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02.28.21 Why Was I Spellbound Mark 11.12-20 Sermon Summary

by on March 1, 2021

NB: This sermon was preached in first person as Daniel—a nominal Jew at the time of Jesus.

Greetings from Jerusalem! My name is Daniel and I’m here for the Passover celebration. It’s always a spectacular event, but something happened this morning that really got me thinking. 

It was at the Temple in the court of the gentiles. You know about the Holy of Holies in the Temple. But he Temple complex was HUGE. Around the Holy of Holies was the courtyard of the priests, then the courtyard of the– males, then of the females, and finally the courtyard of the Gentiles. The whole thing was five football fields long by three wide. King Herod began constructing the Temple forty-six years ago and it won’t be done for another twenty years.

This is actually our second Temple. The first was destroyed – but we’ll get to that later. Anyway, this Temple is huge and just now it is very busy. It’s Passover week, our annual feast of freedom when we celebrate our exodus out of Egypt and from slavery. Today Rome on everyone’s minds: “When will we be free from them?”

Pilgrims have come from all over. Some just want to party. Some are here with politics in mind. And some, like me, are trying to reconnect with religion. (It’s been a while . . .)

It’s the second day of the week. There are tons of people around our huge Temple complex. This morning a rural Rabbi named Jesus went crazy. If he did what he did at your church everyone would know. But here at the Temple? Hardly. Still, those who saw it will never forget.

It reminded me of Sabbath School and when we learned about Jeremiah. He was a prophet about 600 years ago. Back then it was the Babylonians who were bearing down on us Jews. Jeremiah tried to warn us. “You come here to the Temple and think it is safe – ‘The Lord’s house!’ you say. But you don’t act justly towards one another. You oppress the undocumented, the fatherless, and single mom. You steal, commit adultery, and swear falsely. You have made my house a den of robbers. Amend your ways, or I will destroy this house.” (see Jeremiah 7:1-15)

People didn’t like Jeremiah’s preaching, of course. They threatened Jeremiah with execution. But Jeremiah was right. The people didn’t change and the Babylonians destroyed the Temple. God had warned through Jeremiah and yet the Temple was destroyed.

You know, truth is the truth irrespective of anything else. It doesn’t care if you have a different opinion. It doesn’t change just because you may feel uncomfortable. You may have a contrary history or tradition—it doesn’t matter. Truth doesn’t care if you have power. Eventually truth overcomes all these.

Truth is very patient. It waits through our denial. It abides our justifications and rationalizations. It outlasts whatever is popular. Jeremiah stood on truth and it took a toll on him. But “Wisdom is vindicated by her children.” Jesus said that. (Luke 7:35)

And now he was here in our Temple, the second Temple Herod is rebuilding, preaching just like Jeremiah. Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers and the animal sellers. At first this was confusing. 

Pilgrims need animals. And they need Temple money—like when you go to another country and exchange your money for their currency. I looked at the animals and I compared the prices. Everything was kosher. What was Jesus’ problem?

It wasn’t the business. It wasn’t the Temple. It wasn’t the exploitation of pilgrims. I’ve thought about this all day and I think his problem was indifference. 

Passover, Hanukah, Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter—these are supposed to be times of prayer, of paying attention to God, of rededication. They’re supposed to deepen our love for God and love of neighbor—even love of enemy if you follow Jesus. They are supposed to make us more like God and more just towards others.

I thought about people like me. I’m cordial, generous, and kind at the Temple and during the festivals. But otherwise I’m suspicious, protective, and defensive. I live like there are sacred times and places—the Temple, Sabbath, and festivals. And then everything else—the other days of the week, my business place, and my other hangouts.

I separate Sabbath and weekdays, religion and politics, prayer and business, and ritual and relationships. I’m named for Daniel who kept faith his whole life, in prayer and in politics, but I don’t live up to my name. 

I live my life “out there” and then come “in here” for worship. I have made God’s house a den of robbers. I am the robber. I have robbed my neighbor of justice. I have robbed myself of being God’s child. And I’ve robbed God of the gratitude he deserves. 

Well, Jesus came in and called a halt. He called for repentance—“Stop and think for a moment!” And with changed thinking, follow with changed action. Like Jeremiah, Jesus called for truth. I was spellbound. Lots of us were. 

So time will tell I guess. They threatened Jeremiah. Tradition says he was eventually stoned to death. Now Jesus has been threatened. I’m certain Rome and some religious leaders would like nothing better than his death. Crucifixion has the betting odds just now.

The Temple was destroyed in Jeremiah’s time. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rome destroys it in our time. I believe that truth prevails over falsehood so I think about this: If Jesus is preaching the truth, I wonder how truth might overcome his execution?

But more importantly, how will truth overcome my life? How much time do I have to change my ways? Can I stop robbing my neighbors, myself, and God? Will this place be a den of robbers? Or can I help make it a house of prayer?

These are the questions I’m asking now thanks to Jesus. Maybe you have some questions of your own to think through. Like I said, time will tell.

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