Week 45 Devotion
As we continue reading in the gospels this week we are going to see Jesus closing in on the cross. He has some final instructions to give to the disciples, some final warnings to let them know about, and then the cross will come. This week we will be reading about those last-minute details that Jesus wants his friends to know about. So let’s get right into it.
Something to meditate on…
One of the things that Jesus wants His friends to be prepared for has to do with what is going to happen to the city of Jerusalem and more specifically what is going to happen to the Temple.
For three years the disciples have followed Jesus around in the small towns and villages along the Jordan River valley. They spent one long period of time in the fishing village of Capernaum which sat on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, but most of their time together has been spent on the road marked by small towns filled with hard-working farmers and shepherds. These towns were little more than a well of water surrounded by small stone and mud houses. On the rare occasion, they might come to a small city with a standing market and a well-built synagogue.
But now they have made their way to the city of Jerusalem, which is a feast for the eyes by comparison to the little villages they are accustomed to and at the center of this city stood one of the wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Yahweh. At this time, the temple is in the process of being rebuilt by Herod the Great who kicked off a temple-rebuilding program that lasted more than 80 years. His plan was to enlarge the temple and to adorn it with such materials that it would become a wonder of the ancient world, and he succeeded.
Herod’s temple was magnificent in every way. It was twice the size of Solomon’s temple and it was arguably more beautiful. The stone Herod used was white marble and some of them could be as large as 67 feet long, 12 feet high and 18 feet wide. These were massive stones and many of them can still be seen today. The visual appeal of the temple was absolutely stunning.
As you approached the outer wall you would see rows of white marble pillars, silver-plated gates, and gold-plated doors. Golden adornments were attached to the structure itself and when the sun shone on these golden plates Josephus said that the temple would flash like a “snow-clad mountain.”
For Jesus disciples, this is easily the most magnificent structure they have ever seen, but Jesus is going to let them know that the size and beauty of this temple will not be enough to keep it from being completely destroyed.
Luke 21:5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
The temple will stand for less than 40 years before Rome destroys it, the city around it and the nation of Israel as a political unit. To the Jews there was little doubt that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple could mean only one thing, the end of the world, but Jesus lets them know that this is just the beginning.
The destruction of the temple was not a mistake. God intended that it be brought down and along with it a shift would take place in how we relate to God. The temple system is no more and this means that the sacrifice for sins, which reconciles us to God has been made. Jesus’ sacrifice means that our debt has been paid, one offering to satisfy the massive debt of sin that is owed by all those who believe.
The Temple system is no more and this means that the priests who mediated between man and God, are no longer necessary. A true and better High Priest has taken up the charge. Jesus stood in the gap between God and man on the cross and He now stands in the gap mediating and giving us access to God.
The Temple itself is no more and in its place, stands the church, the body of Christ, and the Spirit of God dwell in us as the tangible presence of God on earth.
The Temple is no more; Christ has taken its place. You can’t trust in a system to save you; your salvation is a person. You can’t trust in a priest to bring you to God, unless that priest is Jesus Himself. There is no sacrifice that you can make that will wash away your sin and clothe you with righteousness, only Christ can do that.
Something to discuss from Matthew 23…
A strange thing has happened in our culture and in the church and it has to do with our understanding of the love of Jesus. Some people have assumed that since Jesus loves us that He would never say anything to us that would challenge our way of life. Some people have assumed that because Jesus loves us He will basically turn a blind eye to our sin. They have assumed that since Jesus is love He will not confront us over sin or call us to repentance.
This idea has had a massive negative impact on the church and many of us have seen its effect. Church leaders no longer want to call sin what it is. Pastors and church leaders refuse to practice anything resembling church discipline, or even to offer sound Biblical counsel to their people who are caught up in sin.
What has happened is that instead of viewing the love of Jesus through the lens of Scripture we have begun to view the love of Jesus through our own cultural lens and we have made a god out of love. So people will say things like, “It is not Christ-like to rebuke someone for sin?” The media will seek to defame any Christian who speaks clearly about sin. What has happened is that we have lost any truly Biblical understanding of what the love of Jesus looks like.
According to the Scriptures, Christ-like love doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin but instead it seeks to carefully expose that sin and point the sinner to their redeemer. True love understands the powerful and traumatic effect of being confronted by the holiness of God and then comforted by the liberating power of God’s grace. This type of love is what we are going to see as we read this chapter.
In Matthew 23, Jesus is in the company of Pharisees and Lawyers (Scribes) and rather than to turn a blind eye to their sin He is going to go after them and He does so purposefully. Jesus is confronting them over their hypocrisy, their pride, and the fact that they are leading God’s people away from the truth.
In this chapter, Jesus is confronting sin in these men that no one else could see. He is laying bare the emptiness of their religion so that they would come to understand that they were entrusting their eternity to a foundation that could not hold them. They were trusting in themselves. They were trusting that they didn’t need God at all to save them from sin. They believed that all they needed was a set of rules and the grit to follow them. They were working to be their own functional savior and they stunk at it.
They didn’t take the holiness of God seriously. They didn’t take their own sin seriously and they thought way to highly of themselves. But, Jesus is working to pull their mask off and show them their sin, and I believe it was a loving thing for Him to do. Sadly, they didn’t seem to take Jesus’ words to hear but instead they hardened their hearts, plugged their ears and refused to let Jesus words affect them. Don’t let that be true of you today.
As you read through Matthew 23, I want you to know that going through the motions of religion cannot save you. Putting on a mask and making everyone think that you have it all figured out will never bring you peace with God. Your attempts at self-salvation will fail. But Christ has come to free us from our self-salvation mission. Jesus died so that our sin would be washed away. He died to cleanse us from within and to give us new hearts. Jesus died so that our debt to God would be paid in full and this can be yours if you will believe.
So let us repent of our own legalism and trust wholly in the work of Christ. Rather than trying to stand before His throne to boast of our goodness, let’s stand before His throne and plead the blood of Christ alone.
Something to pray about from John 17…
John 17 is a wonderful chapter filled with Jesus’ prayer for His disciples and that includes all of us who believe today. This prayer is a humbling look into the mind and heart of Jesus as He seeks to glorify God and He seeks to care for His people.
His first petition to the Father comes in verse 11 where He says,
Holy Father, keep them in your name…
Jesus is asking the Father to sustain us in our faith and in our identity as children of God.
His second petition comes in verse 17 when He prays,
Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.
Jesus is asking the Father to grow us in holiness through His Word guiding and influencing our lives.
His third petition comes in verse 22 when He prays,
I ask…that they may be one even as we are one.
Jesus is asking the Father to keep us united to one another as a family with the kind of unity that God Himself enjoys within the Trinity.
These are great things for us to pray for ourselves. Let’s pray that God would strengthen and sustain our faith in the midst of the trials of life. Let’s pray that God would sanctify us through His Word as we read it and hear it taught. Let’s pray that God would give our church, and churches all around us, great unity in our fellowship that centers around the person and work of Jesus Christ.