One of the most vivid pictures I can imagine is of a person or pet being eaten alive by some wild animal. Just the imagination of the pain, suffering and terror of such a thing happening is mind boggling. But the real danger in life isn’t so much of being eaten alive physically as it is of being eaten alive mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It is easy to be eaten alive with fear, doubt, discouragement and depression. I’ve known plenty of people who were eaten alive with jealousy and others with such a sense of awe or devotion to some person or cause that they can’t see any negative in anything they have to do with.
I want to be eaten alive but with the right things. Remember a story that is told in the Gospel of John and near the end of the second chapter. Jesus was just beginning his ministry and he, his mother and the four disciples he had chosen so far all went to a wedding banquet in Cana in Galilee. Jesus performed his first miracle by turning water into wine. Then he and the disciples went up to Jerusalem for the Passover. While there they went into the temple and Jesus saw how they had turned the temple of God, the place of worship, into a market place. He was enraged by what he saw and made a whip and began driving out the animals, turning over the tables and scattering the money that was being given by the money changers. He shouted, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” Mark’s account of this event adds the statement you have turned what was intended to be a house of prayer for all nations into a market. Perhaps the point was made because they were taking the area designated for the women and Gentiles and used it as the place to sell the animals for sacrifices and to exchange their money for the coinage accepted in the Temple. It made it near impossible for the people of all the nations to come to pray in such an environment.
There are two huge things that rise out of what happened that day. One is the disciples response. They watched Jesus in action and remembered Psalms 69:9 that says, “Zeal for God’s house has eaten me up.” Jesus response was to say to the people, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” They of course thought he was talking about the physical temple they were in and so answered, “It has taken us 46 years to build this temple and you can tear it down and rebuild it in three days?” But he was really talking about the temple of his body and foretelling the fact that they would destroy his body on the cross and three days later he would be raised from the dead.
Focus with me on the statement made by the disciples. They recognized he was literally having the heart described in the Psalm, so that zeal for God’s house consumed him. He couldn’t stand the thought that these people would so desecrate the temple of God that they would take what was meant as a place for people of all nations to gather and pray and turn it into a place where it’s whole purpose was to make worship for the Jews easier. They didn’t have to go anywhere to get the animals or bring them from home. They could even exchange their money for the accepted coinage there. instead of thinking about how they might have a positive effect on the nations around them if they came together to pray in this place, it was totally about making it all convenient and easy for the Jews who gathered to worship God.
What they were doing set Jesus on fire. He gave no thought to what was proper or how others would perceive him. He just knew he had to act. Can you imagine how people would react where you go to church if we had such a moment in our churches? Imagine Jesus visiting our church and seeing the people gathering around the coffee station and visiting lots with each other while ignoring those whom they don’t know who are there because they feel the need to learn about God and how He might help them in life. Imagine Jesus grabbing the Starbucks pot and throwing it to the floor and shouting at the people this is supposed to be a place of prayer and worship for all people and you’ve turned it into a fellowship hall for fellow Christians. How would the people react? How would you react?
But the bigger question is, what is it in life that consumes you? What is so important to you that zeal for it eats you up? It is easy in life to become so neutralized to everything in the world that nothing really moves us very much. We may have watched so many commercials where people are eaten up with their political ideas and dreams that we think, “I’ll never get that hot and bothered about anything.” We become so cool and calm that we can’t really remember the last time when we really got upset about something. There ought to be things, situations, and challenges in life that so move and upset us that we must act. For Jesus, it was his devotion to God and to His house. Surely, we ought to have a passion for his church and his worship and work in this world to the degree that we must act at times when we see that mission being lost. We do tons of thinking these days about the church being what people want, what certain age groups want, or what would draw this group. But what should consume us is when we stop being concerned so much about what God wants and are too concerned with what some people want.
I suspect that some will read that whole thought and respond, “But Leon, how can we know what God wants the church to be?” Well, the Frist answer to that is pretty simple. We need to actually read the Bible and believe that what God tells us, He really means for us to follow. God hasn’t changed his mind since Covid arrived. Honest, open and humble study of the Bible will change the whole world. Second, we should pray for the wisdom that God gives us so we can see what He wants us to see. Third, pray for God’s guidance to show us His will.
In this process it is extremely important to remember that the Scriptures are inspired by God or God breathed and they are profitable for teaching, correcting, instructing and rebuking so that God’s person is totally furnished for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17). It is based on that reality that Paul commanded Timothy to “Preach the word” whether people like it or not. God help us to be totally consumed with his house, his word and his will in everything.