It all fit into the Passover.  Again, see for the full-bodied sequence of events as spelled out in Scripture.].  They’re making a big business off of it, so God’s concerned.  You know, back a couple centuries earlier, Malachi, you may remember the passage.  In Malachi God rebuked all the people of Israel [Judah] in general, because they had gotten to this state where they professed that God was LORD, Creator of the heavens and the earth, but for various reasons in their hearts, what they did is they would give God the left-overs.  You might remember the chapter in Malachi [chapter 3], so God exhorts them.  ‘You call me God, and yet you give me left-overs.’  You’re supposed to come and bring your first-fruits, you’re supposed to come and bring the sacrifices.  But what you do when you bring the lamb, you bring one that’s less valuable to you, one that’s got a defect, one that’s blind or your gifts to me are the left-overs.  And you call me LORD, but you give me left-overs.’  And I’m sure that’s why initially what’s going on in the Temple now was probably set up.  Because you couldn’t bring, at this point in time, a left-over into the Temple of the Lord, you could not sacrifice a lamb or a dove that was defective.  They guaranteed in this system that what was being sacrificed was of fine quality.  But now they’ve gone to the other extreme. They’ve gone from one to the other.  And doesn’t that happen, even today?  You know, in churches, we come and we sing the song “Lord of all the heaven, Lord of all the heaven, Creator of the heavens and the earth”, oh we just ‘Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!  Hosanna!’, you know, on and on and on, and then for so many, we tell the Lord then to sit in the back of the bus.  I call him Lord of the heavens, Creator of the heavens and the earth, and then I tell him, ‘You’re in the back of the bus, I’ll get to you when I can get to you.  I’ll give you whatever I have left.  If I have any time, I’ll give it to you, if there’s any resource left after we’ve squared away everything, it’ll be yours.  And as far as my heart and my passions, you’re the God of all the Universe’, but when he looks at [the priorities of] our life, it’s really, he’s got the back seat on the bus, everything else, everything else lines up before him, and he gets that last bit.  And so God rebuked the nation of Israel [Judah] for that [in Malachi 3], because that’s the way they were, and that’s often the way the heart of man is, you know, we give him the left-overs.  It’s strange that we would honestly do that, give God the left-overs, what we’ve got left, rather than the firstfruit, rather than the greatest of our passions, the greatest of our time, the greatest of our resources, so that he would be number one. 


