God’s Guide to a Well-Lived Life: Habitat for Divinity (Mark 11:15-19)
Habitat for Divinity
Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit organization working in local communities in all 50 states and about 70 different countries. Its vision is to provide a decent place to live for everyone. They work with families who need a decent place to live as well as volunteers so that a family can have a place to live with an affordable mortgage. Habitat for Humanity was established in Georgia by Millard and Linda Fuller in the early 1970s.
The Bible teaches that our bodies are a “habitat for divinity” - that once we are cleansed from our sins by the blood of Christ then God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwell in us. That is the motivation, Paul writes, for us to make sure we do not involve our bodies in sin, in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. We will conclude our study this morning in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, but here I want to point out that Paul’s argument in that passage says that because the Holy Spirit dwells in us, then we do not involve our bodies in sin.
Now, this passage is not talking about eating sugar. It’s not about eating trans-saturated fats. It’s not about exercise. It is specifically about trying to engage in sexual sins, arguing that a Christian cannot engage in sexual sins because you would then involve the Lord - who dwells in you - in such a sin - the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. In the same way, a Christian cannot lie because then we would involve our tongue in sin, and the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. A Christian cannot slap or punch someone out of anger, because that would involve the body in sin, and the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Our study this morning, however, is going to come from Mark 11:15-19. The first Sunday of every month this year, we are walking with Jesus through the gospel of Mark, looking at “God’s Guide to a Well-Lived Life.”
Let’s feed on the word of God this morning — Mark 11:15-19. Mark 11 begins the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. The “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem recorded in verses 1-10 is believed to have been on a Sunday. Verse 12 refers to the “next day,” which would be Monday. So, this event is four days before Jesus is crucified.
A DESCRIPTION OF THE TEMPLE - 11:15-16:
Let me get a picture of the temple in your mind… The temple complex, on top of Mount Zion, was about 35 acres. The outer court of the complex was called the Court of the Gentiles. Anyone was allowed into this area to pray.
There was a low-wall, separating this area from the Court of the Women. Signs on this wall warned Gentiles not to enter. Only Jewish men and Jewish women could enter here. In fact, the Roman government allowed Jews to severely punish non-Jews who entered beyond the Court of the Gentiles.
Then there was the Court of the Israelites. Jewish women could enter here only if they were brining an animal to sacrifice. Men could come at any time.
Then there was the Court of the Priests. Here is where the priests worked and ministered. After this, was the temple itself with the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.
The temple was the heart and soul of the Jewish faith. It was prepared for by King David; it was built by King Solomon. When the Babylonians destroyed it, the Israelites rebuilt it. When the Greeks desecrated it, Judas Maccabeus rebuilt it. When the Romans desecrated it, Herod rebuilt it. The Israelites thought so highly of the temple, that they were willing to swear oaths by the temple. Of course, Jesus is going to not just desecrate or destroy the temple, He will annihilate the temple, and rebuild the temple according to a spiritual pattern rather than a physical pattern.
The place where Jesus is right now, in Mark 11, is the Court of the Gentiles. The population of Jerusalem at this time, under normal circumstances, was around 80,000. During the Passover, it could more than double that number as Jews came from all over the world to worship God.
Of course, the Law of Moses required animal sacrifices and they had to be perfect specimens. At this time, the high priest Caiaphas, allowed business men to sell approved animals in the outer court of the temple grounds. This way, pilgrims would not have to bring animals from long-distances, from home; they could just buy an animal to sacrifice. The poor were allowed to sacrifice doves (Lev. 5:6-7; 14:22), and we see a reference to that here in our text.
These business men might also sell wine, oil, flour, and salt that had all been declared clean by the priests and could be offered in worship. It was very convenient; and potentially very exorbitant!
The Law also required each man to pay 1/2 shekel into the temple treasury. After the exile in Babylon, the amount became 1/3 of a shekel. The tax had to be paid in Jewish currency (Exo. 30:13-16), which Jews living outside of Palestine might not have. Therefore, they would have to exchange their Roman money for Jewish money to pay this tax. Money changers have the ability, obviously, to exchange at a certain rate, which could be exorbitant!
Verse 16 also mentions there were people who were carrying “merchandise” through temple. The courtyard could be a short-cut between the eastern part of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives.
There are many people today who do not give any thought to what God expects out of us. There are many people who use their bodies in ways that dishonors the God who created them. Sometimes, we too, use our bodies in ways - as Paul warned in 1 Corinthians 6 - that dishonors the God who bought us. When we engage our bodies in behavior that God describes as sinful, when we allow the world to influence us to do so, then we are guilty of the same behavior as the Jews here in the physical temple.
Jesus had already warned the Jews about turning His Father’s house into a “place of business” three years earlier, at the beginning of His ministry. He had made a scourge of cords and had forcibly driven animals out of the temple complex, poured out the money bags, and turned over the tables of the money changers. That account is told in John 2. When He did that, His disciples remembered that He was consumed with the zeal of His Father, a fulfillment of Psalm 69:9. When the astounded Jews asked by what authority He did that, He responded that He would, in fact, destroy the temple and raise it again after three days. That statement would be used against Jesus in His trial before the Sanhedrin, but after the resurrection, the disciples understood that Jesus was talking about the resurrection of His body. The “temple which is His body” in John’s theology is the church founded on the rock in Matthew’s theology.
