Mark 11: “For All Nations”

I’m not sure why everyone was so surprised that Jesus walked into the Temple and set things straight. The prophet Malachi told them this would happen:

Malachi 3:1-3 (NLT) “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

2 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. 3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.

Like we’ve seen before, no matter how many prophecies Jesus fulfilled, it didn’t stop the Pharisees (Levites) from plotting to kill Jesus.

Mark 11:18 (NLT) 18 When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him.

But this still doesn’t answer the question why Jesus was so upset. Until further study, one of the things I never realized was the actual location Jesus cleared out.

Court of the Gentiles

Located in the outer court of the Temple was the location called the Court of the Gentiles. This is the furthest point that a Gentile could go in the Temple. In fact, there were signs in both Hebrew and Greek warning that Gentiles would be executed if caught past that point.

Here’s the other thing about the Court of the Gentiles. It was the only place where Gentiles could observe the Jewish worship of God. If you attend a church, picture a room off the sanctuary where non-believers could gather and watch to see what was going on during the service. So basically the Jewish religious leaders took up the one location where Gentiles could see their interaction with God.

It’s important to note what Jesus says while he’s “cleaning the Temple.” We hear people say that Jesus declared, (v. 17) “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Now, this is true, but we tend to leave off one of the most important part of his statement. His full statement is, (v. 17) “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.

This declaration by Jesus would not have set well with the Pharisees. In their mind there, and the mind of others as well, Jews were the only ones who could truly worship God. In fact, it made the Pharisees irate when they heard that Jesus was extending grace to both Jews AND Gentiles.

 

What Do We Learn?

I can’t tell you what to learn from this story, that’s the role of the Holy Spirit. However, I can tell you what I learned. I learned that still today as a church we struggle with making it harder for people to follow Jesus in the church. Yes, there was major corruption with the money changers and sellers of doves, oil, wine…etc, but at the root level, they ended up cluttering up the only area were Gentiles could experience worship of God.

The question to consider today is this: How have we cluttered up or made it more difficult for people to experience worship today in our churches?

Galatians 2: “Guilty By the Right Association”

Galatians 2:11-14 (NLT) 11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore.


I hated “some friends of James” type of people. You know who I’m talking about, those “friends” who seem to come in and ruin a good thing. It’s amazing how fast people can change just because of the association of others. Today is all about recognizing the influence our friends and family have not just over us, but also our behavior as Christians.

Guilt By Association

My dad used to tell me all the time, “be careful who you associate with; even if you’re not doing what they’re doing you will be guilty by association.”

The night before I was to leave with my family on an epic trip to Scotland, twelve-year-old Steve was hanging out with some of his friends in front of the V.F.W. (Veteran’s of Foreign War) Hall. I was simply sitting on the curb, but my friends were messing around under the large truck parked on the street. Since my friends and I had an obvious reputation for no good, neighbors called into the VFW to tell the driver that we were messing with his truck.

Suddenly the metal door to the hall swung open and a large group of drunk men came stumbling out towards our direction. Everyone did the obvious thing and ran, but because I wasn’t doing anything wrong I didn’t run. Again, my dad always taught me, “if you don’t have any reason to run, don’t.” Trust me, there were plenty of times I had reason to run…plenty.” But not this time.

I large drunk man with a club came over and picked me up off the ground by the back of my neck and drug me into the VFW. [SIDE NOTE] I had never been in the VFW before, it was a bit of a mysterious place to us kids. No windows, only a side door, and people either went in, or came out, angry. This was all new territory for me. After being inside, an old skinny off duty county sheriff grabbed me and took me to a Christmas tree in the corner of the hall. Since it was days away from Christmas he literally rammed by head into the tree and threatened to arrest me if I didn’t give up the names of my friends. Folks, there weren’t a lot of rules growing up in my neighborhood, but there was at least one, “you NEVER snitch!” Ever! It doesn’t matter if you go to jail, you don’t snitch! Knowing I wasn’t going to say anything, and they didn’t have any reason to arrest me. They threw me (literally) out of the VFW with a stern warning.

What I didn’t know was my friends ran to my house to get my dad. As I was walking towards my house my dad and my friends were walking towards the VFW. My dad later told me my friends were hysterical because they beat me with a club and drug me inside the VFW…never to be seen again…  But they also told my dad that I didn’t do anything wrong.

Walk With The Wise

Proverbs 13:20 (NLT) 20 Walk with the wise and become wise;
    associate with fools and get in trouble.

Even though Peter typically walked with the wise, in Paul’s account of this situation, Peter was instead, “associating with fools.” Antioch’s congregation was fully integrated with Christian Jews and Gentiles. Peter, up to this point, followed the custom of eating with the Gentile Christians and would often share meals with his non-Jewish brothers and sisters. This practice even included the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, which if you recall included a “Fellowship Meal.” Since the “Apostle to the Jews” (i.e. Peter) was associating with the Gentiles this way, he was putting his official stamp of approval on the equality of Jews and Gentiles in the church. We can imagine this behavior would have meant a lot to the newly accepted Gentile believers. Peter in those moments was painting an incredible portrait of God’s Kingdom.

Then, some friends of James came and were able to sway Peter to stop eating with the Gentiles and lean back towards the fundamentalistic laws of the Jewish customs. That quickly and that easily “some friends” came and could have possibly destroyed the work God was doing in Antioch. That’s all it takes. That’s how fast it can happen.

Don’t allow the “friends of James” in your life to distract you away from being guilty by the right association.