From “left-overs for God” mentality to legalism---one extreme to the other


But then we go to the other extreme.  That happens in church, so often, so then it’s the other extreme, you have then churches that set up systems where they know whether or not you give your ten percent.  Right?  You’ve maybe attended churches like that.  [Yes, and very sadly, they’re usually the legalistic Torah-observant Sabbatarian Churches of God, which have such a rich historic background, but for some reason or other have adopted a hierarchal form of church government, unlike that of their historic predecessors who came through the centuries.  And with their hierarchal form of church government, the ministers (not the poor sheep, it is never them) are hungry for the paycheck, want to guarantee the steady flow of tithes and offerings, and to devour widows houses, telling widows to sign over their houses or retirement savings, telling them “We’ll take care of you.”  One such church is going through a split, and the other, which went by the name ‘Global’ (they know who they are), was famous for telling widows that (see  This frosts my cake so much, I can’t help but mention one such place where the problem lies, even though I love these people dearly.  If they don’t change, God will change them, forcefully, as he may be doing with one of those groups right now.]  At the end of the year if you didn’t give your ten percent, you got a letter.  And if you promised, if they kind of knew, you know, you people tell me stories, I never went to a church like that, thank God, but some of you have told me stories where you used to get the letter, ‘You owe, come on, you’re behind, man.  Based on your income, things are not lining up.’  I just couldn’t imagine getting a letter like that from a church.  And some of you came to this church for that reason…So you go from one extreme to the other, you go from ‘Back of the bus, Lord of the heaven, sit in the back’, to then, ‘Well, that’s not right, so we’ve got church leaders that have created this system, and then in a legalistic way, pull out of their members what is supposed to be just freely given, given with the heart of love to the Lord.  And that’s what’s happened here.  [And leaders like that are living high off the hog on those tithes, with good paychecks, and Caiaphas and Annas were at the top of the heap here in that respect as we’ll see.]  We can look down our noses and say “Oh those people at…[but never blame the sheep caught up in a hierarchal church system like that, it’s not their fault, it’s the fault of their leadership.], but aren’t we like them so frequently today?  Well, the deal is, as they set up this system, it was to prevent the broken-legged lamb from being offered, it was to prevent the Malachi deal, so they set up this system.  But then what happened is the heart of man took them to the other extreme.  Now when you went to the Temple in Jesus day, what they would do, maybe you’d have your own lamb, or you’d have your own dove, and it was a sincere sacrifice, it was a sincere offering, you were a true worshipper of God, you just wanted to bless God.  You’ve come, and you’ve come into the Temple, and you don’t have a whole lot of money, you’re a poorer person, but you’re giving your absolute best, you come into the Temple, and the priest would examine your offering, and the general rule was they would always find something, they were motivated to always find something wrong with what you were offering.  And they wouldn’t allow you to offer it.  The general rule is they would look at it, ‘Oh, this doesn’t cut it.  What you have to do then is you have to buy one of ours, these are certified.  We’ve reviewed these, they meet the level, they meet the test.  Sorry you can’t offer that lamb you brought.’  And the problem was, was what they offered to you then for you to offer was so expensive.  That’s what they did, they sort of jacked up the prices.  And to make it even worse, now you’ve got to buy this dove that’s way too expensive, you’re looking at it and saying, ‘That’s a lot of money for that, what’s wrong with mine?’.  You then go over to money-exchangers with your little bit of Roman currency and they would kill you on the exchange-rate, in order to get the Temple Shekel they would kill you on the exchange-rate.  So they were just taking advantage.  And Josephus tells us, the first century historian, Josephus, says ‘that the business that was going down was owned by the high priest and his family, it was run by him and his family, Annus being one of them, and they became very wealthy through this.’  So here you are, a sincere worshipper coming to seek out the LORD, you’ve maybe come from the Galilee, you’ve traveled a distance, you see the high priest and his family, they’re making a loot, living pretty well, and they’re making it hard for you, just to simply come and seek the face of God, and honor the LORD in worship and in sacrifice.  Well, as a result, in many instances, I’m sure, people were being turned off.  You think back to the time, in 1st Samuel, the time of Eli and his sons.  His sons were really brutal, they were doing exactly that.  You’d bring the sacrifices in, and they would always take the best for themselves.  You might remember that in 1st Samuel.  And it said there, because of what the two sons of Eli were doing, that the sacrifice of the LORD was a turn-off to the people.  The Tabernacle worship, the whole thing was becoming a turn-off to the people of Israel because of the priesthood and the way they were treating people.  People were getting turned off to the house of God and to religion, and even to the spiritual things in general.  So God was really angry, and you might remember 1st Samuel.  He really judged Eli’s sons [and the whole priestly household of Eli], they end up loosing their lives and even Eli is judged for it, and the generations of his family that follow.  And maybe that’s been your experience too, here you are today, listening in [or reading this online], maybe you haven’t been in the church for awhile, maybe you’ve been coming here just a little bit, and that’s been your deal, you’ve been turned off to church, you’ve been turned off to God, spiritual things.  And the reason why, is, years in the past you were curious, you were seeking, you were thirsty, hungry, you wanted to know.  And then you got into some ‘church’ experience where people were just messing with you, and making it hard, and turning you off by what they did, mistreating you, taking advantage of you, not being sincere, being hypocritical.  And you watched it for a season, and as a result, you got just ‘I’m turned off to the Church thing, turned off to all that’, and it’s been a long time maybe for some of you, to be even in church or considering the things of the Lord.  I tell you, if that’s happened to you, then consider the heart of Christ here.  I can tell you, if that happened to you, I tell you, Jesus was upset about it.  That’s really upsetting to God when that happens, when people are getting in the way, man.  When you’re trying to seek the Lord, and people are getting in the way, that just ticks God off.  That’s just upsetting to him. 


When your church is “a house of prayer”


