A somewhat casual devotional thought on Mark 11:15-19…
15 And they came to Jerusalem. And [Jesus] entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.
I don’t know why it struck me this morning:
“Why does my Lord care where
and how people get pigeons?
Especially those bought or sold
for the worship of God?”
Buyers and sellers alike He drives out of the temple. Could it be that Christ cares more about the right worship of God than we do?
It’s not that pigeons don’t have any proper place in this house of prayer. Jesus had been here before, with Mary and Joseph, themselves bringing pigeons along:
“And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God…” (Luke 2:22-28, ESV)
The Lord Jesus surely doesn’t hate doves and pigeons. He created them along with all kinds of birds, the first of the animals on the Fifth Day. (Gen. 1:20) The Holy Spirit himself manifests in the form of a dove and comes to rest upon Jesus, while the Father sounds His blessed delight:
And when [Jesus] came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:10-11)
No, I know my Lord truly loves pigeons! Pigeons serve as His provision for the poor, that they also may obtain His cleansing and forgiveness of sins. (Lev. 5:7-10)
But this day Christ Jesus drives “out those who sold and those who bought in the temple,” both pigeon purveyor and poor purchaser alike must be gone.
Think there’s a technically obedient, lazy man’s way to worship the Lord God? Most Americans imagine a Jesus who could care less about where or how this is done! Jesus certainly doesn’t hate pigeons, but just won’t stomach the ‘den of thieves’ who skirt the rules and scam the system, under pretense of the right worship of God.
God’s glory is centered on His cleansing of sinners and the forgiveness of their sins, nothing else. Pigeons had this purpose in this Lord’s house of prayer. The poor pigeon points to the lone Lord of this house, His lowly sacrifice on the cross:
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
Those who suppose a God indifferent to where and how He meets people in need of His help better read their Bibles a bit more. The Lord of bare-footed Moses‘s own burning bush was barefoot born of Mary in Bethlehem’s manger! The long-promised Christ Jesus was brought with pigeons “to redeem those under the Law” in this very temple. That Lord of the Levites and priests has found His people careless with His Word and preferring a ‘spiritualized’ commerce to transact their own deals with God on their own terms.
Does the incarnate Lord say ‘anything goes’ with such casual use of His pigeons, so long as you’re kinda worshiping Me? This day we encounter quite another sort of Lord Jesus. There is a right way to use pigeons, but others rejected as quite irreverent. Jesus drives away paupers and pigeon mongers who concocted their own very, very religious-looking sort of pigeon abuse.
“And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.” (Mark 11:16)
We come with emptied hands, to have them cleansed and filled with His righteousness…
A Prayer for a Heart Cleansed of Our Wrongly Used Inner Pigeons:
Lord, forgive us for imagining You in our own image, as though You were as indifferent as we sometimes become in our self-invented worship. Abide among us. Cleanse our hearts and our minds. Grant that our desires might align with Your cruciform purpose: that repentance and Your own forgiveness of sins might be obtained, through this same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.