Jesus Turns Over Some Tables… And So Much More
After Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem for Passover, He got really busy fast, teaching some vital life lessons in a very short window. Matthew 21 and Mark 11-12 captures a lot of what Jesus did and said in His first couple of days in Jerusalem, and in the process, gives us a clear picture of His expectations for His followers. Jesus shared many important lessons; I’ll give you six.
1) God’s house must be pure and free from ungodliness. (Matthew 21:12-13)
When Jesus saw that worshippers were being taken advantage of by corrupt Temple officials charging excessive exchange rates for offerings, Jesus didn’t turn the other cheek, He turned over some tables! They had turned God’s house into a “den of thieves.” The message was clear then and now, Jesus doesn't want impurity and ungodliness in His house.
Keep in mind that, if you’re a Believer, you are God’s temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20); therefore God expects us to be pure and free from ungodliness. And when we’re not, you can guarantee that Jesus is not happy; in fact, that is the one thing that causes Him to turn over tables. If you’re looking for motivation to walk the “straight and narrow,” there it is!
2) Believers are expected to produce fruit! (Matthew 21:18-19)
Not long after Jesus cleanses the Temple, He curses a barren fig tree, causing it to instantly wither. Why? Because it wasn’t bearing fruit! In Scripture, fig trees often represented Israel; so a barren fruit tree pointed to Israel, which at the time, had religious leaders who appeared devout outwardly but were barren inwardly; they were producing no fruit! So when Jesus cursed that fig tree, He made a very important point, not just for Israel in that time, but for us too. He fully expects His followers to produce fruit! (Ref. Jon 15:5-6; Gal. 5:22-23)
3) Our actions ultimately reflect the condition of our hearts. (Matthew 21:31b-32)
Israel’s religious leaders appeared righteous, but the truth is their hearts were far from it. (Matt. 15:7-8) Jesus judges the condition of our hearts. What do your actions reveal about what you believe in your heart of hearts? Do your actions honor Christ? Do they make an impression and leave a mark for Him?
4) Paying our taxes is our responsibility and giving to God what is due Him is also our responsibility.
Trying to put Jesus in a lose/lose situation, some religious leaders asked Him about paying Roman taxes. Jesus had a brilliant response: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Mark 12:17b. Just as we would never consider cheating on our taxes, Jesus tells us we shouldn’t cheat God either; in others words, we must give Him what He expects. In the Old Testament, that is at minimum a “tithe” or 10%, but in the New Testament, giving is a matter of the heart, so it could be much more! (Ref. 2 Cor. 9:6-7; Matt. 6:21)
5) Jesus teaches not only to give to God obediently, but to give to God sacrificially. (Mark 12:41-44)
Jesus expanded on His teaching about giving to while He was in the Temple and observed a widow’s sacrificial offering. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44. Giving sacrificially enables God to honor our faith by providing all that we need. I have seen Him do this again and again in my life. I’ve heard it said, and absolutely believe, that we cannot out give the Lord.
6) The most important commandments are to love God and to love others! (Mark 12:30-31)
This is the driving, motivating force behind all that we do as Christ-followers. If you don’t get anything else, get this! Nothing matters more. I’ve said it many times, this is a perfect summary of the Ten Commandments - the first four having to do with our relationship to God and the second six, our relationship to one another. So how are you doing with these greatest, most important commandments these days? Do your actions reflect your love for God and your love for others? Is there someone in your life you don’t have a lot of love for these days? Will you love them anyway?
Jesus covered some truly vital life lessons in this week that changed the world. All of these lessons help us to better understand what He wants from us as His disciples. For much more, click here to watch the worship service and listen to the message: The Week That Changed the World - Part 2 - Vital Life Lesson.