Monday, April 18, 2011

Cleaning House - Oddballs Welcome!

Wouldn't it be fun to clean house like Jesus did?...

From Matthew 21:

12And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.

13And He said to them, "It is written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER'; but you are making it a ROBBERS' DEN."

14And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.

15But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they became indignant

16and said to Him, "Do You hear what these children are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF'?"

17And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

Philip Yancey explains it this way (excerpt from What's So Amazing About Grace, page 139, 1997):

Jesus appeared on earth just as Palestine was experiencing a religious revival. The Pharisees, for example, spelled out precise rules for staying clean: never enter the home of a Gentile, never dine with sinners, perform no work on the Sabbath, wash your hands seven times before eating. Thus when rumors spread that Jesus could be the long-awaited Messiah, pious Jews were more scandalized than galvanized. Had he not touched unclean persons, such as those suffering from leprosy? Had he not let a woman of ill repute wash his feet with her hair? He dined with tax collectors - one even joined his inner circle of the Twelve - and was notoriously lax about the rules of ritual cleanness and Sabbath observance.

Moreover, Jesus deliberately crossed into Gentile territory and got involved with Gentiles. He praised a Roman centurion as having more faith than anyone in Israel and volunteered to enter the centurion's house to heal his servant. He healed a half-breed Samaritan with leprosy and had a lengthy conversation with a Samaritan woman - to the consternation of his disciples, who knew that 'Jews do not associate with Samaritans.' This woman, rejected by Jews on account of her race, rejected by neighbors on account of her serial marriages, became the first 'missionary' appointed by Jesus and the first person to whom he openly revealed his identity as Messiah. Then Jesus culminated his time on earth by giving his disciples the 'Great Commission,' a command to take the gospel to unclean Gentiles 'in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'

Jesus' approach to 'unclean' people dismayed his countrymen, and in the end, helped to get him crucified. In essence, Jesus canceled the cherished principle of the Old Testament, No Oddballs Allowed, replacing it with a new rule of grace: 'We're all oddballs, but God loves us anyhow.'

The Gospels record only one occasion when Jesus resorted to violence: the cleansing of the temple. Brandishing a whip, he overturned tables and benches and drove out the merchants who had set up shop there. As I have said, the very architecture of the temple expressed the Jewish hierarchy. Gentiles could only enter only the outer court. Jesus resented that merchants had turned the Gentiles' area into an oriental bazaar filled with the sounds of animals bleating and merchants haggling over prices, an atmosphere hardly conducive to worship. Mark records that after the cleansing of the temple, the chief priests and teachers of the law 'began looking for a way to kill him.' In a real sense, Jesus sealed his fate with his angry insistence on the Gentiles' right to approach God.

He opened the way for me - a woman and a Gentile - to draw near to God. In a culture that needed to wash seven times before eating a meal, I am most surely 'unclean' in many ways. Jesus didn't abolish all of those rules; He fulfilled them. And I come near.

Resting in His Nearness,

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