My father is a Jewish believer in Messiah Jesus, so I had the amazing gift of getting to grow up with a deep appreciation for my heritage and the Jewish roots of my faith. One of the elements of this was the observation of all the Biblical feasts.
As a little girl, Purim was my favorite. We got to celebrate how God used Esther to rescue our people, I got to dress up like a princess, we played games, made hamentaschen (the best cookies, ever)… it was joyous, fun, and delicious. On the heels of Purim, the preparation for Passover begins. Passover was the feast I didn’t really like as a young girl. It was long, a little strange, and not quite as “festive.” As I’ve grown up, however, Passover becomes more dear to me year after year.
Prior to Passover, the Jewish people make a special effort to remove chametz (leaven) from their homes in obedience with Exodus 12:15. As with most of the commands God gave to the Jewish people, it was an “object lesson” of sorts. Leaven represents sin- even the “tiniest” bit influences the whole… Removing chametz from the home revealed the need to separate from sin – to prepare for the new year in a way that acknowledges the complete and perfect holiness of the God who rescued them from Egypt.
It was during the preparations for the Feast of Passover that Messiah Jesus went up to Jerusalem in obedience to Exodus 23:14-17. His journey into Jerusalem is what we know as the Triumphal Entry- where he was welcomed with palm branches as King. As he neared where the road went down to the Mount of Olives, crowds of His disciples joyfully praised God shouting: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Luke tells us that as Jesus approached Jerusalem, he wept over it. His heart broke as He knew what was ahead… redemption could be theirs, but chametz would hide it from their eyes (Luke 19:42). You can sense in these passages in the Gospels about the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that there is a deep pain in our Savior’s heart over His creation.
When I’ve read about the Jesus’ arrival at the temple, and His reaction to the money changers and peddlers of products there, the wonder of the exchange to me occurs in Mark 11:11
“And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.”
Now, you are probably thinking: “Uh… wonder?”
To which I say, YES! Wonder!
Friends, He never reacted right away. He walked in, looked around, and left.
It was when he returned the next day that we see the King remind His subjects Whose house they were in. Not in the evening when things were dying down, but in the day- when business is in full swing. When people are there, when coins are being dropped, when animals are being purchased… They had let chametz into the home of the Holy One. What was meant to be a sacred place for the worship and adoration of the Lord was now a place of profiteering, extortion, abuse of power, injustice for the poor and needy, and excessive materialism. But our King is just- the righteous indignation that consumed Him was rooted in what His home was always meant to be: a place for all people to be in the very presence of God.
These I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples. – Isaiah 56:7
There is no room for chametz in the dwelling place of the Holy One of Israel. And He did not passively grab a broom to start sweeping.
No, He drove out the merchants, he overturned tables, and he poured out the money. Can you imagine the sellers running every which way trying to grab the animals they were hoping to make money off of because of the required sacrifices? Can you see the unnerved money changers on their knees trying to pick up their coins? Can you hear the rumble of the crowd as they wondered at this scene?
This scene was an object lesson in the midst of an object lesson. Addressing the issue of chametz is not to be approached lightly. If we are the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, then the fervor Jesus displayed in the Temple that day is the fervor we need to embody as we address the sin we harbor.
We love the empty tomb. We love the victory. We love the grace we have been given freely. We love deliverance.
The beauty of deliverance, however, is directly related to the real grasp we have on what we’ve been delivered from. To see the chametz, to recognize how impossible it is to clean every bit of it from our dwelling places on our own, and to realize that the Lamb has come. He came, saw the filth that was there and was deeply grieved by it, and He covered us anyway. Not because of who we were, but because of who He is.
He is holy. Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.
As you embark on this Holy Week, and we journey to the cross and to the empty tomb, I invite you to look around the depths of your soul… To go back often and overturn the tables, to drive out things that have taken up residence that don’t belong there. May we humble our souls that we may have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts that seek after Him.