This is the strangest picture of Jesus in all the Bible. Of all the portraits we have of Jesus, this is the most mysterious of all. In all the situations we see Jesus, this one doesn’t seem to fit our understanding of His personality, style, or ministry. There are many familiar pictures of Jesus—Lamb of God, Good Shepherd, and Prince of Peace—but this one seems out of character and out of sync with the others.
What’s even more peculiar is that this portrait is not found once but twice in Scripture. As if to emphasize its vital importance, it is found the very first time and last time that Jesus visited the temple in Jerusalem (see John 2 and Matthew 21). Here is Matthew’s account:
“Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you have made it a “den of thieves.”’” (Matthew 21:12-13)
A Whip-Carrying Violent Jesus
Jesus became violent! He is upset. With no help from His disciples, He physically overturned tables and drove out all the money changers and those who sold doves and sheep. With no armed guards around Him, with no help from anyone else, Jesus single-handedly manhandled the people in the temple and pushed, pulled, and grabbed everyone in His way and forced them out! In John’s portrait, Jesus takes a whip and thrashes it until everyone gets out of the temple mount! It’s an amazing picture of Jesus.
Why do we have this stunning portrait of Jesus? I believe every letter in the Bible is God’s holy Word. I believe that the Bible is inerrant (without error), infallible, and authoritative. I believe that wherever you find the exact teaching or exact situation repeated in the Bible, it’s there to get our attention even more!
His message is quite clear. Jesus is saying that His temple, now His Church, is to be mainly and primarily a “house of prayer.” In other words, the main thing we should think about concerning the Church is it’s a place where prayer happens; not worship, not preaching, not concerts, but prayer.
What is Prayer?
When one takes even a cursory scan of the teachings of Jesus, the role and power of prayer comes up again and again. Jesus reminds us in dozens of passages that prayer is about believing, asking, and receiving the Kingdom of heaven on earth. That is my definition of prayer. Jesus encourages us to keep asking, keep seeking, and not lose heart. Thus, a house of prayer is a church that does so.
Prayer is the means of the miraculous. Prayer is on the back of every Kingdom thing that happens on earth. A.W. Tozer once said, “An invitation to prayer is, therefore, an invitation to omnipotence, for prayer engages the Omnipotent God and brings Him into our human affairs. Nothing is impossible to the man who prays in faith, just as nothing is impossible with God. This generation has yet to prove all that prayer can do for believing men and women.” May we be such a generation.
Believing, asking, and expecting,