Olly olly oxen free! That’s what the temple had become. Out there, you could do pretty much whatever you wanted. Go to a Baal party! Sleep with whomever you wanted. Steal from people and get away with it. You could walk past people in need and live the good life. And all you had to do was tag the Temple on the Sabbath and cry “The temple! The temple! The temple! I’m safe” Duck in, do your duty, and right back out to doing whatever you feel like. When Jesus says that they’ve made the temple a “den of thieves” He doesn’t mean because they’re buying and selling. He means because they’ve gotten to the point where their religion is nothing other than doing whatever you want and just touching home base to be called safe. It’s a “den of thieves” because that’s where the thieves go to pretend God can’t see their sins. They don’t want forgiveness. They want the OK to believe that God doesn’t care how they live and they don’t need to think of anyone but themselves. If you’ve ever heard the preaching for the forgiveness of sins and thought, “Sweet! Now I can do whatever I want and it will just be forgiven,” then repent! That’s like the kid on the internet. He says, “I prayed for God to give me a new bike, but I know that’s not how it works. So I stole a bike and asked God for forgiveness.” Your Old Adam loves to hear about forgiveness because then he figures he can go and do whatever he wants!
There’s only one consequence for that way of despising God. Destruction! For the people of Jerusalem, who don’t want to actually get rid of their sins, and trust in God, they’ll get the Romans to come and level the city. Not one stone left on another. For sinners who despise God’s Law, do their sins and throw them in His face, there is death and hell. For Jesus, trial and scourge and crucifixion! Wait a minute. For Jesus? But He’s One Guy who truly loved God’s Word and Temple. There is the One Man who truly treasured what you and I despise and ignore. And that’s the whole point. If Jesus doesn’t do what you don’t do, namely, love God’s Word above all things, then you can’t be saved. And if Jesus doesn’t get wiped out for you, you will be the one getting wiped out. Because when it comes to the Temple, the Temple isn’t a building. It’s Jesus. The Temple was where God was. And Jesus is God in the temple of His flesh. On the cross, Jesus, the Temple is the biggest den of thieves. He is the hideout of adulterers. He is the temple of the idol worshippers. He is every sinner and every sin, all caught up together for God to destroy and wipe out. And that means, when He comes out of the grave, alive, on Easter, the pagan, sinner, hideouts have been raided and destroyed. Sin and death and the devil and hell have had the fight brought to them and lost.
And now that means the Temple is a house of prayer once again. Jesus, where God is, is the place where the Lord is among us. Where Jesus is, there is God hearing and answering our prayer. Where Jesus is, water flows to wash away your sins. Where Jesus is, forgiveness is declared to sinners. Where Jesus is, a feast of salvation is laid where we have true forgiveness. Where Jesus is, His house is the place where He gathers His church to be present among us. Here He calls us to repentance, that is, teaches us to examine our lives and cast away all things that are against God and no good for others. Here He teaches us that He has made us right with God so that we can serve our neighbor. Here Jesus has taught us that we have a true Safe Place from our sins. Not so we can just do what we want and pretend it’s all allowed. Rather, a place where our troubled consciences can find comfort, knowing the certainty of Christ’ water, Word, body and blood declare our sins forgiven. Dear Christians, in God’s house you have a place where the Old Adam runs to to pretend he can do whatever he wants. There, in God’s house, that Old Adam is ambushed and drowned at the font again. And here, in God’s house, the new man in Christ, gifted by the Holy Spirit, confesses that Jesus is Lord. The Lord who saves sinners. The Lord who welcomes us into His house so that we may be with Him and He with us and we have everlasting life. Here is the place where we may hang on every forgiving, saving, life-giving word of Jesus. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Sermon Topics: Luke