And I pray by the grace of God that maybe this morning, maybe in a few weeks attending here or maybe another church in the North County, that your experience would be such that you’d see that there’s blessing in being with God’s people.  There’s blessing in coming and just being part of corporate worship and seeking the face of God, there’s blessing in it.  I’ve shared many times, but there were a couple years in my life when we were meeting in the Radio studio building, and it was 1997 when our little Bible study had gotten to the point where it seemed like maybe we could call it a church, maybe, we had more than two people, we had a little bit more, maybe it’s time to call it a church (they had 12 people or so at this point in time).  So we rented a space in the neighboring town next to here, an old Karate studio, some of you remember it, stinky, sweaty karate studio, it smelt awful, and I come in this place now, this is beautiful, and if I see anything wrong or point out any little things that aren’t quite right, compared to where we used to be, I just have to think back, you know, to the old days where we had to get this special heavy-duty industrial spray [laughter], and honestly, we had to use it every week.  And so you came in you’d get this intense perfume, orange-blossom smell. But it was better than stinky feet.  We just could not get rid of the stinky feet smell.  So, anyway, be thankful that you don’t smell that this morning [chuckles].  But we were just getting started, and I was thinking, ‘Maybe we can use the Radio now a little bit.’  We hadn’t used radio at all [to advertise that a church was associated with their local Christian radio station].  For a couple years nobody even knew there was a Bible study at the Radio station, we just didn’t use the radio [to advertise that fact].  [And as a matter of fact, this small affiliate of Calvary Chapel grew, without radio advertising whatsoever, from about 12 members in 1995 to 1997 to about 125 in the Karate studio, just on word of mouth alone.  How does this happen?  See]  I just wanted to see what the Lord might do, and I thought, ‘Well, maybe we can use the Radio a little bit and get the word out.’  And I had met so many people in just the couple years I had been here, people who were doing the home-church thing, that for various reasons, because of church experiences, decided that they didn’t need church anymore, so they just did the home-church thing, and that was just good, they could just be at home, them, their TV [watching televangelists, yuk, those poor folks], or just them alone with their Bible, whatever, home-church was just good enough.  And in every instance, I never met one in one of those home-churches who was thriving and flourishing as a believer, because you don’t thrive and flourish as a believer when that’s what you do.  Because God has given us the Body [of Christ] and the Body-life, and we need one another by design.  [cf. Matthew 18:19-20, “Again I say to you that if two or three of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.”  see]  So I was thinking, you know, here we are, maybe we’ll get the word out, and I thought, ‘You know, our goal is not to bring people out of other churches, we want to reach the lost,’ but I had a burden for these folks doing the home-church thing.  So we decided to come up with a little radio spot, where I actually was the voice, we were just sharing, I was just sharing to these people, a little spot, “You know, consider, man, you’re like a thumb  or a foot that’s been cut off.  If you cut off your foot it doesn’t fare very well, you need to be connected to the Body.  Maybe you haven’t been in church for awhile, come check out this little church getting started, 71 Pleasant Street, [somewhere in central New England], XXXX Christian Fellowship.”  And the interesting thing is, the Lord used that little spot-ad [on the radio].  There are folks that are very much a part of this church today, even intricately involved with this church that came during that season [1997-2000], because of that little spot-ad.  And I’ve thought of doing it again, and even recently with the radio people we’ve talked about doing another little spot like that.  [Comment:  The Body of Christ, which this website ministers to, is large and varied, and basically online.  I have no idea whether there are a large number of folks that are using this site who are in that ‘single-person/home-church’ situation as well.  Maybe some of you are using this website as a resource in your “home-church” just to spiritually survive.  But if you are doing that, you are missing out on something essential by not coming together with other believers in the corporate worship setting of a church.  Another thing is that tiny Bible studies, just as this pastor found out, if properly fed with the Word of God, don’t remain small for very long.  Just log onto that link above about Philosophy of Ministry for proof of that.  This pastor’s church is now 400+ members, and reached that number before this sermon was given, in four short years after 1995 when he started his little Sunday Bible study.  If any of you readers find yourself in a similar house-church situation, and would like to grow and maybe are interested in being part of a special-purpose church/denomination, along with receiving sermon resources, log onto, read through that and then the link at the very end of it.  Maybe your house-church has the potential to grow into a real church that’s doing something really special for the entire Body of Christ.  This isn’t for all.  Like the Marine Corps says, “We’re looking for a few good men (and women).”]  But maybe you’re here, and that’s what’s happened to you, and that’s what’s going on in this Temple, man.  Jesus is upset, this is not the way it’s supposed to be, I mean, God is being misrepresented, he knows his Father, he knows the love of his Father, he knows the compassion of his Father, he knows the power of his Father, and this is supposed to be where people come and meet with God, and that’s not what’s going down here, because of men. 


