There you were, minding your own business, among the throng at the gates of the Temple. You were there to pay your annual Temple dues and buy your Passover sacrifice. Suddenly a loud voice bellowed from behind you.
“Is it not written”, declared this voice. “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations … “
Time froze. You may have only been a poor Jew, but you knew your Scriptures. Everyone had some knowledge of the Prophets and wise ones and the words spoken by this Jesus, the Rabbi from Nazareth, were very familiar. They were spoken by the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years earlier, words that described how things should be in God’s house. Uncomfortable words, because everyone knew how things were … they were not how things ought to be! As if he was reading your thoughts, his next words drove home like a stake to the heart.
“But you have made it ‘a den of robbers …'”
Suddenly there was an even louder commotion, not the coarse speech of the traders, but the cultured whines of the priests themselves, as well as some Pharisees. The words had made a particular impact on them, because they were the intended targets.
He was reminding everyone of a most shameful episode in Jewish history and it was the prophet Jeremiah who expressed it the most clearly. The prophet stood in this very same place, all those hundreds of years ago. He is reading out a list of sins of the people, but also tells them that only if they changed their ways would they be saved and allowed to live in the land. But he was not a happy man and accused the people of his day of hypocrisy and for turning the Temple into a “den of robbers”.
“Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 7:11)
But there was more than that and it was what Jeremiah said next that resonated so strongly with the priests who were smarting under Jesus’ onslaught.
This meant something to the Jews of Jesus’ day as well as those of Jeremiah’s day. It was a warning.
So, what did Shiloh conjure up?
“‘Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. While you were doing all these things, declares the LORD, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your fathers. I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your brothers, the people of Ephraim.'”
And you remember what happened at Shiloh. You are taken back further to the days of the prophet Samuel, the days of the Judges of Israel.
It was at Shiloh that the Israelites lost the Ark of the LORD’s covenant, their holiest possession, to the Philistines. Led by a corrupt priesthood, they used this sacred object as a talisman, thinking that it would gain them victory in war. Instead they were massively defeated and 30,000 men were killed. It was a national disaster, commemorated by the name given to the High Priest’s grandson – Ichabod, meaning “The glory has departed (from Israel)”.
So you stood there, witnessing the confrontation between Jesus and the priests. In that single condemnation, all who were there – being steeped in their Scriptures- would have no doubts that Jesus was declaring judgement on this current corrupt priesthood, who had allowed the sacred Temple to be profaned by money-changers and traders and implying that God would put an end to this Temple and priesthood, just as He did all those years ago at Shiloh.
The anger of the priests and the Pharisees was palpable and, although you did not know it at the time, they would now begin to plot to kill Jesus. It wasn’t just because their pride was hurt by the condemnations from this “upstart Rabbi”, but because they could sense something else …
The whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
So should we be too.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve’s book ‘Jesus Man of Many Names’)
How Jesus used allusion in his teaching.
Written by: Miriam Emenike
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