March 22 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 19)

Submitted by David T. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Luke 19:45-46
·     Why was it so offensive to Jesus that the people were “selling” within the temple?

It was offensive because it was so off from the original intention for the temple – the temple was supposed to be a house of prayer.  But, it had become a marketplace, a place where people were selling and marketing goods.  And not only were they selling goods there, but Jesus says that their presence there had actually made the temple a “den of robbers.”  Thus we can presume that there were some in the temple who were trying to cheat people or take advantage of people.  And immediately we can see that for such an atmosphere in the temple dishonored God because the temple would be the place where people went to encounter God and get right with God.  A house of prayer should be a place where people can pray and connect with God personally and honestly.  But, if the sights and sounds and smells of the marketplace dominated the temple, it could easily distract people trying to quiet their hearts and come honestly before God.  Also, if the temple was a place where you had to be careful to not be cheated or taken advantage of, that caution and fear before other people would also take away from being able to then be honest and vulnerable while confessing your sins and connecting with God.

·     In what ways can the church be a place where people come to “sell” their “goods,” whatever these may be?
There are many ways that the church can become a marketplace or a den of robbers.  I think that I’ve heard accounts where the church is just a place where people come to network and build business relationships.  People come without interest in relating with God, but engaged in increasing their wealth and deepening their pocketbooks.  But, more often, the goods that people try to sell at church are themselves – they try to draw attention to themselves, to boost their ego or for some other advantage.  Sometimes the way that they do this is through flaunting their wealth – through the car that they drive or the clothes that they wear.  And sadly this can be such a deterrent from people going to church and actually having the opportunity to find God, as I’ve heard stories of people who said that they didn’t want to go to church because they didn’t have the right clothes or the right car, and that people at that church would look down on them.  At a church where there are many singles, the temptation is how eligible or desirable someone is for marriage.  And that too can be such a distraction and a discouragement to people actually trying to connect with God, especially if a culture of flirting and gossiping develops.  Or sometimes, people are just interested in building a name or reputation for themselves and trying to find respect or significance or praise.  I know that this is something that I am susceptible to.  But, if everyone is always trying to outdo one another or wondering why he is praised or recognized while I am not, then people have little room to actually seek God or connect with God.  So, it’s a reminder to me how important it is to be zealous in protecting the church and preventing it from becoming a marketplace.  If we allow things to slip and marketplace values to creep in, then it can really dishonor God and keep people from finding God.

Luke 19:47-20:8
·     Contrast the response of the people with the response of the religious leaders to Jesus and his words.  What are some responses of the religious leaders, and how are these responses echoed today in those who respond to God’s word?
It says that all the people hung onto Jesus’ words while the religious leaders were looking for a way to kill Jesus.  Eventually the religious leaders would question Jesus’ authority, and they were very calculating in their responses because they were trying to discredit Jesus.  So, on the one hand we have the people who were hungry for Jesus’ words, yet on the other hand we have the religious leaders who were opposed to Jesus and what he was saying.

One way that the religious leaders attempted to discredit Jesus and dismiss Jesus was by questioning his authority instead of questioning the validity of what he was saying and instead of evaluating the truthfulness of what he was saying.  They instead questioned why he was allowed to speak with authority in the first place.  But, they didn’t actually deal with what Jesus was saying.  And in our day, this can also be a mechanism that people use to resist God’s Word in their lives.  For some people when God’s Word is preached, it strikes a chord in their heart, but they might dismiss what they are hearing because of hypocritical Christians that they encountered in the past or because they heard Christianity being disparaged by others in the past.  They aren’t actually dealing with what is being said.  A bit closer to home, I can see that sometimes the way that I avoid dealing with painful truths that come from God’s Word to me is by finding fault with the messenger, the person who is bringing me the truth, or the delivery of the tone or manner that it is brought to me.  I might also nitpick and seize upon details that are incorrect, and have the wrong notion that the errors in those small details invalidate the rest of the truth.  Perhaps these excuses that we make for avoiding the truth have some basis in reality, but they are not a basis for rejecting truth and not dealing with the truth.

·     What do the religious leaders’ calculations in v. 5 reveal about their stance toward truth?
They did not care about what is actually true, whether John’s authority was actually from God or not.  And this probably extended to other questions as well.  They didn’t care about truth.  Their priority was preserving their position, rather than seeking the truth.

·     What are some ways in which I respond in this way when pushing back on some unwelcome truth with which I am confronted?
I usually unwelcome truth about my pride and my sinfulness.  I know that I am a sinner, but it takes on a much more concrete dimension when others ask me about it and talk to me about it in concrete detail, and I am often unwilling to face that truth head on because of the devastation the truth has on my ego and my desire to seek comfort and avoid struggle.  And so, I can be like the religious leaders.  I see the truth clearly, but I try to avoid it through criticism of the party bringing me truth, seizing on technicalities or just trying to move on as quick as possible.  But one thing that I come back to again and again is that if this is true about me, if I am really sinning in this way, if my sin really is having this kind of serious consequence on myself and others and the cause of Christ, then I need to know it, I need to face it, and I need to struggle with it for everyone’s sake.  Truth that is unwelcomed is still truth, and it is something that I need to deal with.