“Then the blind and the lame came to him in the temple”


Well he cleans house, and he says “My house shall be called a house of prayer, you’ve made it a den of thieves”, and he just starts flipping things over, and he cleans house, and gets it right.  But look what happens when he cleans house.  Verse 14, “Then the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.”  It’s like right after.  That is a powerful picture.  That is a powerful picture especially considering what David said back in 2nd Samuel chapter 5, verse 8, based on what he said, it seems historically that the lame and the blind were not allowed into the Temple.  And so they haven’t been there.  Those that are hurting in that way.  And he cleans up the place, and now because of who he is, they know who he is, they sense something about him, they actually do something that wasn’t allowed to be done, they go into the Temple, and he heals them.  And imagine, you know, the blind man suddenly seeing, as you probably have before, the lame man suddenly walking. That’s now going on in the Temple. There is this powerful setting, there’s just an energy, it is radical what’s going on in the Temple right now, it’s beautiful.  Before it was frustrated people, people bickering, people arguing, there was no life.  And he just goes to town and cleans house, and now it’s like life, it’s beautiful, healing, lives being touched.  [But that is when the priesthood and high priest decide that Jesus must die, that is when they select the Lamb of God, on this 10th day of Nisan, as the sacrifice for sin for mankind, unknowingly, of course.]  And that is indeed what the Body life, the Church, the house of God, that’s what’s supposed to be there.  When God’s house is a house of prayer, man, when there are people who are sincerely coming to worship the Lord, and they can freely, and they can seek his face, in prayer and in the Word, when that’s going on, man, you can be sure lives are going to be touched, lives are going to be healed, and families are going to be restored, and on and on and on.  We’ve seen it happen many times around here, you’ve heard lots of stories, and many of you are testimonies of lives being healed and lives being restored.  I could go on, I won’t put anybody on the spot, but so many examples of that.  I shared on Wednesday night even a story, and I’ll just use the opportunity to share it with you, I was listening to Joe Focht [Calvary Chapel Philadelphia] this week, and he happened to mention the story in his church, and we’ve seen a lot like this here. But there was a  church service taking place in Calvary Chapel Philadelphia, huge church, today they’ve got 15,000 people, I’m not sure how many they had at this time [they’re now 30,000], but huge church, having their services, one of their services, a drunk is driving down the road.  As he’s driving down the road by the church there, he swerves and he sideswipes a number of cars, crashes into them, and then he stops.  Well, service ends, people come out, and as they come out, you’re coming to your car, and it’s not doing too well, because a drunk is standing there, and he’s sideswiped your car.  Well, to this man’s surprise though, these people who came out of this Calvary Chapel Philly service were fairly kind to him, so much so, he had never been treated that way.  He was touched.  So, later point in time, not long later, he decides to check out one of these services at Calvary Chapel Philadelphia, he goes in, and don’t you know, he gives his heart to the Lord, and gets saved.  What does that mean?  I tell you repeatedly, you guys note, Christianity isn’t just a religious deal, that was what was going on in the Temple was a ritualistic religious deal.  Christianity is real, it is radical.  This man gets saved. What begins to happen then, his life begins to change.  He had been involved in some organizations that were not good, as a result his entire family wanted nothing to do with him, his grandkids were even afraid of him, he was separated from his family.  But now he knows Christ, his life is changing.  Over the next couple months he sought out people of his family to just reconcile with them, going to them, asking for forgiveness, and one by one God began to restore the relationships with his family members.  It wasn’t long later that he now had his grandkids with him, he had his family with him, his family was restored.  And as Joe shared, 8 weeks after that, he died of a heart attack.  But, radical.  Goes into the house of God, house of prayer, and he’s like one of the lame, like one of the blind, God gave his sight back, God healed his life.  That’s what should be happening in the church, man.  And I pray all the more here, ‘Oh God in your grace, I pray we come in a sincere heart, I pray that this is a house of prayer, so our twin cities can take note that there’s something going on there on our Street.  ‘Yeah, used to be the Unemployment Office, but there’s something else going on there today, man, there’s something happening, man.  My kid is going there, he’s changed, my spouse is going there, there’s something very different about them.’  Lives being touched, lives being healed, it’s a house of prayer, it’s a house of intimacy.  You know, Jesus, the Lord of the Temple comes to set the worship in order, but he also comes because he desires intimacy.  God desires intimacy with man. 


