God’s House

St. Luke 19:41-48

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 St. Luke 19:45-46  Then [Jesus] went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’”

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord…  In his sermon on this text, blessed Dr. Martin Luther says, “The sum and substance of this Gospel is, that Christ grieves and laments over the afflictions of those who despise God’s Word.”

And so we are reminded of the Third Commandment which deals with the Sabbath Day and the importance of keeping it holy.  Please join me as I recite this commandment and its meaning: “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.  What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”

Today’s portion of St. Luke’s Gospel takes place on the very first Palm Sunday, the day Christ rode victoriously into Jerusalem, and then went on to die later that week for the sins of the world.  On this occasion, Jesus preached two or three days in the temple, which was more than He had done before.  So both the words and the actions of our Lord in His last days on earth take on added importance, for they are the words and actions of a dying man.

And so as He is about to enter Jerusalem for the last time before His death, Jesus weeps over the city; He cries as a parent cries when his child has gone wrong; He cries as a groom cries over his fiancée who has rejected him for another; He weeps out of love for His people who were blind to who He was and what He had come to give them.

Jesus expresses His grief over what is going to happen to them because they have despised Him.  In the year 70 AD, just forty years after this Gospel, our Lord’s prophetic words were fulfilled.  Jerusalem was attacked and seized by the Romans.  Thousands upon thousands were killed.  Those not worth anything to the empire were executed, young and old alike.  The strong men were kept alive and forced to work in mines or became slaves.  Above all, the temple was utterly destroyed and laid waste.  All that is left of the temple still today is one portion of an outer wall, what is now called the wailing wall which you see on television newscasts from time to time.

All of this serves to remind us today that our Lord has always been passionate about His people, and that He still wants you to receive Him whenever and wherever He comes to you, and not to reject Him when He does.  God indeed weeps over His people still today; He weeps because so many thousands, even millions of people simply could not care less about their salvation and what God in Christ has done for them.

And no wonder, for some of the worst offenders are clergy – pastors – leading people astray.  Each and every time one of the states approved same-sex unions, the news stories show “clergy” happily performing those services for their people.  And, more recently, when the US Supreme Court defied God and His Word in the same way, there was even more rejoicing among false churches.  I read jst last week where an ELCA gay pastor “came out” and proclaimed his homosexuality AT A YOUTH GATHERING.  Therefore you have those who claim to speak for God give people the clear impression that God blesses what is blatantly and openly an abomination.  Folks, the devil works overtime in the church.

In this country there are so-called “Christian” denominations that do not require their clergy to accept the physical resurrection of Christ, nor must they accept that the Holy Scriptures are the inspired, inerrant Word of God.  All over Christendom there are clergy who hold to false doctrine and practice by giving the false impression that there are many ways to heaven.

At the very least we notice this morning that our Lord’s words in Luke 19 are just as relevant today as they were when He first spoke them.  Our Lord continues to weep over His people, especially those who have heard the Gospel of salvation and continue to insist that it is not for them.  And what happened to Jerusalem not long after Jesus spoke in Luke 19 – the total destruction of the city – is a warning to the church still today.  And woe to those who do not heed that warning.

Not only do we see our Lord’s passion – His intense love – for His people in the early verses of today’s text, we see it also in the latter part as He drove out of the temple “those who bought and sold in it,” and then reminded them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’”  This harsh rebuke shows not only our Lord’s righteous anger but also His intense desire that His people do the right thing and worship the Father the way He desires to be worshiped: in spirit and in truth.

Obviously the abuse of the temple which Jesus pointed out that day was an offense to God.  The temple was not to be used as a place for buying and selling any more than it was to be used to hold a carnival.  The temple was THE place for worship of the one true God, and nothing – absolutely noting – was to detract from that one purpose; absolutely nothing else was to take place there other than a clear focus on the Word and gifts of God.  It was, very simply, a First Commandment issue: “You shall have no other gods.”  It is the same focus which Jesus points out in the earlier verses of our text: reception of and belief in the one true God to the exclusion of all else.  “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”

God’s house, therefore, is never to be used to give place to any other god; it is to be appreciated for Whose house it truly is.  It is a violation of the First, Second, and Third Commandments if and when anything takes place in God’s house that does not give Him clear honor, praise, and worship.  It is a violation of the First, Second, and Third Commandments when in God’s house God’s Word, and especially His Gospel, is not taught in its truth and purity, and when man’s words take precedence.  It is a violation of our Lord’s Word when His Sacraments are not administered in accordance to that same Word and when they are made into something man does instead of delivering what God gives.

It is a violation of God’s holy Word when songs are sung and played in the Divine Service which are so generic that even a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness can sing the words without any qualms of conscience.  The music and words and message in the Divine Service – whether it is a Sunday service, a funeral, or a wedding, or any other occasional service – must point us to Christ and not to the words or actions of man which rob Christ of His glory.  It is truly upsetting when so many pastors and congregations seek to making the church’s worship more “user-friendly,” but in the process end up dumbing it down simply in order to please man.

Woe to those pastors who fail to teach their people how to receive the Lord’s gifts faithfully, who fail to bring their people to appreciate the things that so richly deliver Christ in His Word and Sacraments, and who settle for something less than the very best for their people.  We should not be surprised, then, that our Lord needs to cleanse His temple still today from all the abuses that go on there.

Listen: it is also good news to us that Jesus cleansed the temple.  And this is why.  When Jesus drove out the moneychangers in righteous anger and purified the temple as a house of prayer, that was a sign of what He was about to do at Calvary.  For there on the cross Jesus Himself experienced the righteous anger of God against the world’s sin and drove it out in the temple of His body.

Jesus made Himself unclean in your place.  Jesus took all of the greed, all of the self-righteousness, all of the callousness, and every other sin and made it His own filthy mess.  And by His holy suffering and death He cast it out and cast it away from you forever and buried it all in the grave from which He arose in triumph the third day.

Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  He said this, of course, in reference to His own body.  Though the temple in Jerusalem remains destroyed, Jesus did not remain in the grave.  Though He was held by death, He is now raised in everlasting glory and honor, the new and eternal dwelling place of God for you.

Dear friends in Christ, Jesus is your temple.  The risen body of Christ is full of holiness and righteousness and cleansing.  Baptized into Him, those things are all yours.  You are now the body of Christ.  And therefore you are the temple of Christ’s Spirit, Who dwells in you through your baptismal faith.  You are safe from divine judgment, for you are in Him who took the judgment for you.

Therefore, dear fellow redeemed, come faithfully and regularly to this place in order that you may continue to receive the very best that God has to offer you.  Come and hear the reading and the preaching of God’s Word that you may regularly hear of God’s love for you in Christ.  Come and be strengthened in your baptism through God’s Word.  Come and receive the precious and very real body and blood of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith.

Without these things your faith will, sooner or later, wither and die.  But with them you will live, both here in time and there in eternity.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.