Father God, I commit again to the struggle to uphold truth in my life.  Lord, although my pride resists, for my own sake, for the sake of others, and for the sake of your kingdom, I want to struggle to uphold truth and to deal with the painful truth about me, no matter how painful or shameful it is.  Lord, I know that my response to truth will affect all those around me.  I want to be humble to accept it and face it head on no matter who brings it to me or how it is delivered.  Lord, help me to be warned by the lives of the religious leaders.  Because they did not like some of the truth that Jesus spoke, they became totally alienated and foreign to all truth.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Submitted by Carmen H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Luke 19:45-20:8

  • My house … den of robbers

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out those who were selling. He was upset because God’s house is supposed to be a “house of prayer,” but it has been made into a “den of robbers.” Rather than being a place to worship God with prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of confession or prayers of intercession, the people have turned God’s holy temple into a “den of robbers” with the sellin, taking advantage of people’s desire to make sacrifices to God and making money out of it.

I am not sure how much the sellers realized how offensive they were to Jesus. They were running their temple business making sure that the visitors’ sacrifices were presentable before God, selling perfect animals, without blemish, and charging people an arm and a leg for it. They could have easily excused themselves by justifying, “I was helping people bring presentable offerings to God.” “I was making sure the temple system was running.” The sellers could make these excuses thinking that they are doing God a favor rather than seeing themselves as robbers taking advantage of people and dishonoring God.

In what ways do I contribute to turning God’s “house of prayer” into a “den of robbers”? I can turn God’s house into a “den of robbers” each time I neglect the importance of prayer and forfeit the times to engage with God in my heart. When I get task-oriented, I want to rush through my responsibilities so others won’t have to pick up my slack. I end up prioritizing tasks and neglecting the needs of others. I dissipate stress rather than being a source of help and encouragement. In that way, I am bringing into the worldly standards into God’s house, to celebrate productivity rather than love. I am basically saying that “my time is important, my task is important, and I don’t have time for you.”  This is a very ugly picture when I am task- oriented. I rob others from experiencing the love of God, and I rob God of my heart and mind to whom I’ve committed to give my all.

Another way in which I turn God’s “house of prayer” into a “den of robbers” is when I place my focus on other people instead of God. When I compare my lack with other people’s spiritual gifts, maturity, faith, competence, my insecurity gets magnified. When I feel dwarfed by my lack, rather than allowing this to be an opportunity for me to rely on God’s strength, I find myself wishing to be like other people, and I become filled with envy. These are times when I bring the world’s measuring stick into God’s house.  This is ugly because we are all made in the image of God, and Jesus dying on the cross has given us the identity as God’s children, heirs and co-heirs with Christ. When I denigrate God’s house with the worldly standards, I am the vehicle of turning God’s house into a den of robbers.

Even though it is discouraging to find my wicked heart within, constant comparison with others and the task-orientedness so ingrained in me, there is hope. As Jesus cleansed the temple, I can ask Jesus to drive out these thoughts, to fill my heart with songs of praise of God’s salvation for me, with prayers of thanksgiving, and fill my heart with intercessory prayers with needs of others. Instead of feeling a sense of lack and inadequacy with the responsibilities I’ve been given, I can claim these as opportunities to be filled by God and strengthened by Him. These are opportunities in which I can experience God.

  • Resisting or receiving the truth

Although Jesus was teaching at the temple, the religious leaders were not listening or carrying out their religious duties. Luke 19: 47-48 records, “The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.” It is an odd picture in the temple as the people were hanging on Jesus’ teachings, but the religious leaders were not only dismissing his teachings and but also were trying to kill Jesus.

On the occasion while they were asking Jesus about his authority, Jesus returned the question by asking them about the authority of John’s baptism. As the religious leaders were thinking about Jesus’ question with only two options, they were calculating the consequences. “If we say, ‘from heaven,’ he will ask, ‘why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say, ‘from men,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” Neither answer was in their favor. So they resorted to the non-response of, “I don’t know.”

Jesus’ poignant question could have been a turning point for the religious leaders to recognize the truth that Jesus is indeed God, that God is indeed in their midst, as Jesus taught in the temple until the very end. Jesus continues to dialogue with them, to engage with them. This shows God’s heart for the religious leaders as He engages in conversation with them rather than ignoring them. But the religious leaders forfeited this opportunity as their plan was to trap Jesus.

I might not try to kill Jesus, but there are times when I recognize that like the religious leaders, I want to snuff out God’s truth. These times come when the truth has consequences when I have to admit was wrong or go through the painful confrontation about the depths of my sin or face the dire need for me to change and acknowledge the hard work it requires to change. These are times when I want to snuff out truth rather than to examine my heart and ask, “Where did this come from, from heaven, or from men?” It is easy to quickly dismiss it and say, “I don’t know.” “This fear and anxiety, was it from heaven, or from men?” “These mean words you just blurted out, where did this come from?” “The desires that you have–where did they come from?” Each time I have an option to resist finding out the painful truth about myself, gloss over life, and continue down my stubborn path like the religious leaders and miss Jesus. Or I can use these moments to pause and reflect, to confront some painful discoveries about myself, but also experience Jesus’ forgiveness and gain a deeper understanding to biblical truths and appreciation of the Gospel. As I accept these truths about myself and the need to change, I can experience greater appreciation for the Gospel, greater assurance of God’s love for me as a sinner, and be more humble to change my ways, regardless of the consequences or the cost.

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