15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.
16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.
17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL NATIONS’ ? But you have made it a ‘DEN OF THIEVES.'”
18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching.
19 When evening had come, He went out of the city.
As a Bible teacher, I feel it is my mission to help people return to the Word of God and find wisdom and understanding there. To that end, I try to unpack the things that I myself learn there, hoping that by explaining them as they occur to me, someone else will themselves be led to the greater truths to be seen in Scripture. I feel I am guided in this by the Holy Spirit.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
13 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.
15 “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”
I myself am astonished sometimes at what I am constantly learning from the Bible. I still have much to learn, and I do not thing I will ever stop learning. For example, twice in the past year, I wrote two different and yet supporting messages about the same Bible passage–two from the Old Testament, two from the New Testament. That is the wonder and glory of the Bible, that it speaks to us differently each time we read it–but not differently in a way that opposes what we have read before but in a way that supports and expands upon what we already have learned. And just as I do not think I will ever stop learning, I pray that I also never stop teaching and never stop being astonished at what I am learning. May I never lose that sense of wonder at the teachings of the Word of God.
Just as I am amazed at what I daily learn from the Word of God, the people of Judea and Galilee were amazed at Jesus’ teachings.
20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.
21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
22 So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
21 Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.
22 And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
In Jerusalem in particular, the people were astonished at the authority with which He taught. People were used to hearing the teachings of the scribes and elders, especially the Pharisees and Sadducees who taught from their own writings rather than directly from the Bible. You see, what the Jews had been learning was not the Word of God but the words of men. They had been taught traditions rather than truth, taught wise sayings rather than the wisdom of God, taught restrictions rather than redemption. And so, when Jesus came along and taught them the true depths of the Scriptures, they were indeed astonished.
In much of His teachings, the Master would say, “You have heard it said… But I tell you…” The reason He said this was because the teachers of the synagogues had taken the Word of God–e.g. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”–and expanded it into a large number of manmade teachings and traditions. Theft was strictly defined, work on the Sabbath strictly defined, adultery strictly defined, and so on. Before long the people were weighed down with a group of rules that no one was capable of keeping, not even the scribes who taught them. Then along came Jesus and reminded them that the first and most important commandment is to love the Lord our God, and so people’s eyes were opened to the falseness of those manmade “commandments” they had been taught for so long.
What is most glorious about Jesus’ teachings is not that He undermined the teachings of the scribes and priests but that He bolstered the teaching of Scripture. Jesus pointed back to the Word of God to teach the Word of God. He made the connections and drew the lines, He dug deeper and showed the people riches they had not known were there. And underlying His whole message were simple thoughts like sin and repentance, faith and salvation, love and forgiveness, mercy and hope.
45 Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?”
46 The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”
Had no one ever spoken like Jesus did? Not exactly. But the officers were amazed at the authority with which Jesus spoke, and they were amazed that they themselves had never heard someone speak with such simplicity and power. Truly, in their lifetimes, no man ever had spoken like Jesus. In the hundred years prior to Jesus, there had been half a dozen men who rose up claiming to be the Messiah and leading rebellions in Judea. But then along comes Jesus of Nazareth, and He doesn’t preach rebellion but peace with God. He doesn’t preach throwing off the oppression of the Romans but throwing off the shackles of sin. He doesn’t preach the liberation of the kingdom of Israel but the liberation of all men into the true kingdom of God. He doesn’t teach more rules and regulations but a return to honest worship. No wonder they were astonished at His teachings!
My question today is this: Are we still astonished at His teachings? Are we still amazed? I think we who believe in Christ take much of what He says for granted. We feel like we’ve heard it all before, and His teachings don’t surprise us anymore. We read the Gospels and we figure we “get it” because we remember the well-known lessons about loving our enemies and doing unto others and praying this way and giving that way. But I think many Christians have stopped being astonished at Jesus’ teachings because they take Him at His word and don’t go any further. They don’t dig into the Scripture He references, they don’t look at the prophets and try to see what lessons Jesus mined from those rich words. Most importantly, we do not read our Bibles. We hear what the preacher tells us on Sunday, and we just let it go at that. We do not seek our own daily bread, our own enrichment and understanding. We want it all handed to us on a silver platter.
10 But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable.
11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables,
12 “so that
‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven them.'”
I speak today especially to the men out there, because we are the worst about reading and studying our Bibles. Women seem to have a greater heart for seeking the wisdom of God’s Word and applying it to their lives, but we men are prone to being self-sufficient, and we don’t dig deep for our own understanding. Fellows, let us not be like those who do not understand the parables, but let us be the ones who are given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God. Let us be astonished at Jesus and His teachings, and let is seek the small lessons and be amazed that we did not see that before.
Look at the seemingly simple lesson in today’s passage. Jesus said to the Jews that they had taken God’s house and turned it into a den of thieves. But let’s take a little deeper look.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20
18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
If our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, then we defile that temple with our greed and our lust, we turn our very bodies–which should be a holy place, a house of prayer to the Lord our God–into a den of iniquity. What profit is to be had by prostituting our bodies to worldly things when the Holy Spirit dwells there? In the temple of our bodies, we are to glorify God, we are to seek Him always and keep our very flesh holy unto Him. Therefore, Jesus calls us to cleanse our hearts as well as our bodies. (Matthew 23:26) Like King Hezekiah said to the Levites as they began to restore the temple, “Now sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place.” (2 Chronicles 29:5) Jesus did just that by driving the moneychangers and merchants from the temple courts. And we must do that, too, by repenting of our sins of the flesh and driving out the greed and lust from our own hearts.
My call today is that we should seek this Jesus every day, this Teacher who amazes us with His lessons and with His authority. Let us read holy Scripture with a heart toward learning and not just reading, with a heart to drive out sin and seek instead the righteousness of God. This Bible is the very Word of God, inspired by Him in the hearts and words of forty men who faithfully set it down just as they themselves heard it in the temple of their souls. Jesus Himself constantly referred to this Book, this Testament, this Covenant. Let us therefore come back to it again and again, learning more with the help of the Holy Spirit, having our eyes and ears opened to mysteries we had not ever thought to know. Let us not just take things for granted but come back to God’s Holy Bible and always be astonished at His teaching.
O Lord my God, thank You for Your holy Word. Thank You for surprising us every time we read the Bible. And thank You most especially that You have chosen to open Your Word to us through Your Holy Spirit, rather than leaving us to try to fathom its riches on our own. Father God, we ask today that You continue to astonish us, continue to form our hearts into the image of Your Son by showing us the truth in Your Word. Lead us deeper each day, and encourage all believers to seek Your Word so that all may be bound by the unity of spirit and mind that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.