How Do You Cleanse A Temple?

-Cruz-I was doing a bit of work in Luke 19 today and noticed something I’d not really picked up on before. It’s the bit immediately after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem when he goes to the temple and drives out the merchants. Then he quotes from two OT passages. All too often I read the OT quotes in NT books and move on, without stopping to consider too carefully where the quote is from and whether it might have a greater significance. In this instance Jesus quotes two very significant OT passages.

First he quotes from Isa 56 – ‘my house shall be called a house of prayer.’ In context Isa 56 comes at the start of the third major division in Isaiah’s prophecy. The section (Isa 56-66) looks toward a future deliverance, salvation, and restoration for God’s people. Isaiah 56 promises a day of salvation that will come to include all nations. Good news!

Second he quotes from Jeremiah 7 – the ‘den of robbers’ bit. Jeremiah 7 is Jeremiah’s first (of two; see Jer 11) temple sermons which he delivers in the gateway to the Jerusalem temple. The sermon is full of Deuteronomic language and covenantal themes and basically promises that God will come in judgement to destroy the temple because of the people’s wickedness. Bad news!

And Jesus sticks those two well-known prophecies together – one about salvation and one about judgement. Huh? Which is it? Has Jesus come to bring judgement or salvation? Of course the answer is both. For the theologically aware reader we realise that actually it is through judgement that salvation comes. It is as Jesus bears the punishment for wickedness that the way is opened up for people from all nations. It is as one ‘temple’ is destroyed, that another one emerges welcoming all people to come to the place of forgiveness, sacrifice, and cleansing. As one ‘temple’ gets beaten and torn, the place of intercession is opened up. As evil and wickedness are cast, even carried, out, the nations are invited in. How? Because there is a place where Jeremiah 7 and Isaiah 56 are brought together – a place where wrath and mercy meet – where God, the Just, is satisfied to look on him, and pardon me. Amazing news; amazing grace!

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