A New Time, A New Era Is About to Dawn


Verses 15-17, “But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant and said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’  And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes.  Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants you have perfected praise.’?  Then he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and he lodged there.”  Now, Jesus, standing in the Temple, having purified the Temple, and now healing lives, there’s also a statement, a radical statement that things are changing, it’s a new era.  Of course, it’s the beginning of the Church Age, which is about to burst forth.  It is a new time. There’s a sense the old is leaving and the new is coming, the old rituals and all the barriers that were part of the old Law, you couldn’t just come into the house of the Lord, you couldn’t go into the Temple unless you were a priest.  You didn’t have that access into the Holy of Holies [not even the ordinary priests had that access, only the high priest, and that was only on the Day of Atonement].  But things are changing.  And we know that in just a few days from this point in Jesus’ life, it’s less than a week, Jesus will die on the cross, and at that point when he dies on the cross the Temple veil is torn in two, and there’s that whole sense there’s a new time, man, no more the priesthood, no more the sacrifices, the Lamb of God has come, he’s died as the final sacrifice, he’s the ultimate sacrifice.  And now there’s this access to God, there’s this special relationship and intimacy and walk with God that we can have.  It’s a new era, and that’s what’s happened here, the Messiah standing in the Temple, the blind and the lame are being healed, it’s a new time, man, depicted, new era, Jesus has come to bring a new era, to bring that Age of the Church, to bring what you and I have now, where lives are powerfully touched, the blind, the lame are being healed.  But we see also, we see also in verses 15 and 16, that there’s this other picture too.  If you just put it together in your mind, there’s these young kids, and it seems the Greek is in the masculine, so it’s little boys.  And they keep crying out, they’re watching things go down, and they’re crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” just like they were the day before in the whole processional there with the donkey, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ this Messianic cry, they’re crying out ‘Messiah, Messiah!’  [Hebrew: ‘Meshiach, Meshiach!’].  They’re watching blind people get healed, ‘Messiah, Messiah!’.  Of course the chief priests, verse 15, they don’t really like the whole deal.  [And neither do legalistic ministers of toxic churches who have their people under bondage in a hierarchal form of church government that is merely hungry for the tithes of the people, same deal here.]  That’s just the whole statement of their ugly hearts.  It says they see the wonderful things going on, they see the wonderful things going on.  And there’s something wrong in your heart when you see something wonderful, and you’re bent out of shape about it.  But they see wonderful things, and they see the kids crying ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’, and it says that they were indignant, they were really ticked off. They say to him, ‘Do you see what these are saying!?  Do you hear it!?  And he says, ‘Come on, haven’t you guys ever read’…and you know, I bet every time he says that, because he says it over and over to these guys, they probably get upset about that, because they’re the experts, man, they know the Law, they read through the Law all the time, they are the teachers of the Law, and he repeatedly says, ‘Haven’t you ever read?’.  He just quotes from the Old Testament, ‘Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants, you have perfected praise.’  And that’s pretty wild when he says that, he quotes from Psalm chapter 8.  Interesting thing about Psalm 8, and they may not connect with it, or may not completely realize it here, but it’s a new deal, and he’s saying something special about himself.  Because in Psalm chapter 8, what he quotes about the worship, ‘out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants you have perfected praise’, meaning they are going to worship, they are going to praise.  If you look at Psalm 8, you can look at it on your own, the whole audience of that praise, the whole focal point of that praise is none other than God, it is not a man that’s being praised in that Psalm.  Clearly the whole context, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, what is man that you are mindful of him, he goes on, and then he goes, ‘And out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants,’ David says, ‘you have perfected praise.’  The point is, the praise is directed toward God and God alone.  And Jesus quotes that in this context.  And they’re obviously speaking of him, these kids.  And so he’s actually saying it’s a fulfillment of what was in Psalm 8, and of course meaning that, ‘I’m not just a man,’ this is the Son of God standing before you.  [cf. Jesus, John 8:58-59; Exodus 3:13-14, is none other than Yahweh, I AM, the God of the Old Testament, who has become the Son of God.  God the Father was never revealed to the Jews in the Old Testament, except briefly, in the Creation account of Genesis 1 and 2, as Elohim.]  He’s the LORD of the Temple, man, wants to get worship in order, desiring an intimacy with men and women, and it’s marking the beginning of a new era, a new time, the Messiah has come.  Well, unmistakably, you know last week we studied last week verses 1 to 11, we said this is the day of visitation, this is the day of promise, where the Messiah would come to Israel [Judah, as the representative tribe of all Israel]. We went through the Zechariah prophecy, we went through Daniel chapter 9, to the day of visitation, we saw they missed their day, the people of Judah missed their day, this incredible day where Jesus came and allowed himself to be worshipped, and he would come and be presenting himself as King Messiah.  The interesting thing is, verses 1 to 11, that’s the whole setting.  But you know, verses 12 to 17 here, it’s the same thing.  There is a tremendous, it’s unmistakable, as you understand the Old Testament, he is saying “I am the Messiah, I am the LORD of the Temple.  This is your hour.”  Unfortunately they missed their hour, but you take Malachi 3, verse 1, you remember Malachi speaking about this messenger that would go before the Messiah.  Of course John the Baptist, Jesus referred to that and Matthew chapter 11, he would go and prepare the way of the Lord, but it says he would go then to the Temple, he’d go to the Temple.  And you take Zechariah 14, verse 21, Zechariah 6, verses 12 through 13, Ezekiel 40, verse 48, you take passages like that, clearly speak of the Messiah coming and cleaning up the Temple, as setting the worship in order, the way it’s supposed to be.  And so here he is.  You know the Temple had really been desecrated historically.  Back in 167BC Antiochus Epiphanes had defiled it horribly [but Judas Maccabee and his brothers had driven Antiochus’ armies out, and cleaned up, rebuilt the altar out of new stones, and rededicated the Temple.  See]  Then in 63BC Pompei had also done the same.  And then you have all the false worship that’s even been going on by God’s people.  But here comes the Messiah, just as the prophecies of old had said he would [see], he comes to the Temple, and he’s going to come again to the Temple [see]. And I believe there’s going to be another Temple soon.  He comes and he sets things in order, and just with this sense of a new life, where the blind, lame, the power of God’s being there, the love of God.  He is demonstrating that he has authority, and he has the authority of God.  You know, if you or I went into the Temple and tried to do this, I am sure if I went in there at this time and turned over a table, I’d be beaten, I’d be dragged out, I’d be in jail, nobody could get away with this.  But there’s something about Jesus.  Matthew’s showing us there’s never been anybody like him, in power and love and authority. He is the Son of God, he walked into this place, he flips over tables, I mean, it gets crazy there for a moment.  And then lives start to get healed.  And it’s because he’s the Son of God.  Of course, there’s a lot of people that have been praising him too, so the religious leaders are a little nervous about that. 


