What are we doing in the house of God? What are our minds busy with in worship? This article considers this matter by highlighting the action of the Lord Jesus in Mark 2:16, 17, where he shows his zeal for the house of the Lord that had been turned into a marketplace.

Source: De Wekker. 2 pages.

Suffering on Account of the Temple and Suffering on Account of the Church

And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

John 2:16, 17

In the 1960s, a book was published with the noteworthy title, Lijden aan de Kerke (Suffering on Account of the Church). It was written by the German theologian, Helmut Thielicke. He wrote how he suffered from the decline of the church in Germany, the terrible sermons, the decline in church attendance, the new theology, which went against biblical truths, and the worldly way of life of the office-bearers.

The book is a cry from the heart. Sadness, disappointment come to the fore, precisely because this man loved his church so much and saw her being broken down. That is why the title is, “Suffering on Account of the Church.”


Suffering on account of the Temple  and Suffering on account of the ChurchI think that there are more people who could write a book with the same title. A person can suffer immensely on account of the church, particularly when you love the church so much, and have always given it your best efforts. You suffer, because it goes in such a different direction than you had hoped for; because such valuable things disappear. And what replaces it has no value. You are afraid for your children and grandchildren – in what kind of a church will they grow up? And all that suffering on account of the church has very much to do with the love for the church. The more we love, the more we suffer.

The same happened to the Lord Jesus. He also had a burning love for the house of his Father. And in John 2 that suffering starts already. The temple was meant to be a house of prayer and meeting. That is beautifully explained in Isaiah 56:7, “I will … make them joyful in my house of prayer; … for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Now, however, there were cattle traders, moneychangers, and a lot of noise. They were trading, haggling, etc. And all that business was organized by the high priest, who had financial interest in it.

All Kinds of Reasons🔗

Now, the decline in God’s house never happens overnight. It develops in quite a natural way. You can often find practical reasons for it. That happened here, too. According to the law, those who wanted to present a sacrifice needed a sacrificial animal. And did you have to bring that all the way from home? It was more convenient if you could buy an animal in the temple. Every Israelite older than twenty also had to pay an annual temple tax. But that amount could only be paid with the old national Hebrew coin. Very inconvenient, especially also for the many Jews from foreign countries. Was it therefore not handy that there were money traders, so that you could exchange on site? All very understandable developments.

But the Lord Jesus suffers tremendously from it. God’s house becomes more and more worldly and businesslike. And then that special event happens. He makes a whip from the ropes that are lying there in abundance at the market, and drives the sheep and oxen out. The tables of the money changers he turns over. No, this is not an outburst of bad temper, but an act to show how much he loves the house of God.

And We?🔗

That forces the personal question on us: What are we doing in God’s house? Are we there to meet with God? Or are we busy with other things? Are we busy selling cattle in church during the sermon, or are we thinking about looking for another house? Is our mind busy with the football game that is going on at that moment? Our body can be in church, but our mind can be busy with all kinds of other things. God’s house asks for reverence. Let that be present in our hearts. But let it also be evident on the outside. Let it be seen on us that we go to God’s house. Let it be noticeable in our behaviour that we are here to meet God.

Suffering on account of the Temple  and Suffering on account of the ChurchWhat a contradiction. Everything was well organized in the temple. People were very proud of their temple. But God’s Son does not feel at home and suffers from it. We can be proud of our church and how we are as church, but the question is, how does the Lord see it? And how does the Lord see me? Does he receive the honour he deserves?

This action of Jesus is also the beginning of his suffering for the temple. By his blood he will establish a new temple, the temple of his body, the temple of the congregation. He is still working on that temple. He takes sinners and builds them up like living stones, as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5). And that is what it is all about, with all the difficulties in the earthly church, which never and nowhere will be perfect: am I part of that spiritual house by grace?

Do I then despise the church on earth? No, then I will be a living building block in it. Then I will lovingly be busy in it. Then with everything the question will be, how does God receive the honour he deserves, in my own life, and then also in our congregation?

This article was translated by Harry Janssen.

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