The temple, then, was being used in many ways which were not consistent with God’s will for His people. The Jews put entirely too much importance in the temple itself and not enough importance in honoring and obeying the God of the temple. So, Jesus promised that He would destroy it and replace it with a spiritual temple.
THE DESECRATION OF THE TEMPLE - 11:17:
Seeing that the Israelites did not learn the lesson from three years earlier, nor the lessons given by the prophets since the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah, Jesus now storms the temple and He quotes two of God’s prophets from the OT: Isaiah and Jeremiah.
Isaiah lived around 700 years before Jesus, just before the Assyrians invade northern Israel. The reason God allowed Assyria to invade was because Israel was not taking her relationship with God seriously. In 56:1 begins that chapter:
"Thus says the Lord, ‘Preserve justice and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come And My righteousness to be revealed.’”
God says in that context of Isaiah 56 that He will invite “foreigners” and even “eunuchs” into His temple. That’s the context of Isaiah 56, the whole verse reads: “Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”
Here Jesus is, in the Court of the Gentiles, where Gentiles are coming to worship the God of Israel, and all they see is people buying and selling and exchanging money. It would have been the most ideal place to evangelize and share more information about the God of heaven. But the Jews were more concerned about making money than making disciples.
The second part of Jesus’ quotation comes from Jeremiah.
Jeremiah lived over 100 years after Isaiah and he lived when the Babylonians were invading Israel and destroying their temple. In Jeremiah’s day, the Israelites were worshipping the false god Baal, and also the planet Venus, whom they called the “queen of heaven.” They thought worshipping after their own desires would bring them success. At the same time, they were engaging in stealing, murdering, and adultery as well as swearing falsely - then they would go to the temple and claim and act like they were doing God’s will! They thought (7:4) that because they had the “temple of the Lord,” everything was okay.
God is angry at them and says to them: “You are coming and standing in My temple and saying, “We are delivered!” When you are, at the same time, committing all these abominable acts of sin? You run to the temple, like robbers to a den, to hide from the wrath of God? That’s the context of this quotation from Jeremiah 7:11:
“Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” declares the Lord.”
Jeremiah 7 is actually called Jeremiah’s “Temple Sermon” because he was standing in the temple as he criticized the Israelites for their sins. Not only were the Israelites in Jeremiah’s day turning God’s house of prayer into a den for robbers, but Jesus said that the Jews in His day were also doing the exact same thing. They had not learned from history! They would commit sins, even rejecting the Son of God, and then run into their temple and expect to find comfort there!
By Jesus’ day, the temple was no longer about God. It was now man-centered. That angered the Lord. It was supposed to have been a place for prayer and worship of God; now it was a shame and an embarrassment to the God of Israel; it was a place for robbers.
The reason why the Corinthian Christians were able to engage in sexual immorality was because they had ceased to respect God in their hearts. They did not love Him, respect Him, or carry His word in their hearts. That’s why Paul told them they were desecrating the temple of the Holy Spirit, which was, in fact, their bodies.
A DECISION AT THE TEMPLE - 11:18:
When the Jewish leaders heard Jesus criticize them, rather than repenting of their sins and getting their lives right with God, they followed the pattern of their ancestors who killed the prophets. They made plans to kill Jesus. Before the week was over, the Jews would have Jesus hanging on a cross.
Jesus was not supposed to criticize the Jews and their temple! He was supposed to respect the temple and drive the Romans out of Palestine! That’s what they thought He was supposed to do.
But Jesus viewed things from God’s perspective. The Jews had desecrated the temple for the last time. In chapter 13, Jesus will predict the thorough destruction of the temple of Jerusalem including the nation of Israel as whole. And He would restore the temple, through His body, which is known also as the church of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit dwells in the church as the Spirit dwells in individual members of the church.
WE ARE THE TEMPLE OF GOD - 1 Cor. 6:12-20:
Now let’s turn to the passage we began with: 1 Cor. 6:12-20. We can be a people God will bless, or we can be a people God will judge. Which we are will be determined by how much we love Him and obey His commandments. God is not playing games.
The whole issue of moral living is a problem of the heart. The Jews had abandoned authentic worship and lived like the world and God destroyed their temple as a punishment. We cannot worship God in spirit and truth and then leave this worship and live any way we want to! If we do not treat the temple of the Holy Spirit (our bodies) in a way that honors the God who bought us, we can expect the same response from God as the temple in Jerusalem.
Take home message: As Christians, the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Our bodies ought to be a “house of prayer” for our Creator and our Redeemer. Let us be careful, with our hands, what we do. Let us be careful, with our mouths, what we say. Let us be careful, with our feet, where we go…