Our homes can be houses of prayer


Verse 17, “Then he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and he lodged there.”  Well, he goes, verse 17, he leaves and goes the city of Bethany.  Bethany means, literally, house of depression or misery, and he lodges there.  You look at that, ‘house of depression or misery.’  Well, obviously it’s just the name, but for him it wasn’t that sort of place.  He is in a heavy week.  He is in a heavy week.  We noticed on his way to Jerusalem just the heaviness that he had, so much so that it even freaked out the other disciples.  He knows where he’s heading. But we know too in Bethany is the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  And that was just like a little temple, a little house of worship there, these peopled loved God.  And so he’d go there, and it’d be a place of blessing for him, a place of solace, a place of comfort with the days that he knew were ahead, and they just took care of him greatly there.  And I tell you, you’ve got the Temple, the Temple was out of order, he put it in order.  But this little house in Bethany was in order.  And we come on Sunday mornings, man this is to be a house of prayer.  But it’s true, our homes where we go can be houses of prayer too.  It’s radical as Christians, we’re told that we are the temple of the living God, I have the Holy Spirit in me [cf. John 14, read it].  And everywhere I go is like a little temple.  And you get a couple believers together, man, you’ve got some cool stuff happening, you know, where two or three are gathered together in my name, Jesus says, I’m there in their midst [cf. Matthew 18:19-20], and so we come corporately as the Body of Christ, and there is blessing as we come together.  But I tell you, our homes can be radical too.  I pray for your homes, and I pray that in my home that it is like that, that there is the joy of the Lord, and it is a house of prayer.  I pray that my kids see the power of God in our house.  I pray that our homes aren’t places where for our kids there’s all sorts of obstacles and hindrances, because of mom and dad, and because of what’s allowed and what goes on, there’s all sorts of hindrances for the kids.  But that our homes are places where they can honestly see and worship God.  May our homes this week be places where it’s like that house in Bethany, may it be just a beautiful place.  May the Spirit of God reside in our homes in a special way.  And then may we come on Sundays [or Saturdays], Wednesdays, whatever, just hungry, hungry to seek the Lord.  Let’s close in prayer… [connective expository sermon on Matthew 21:12-17, given somewhere in New England]


Related links:


Our churches, and yes, even our homes should be houses of prayer.  For a whole section on prayer, tremendous resources about prayer, log onto:


Another aspect that should be found within our “houses of prayer”, solid expository preaching and teaching.  See: