God’s multi-colored house

colorful homesRacial diversity is an important principle for the church, not just politics or a social justice issue.

If your neighbors looked out the window and saw you painting your house a dozen different colors, it would probably cause a stir. If you live in a subdivision with the Home Owners Association, you would probably have the president knocking on your door before you finished painting the front of the house. Most people paint their houses with one main color and perhaps an accent color or two. That is not how God painted his house.

There’s a pretty fascinating story in Mark 11:15-16.  Many Bible scholars believe this is the first time Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem since he was a little boy. The last time he was there, his parents found him listening to the teachers and asking questions of the religious leaders. When he returns to the Temple as a grown man, he cannot believe what he sees.  Mark tells us that he is so angry that he starts kicking over tables and driving the animals out of the temple. This is highly unusual for Jesus. Something ticked him off. If you read the parallel account of this in John 2:15, Jesus is fighting mad. He fashions and uses a whip to drive people out of the Temple.  What could possibly have made Jesus so angry? These money changers traded the ministry of God for making a profit.

It’s about making disciples- not making a profit

What’s so bad about selling a few animals in the Temple court? After all, this was allowed by Old Testament law.  There’s more to this story than meets the eye. In Mark 11:17, Jesus tells us that the Temple was established by God to be a “House of Prayer for all Nations.”  Basically, God planted his flag at the spot where the Temple in Jerusalem would be. It was always designed to be a place where people from all over the globe would come to worship.

In order to understand Jesus’s reaction, you need to know what the temple was like in his day. This was the most prominent building in ancient Jerusalem. It dominated the hilltop in which Jerusalem was built. The Temple in Jesus’s day consisted of two major courts: an inner courtyard where only faithful Jewish men worship, and outer courtyard where Jewish women and foreigners went to worship. It was in this outer courtyard that the Jewish men were selling animals for sacrifice. This means they were deliberately taking advantage of the foreigners that were coming to the Temple to worship God.

When Jesus says in Mark 11:17 that the Temple is for all people, he’s making a reference directly from the Old Testament in Isaiah 56:7. It was God all along for people from every nation, every race, every color of skin, and every social class, to Jerusalem and to worship God on his holy mountain.  These Jewish money changers were manipulating the system. They should have been in that outer courtyard making disciples. Instead, they were in there to make a profit.

It’s for all people- young and old, black and white, rich and poor

God wants his house painted with every color of skin. This is part of the reason Jesus got fighting mad in Mark 11:17. The religious leaders in Jesus’s day were all too willing to exclude foreigners from understanding who God is, but they were more than willing to make a profit off these foreigners.

Mark 11:18 says the Jewish religious leaders were so furious that they were ready to kill Jesus over these actions. He had rocked the boat, he had messed with their profit margins, and they would not stand for it. John 2:17 informs us the disciples never forgot this incident. Jesus acted so out of character that it was burned in their memory for the rest of their lives. If Jesus is passionate about the paint colors of his house- shouldn’t his people also be passionate about the colors of skin in our worship services?

Further reading

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