Story:

How we admire the obedience a dog shows to its master! Archibald Rutledge wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire. Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened. Because he worked out-of-doors, he often took his dog with him. That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest. His faithful friend understood, for that's exactly what he did. Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left. But he didn't move. He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master's word. With tearful eyes, the dog's owner said, "I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it." (Tessa obeying Margaret’s command not to touch the treat until she said it was okay)

Jesus said in John 15:10,

"If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love."

2. Let’s Look at The Cleansing:

Mark 11:15-19,

" And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city."

I want to remind you that Jesus told His disciples in Mark 10:32-35 that in Jerusalem He would be condemned and crucified! And who would be the ones doing the crucifying? Jesus told them,

"Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:" (Mark 10:33).

Jerusalem. Chief priests. Scribes. And where do they minister? The Temple!

Why would Jesus go into that hornet's nest? And why would He go in and risk provoking them even further? Remember in Mark 8:31 where Jesus said that He

"And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again."

He must go through this. And remember that Jesus came "to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). This was part of God's ordained plan to bring all those who would believe to salvation. This was the path Jesus was to take to the cross. No shortcuts! No sidestepping! This was the way!

And when He came to Jerusalem, He was overcome with indignation! You see, there were moneychangers and other merchants who had set up shop in the Outer Court of the Temple where the Gentiles were to worship. You see, on the Mount of Olives which was considered a part of the Temple property were located four markets provided by the Sanhedrin where pilgrims could come and buy animals appropriate to offer for sacrifices. It was under the guise of convenience --- many pilgrims would travel a long way to worship at the Temple and it would be difficult to keep an offering pure and unblemished during days of travel.

Yet, Caiaphas the High Priest instituted another market that would actually bring competition to the other markets of the Sanhedrin --- he placed this market in the Temple itself. William Lane describes it this way:

The installation of stalls for the sale of animals and of other requirements for the sacrifice such as wine, oil, and salt, had the effect of transforming the Court of Gentiles [i.e., The Outer Court] into an oriental bazaar and a cattle mart.

To this, Jesus was appalled. The issue wasn't the actual transactions (although I am sure that there were some being swindled) or the moneychanging itself, for canon law required a shekel for use in the Temple --- thus an exchange from one's native money to Temple money was actually required.

The problem was --- the sacred and holy had become defiled. The Outer Court stood as a place for the Gentiles to worship, yet they were prevented from doing so! The Outer Court stood as a wide-open, ample space for the merchants to conduct business. Plus, their low regard for the Gentiles in general seemed to play out in taking even their worship space from them.

So Jesus drove them out! So was this Jesus losing His temper again --- first the with fruitless fig-tree and now this? We must understand that Jesus knew exactly what He was doing and was in total control. In John 2:13-15, this is another account of Jesus cleansing the Temple --- likely earlier in His ministry.

In John 2:15, we read that Jesus,

"made a scourge (whip) of small cords "

And that it was with this that He drove everyone out of the Temple. What does this signify? This deliberate crafting of a whip of cords shows that He had planned this all along.

What was the basis? Isaiah 56:7 gives one Scriptural reason that Jesus Himself even stated:

 "Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people."

In Jeremiah 7:11, we read:

"Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD. Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord."

Indeed, it had… they were robbing the glory of the Lord from a watching world! What would your reaction to Jesus have been? Would you have been like the hard-hearted Pharisees looking for a way to still God's voice? Would you have been like the Pharisees, concerned about status rather than the Spirit's moving?

Or would you have been with the people who were "astonished at his teaching"? The people knew the Pharisees and the scribes and the chief priests had grown corrupt and selective in their teachings. Deep down, the people knew (or at least they did after Jesus was through) that these religious leaders were nothing of the sort --- they did simply what was expedient rather than remain obedient.

Lastly let’s look at:

3. The Classroom:

Mark 11:20-25,

"And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."

 Do you remember our fig tree by the roadside at Bethany? The Lord's word took effect as it always does! And even Peter took note. And notice also what Peter called our Lord: "Rabbi!" What does Rabbi mean? It means 'teacher.' I believe Peter had a sense that a lesson was about to ensue, so he called Jesus not Lord, but Rabbi!

When Peter noticed that the curse of our Lord caused the tree to wither, what was Jesus' response? "Have faith in God."

In other words, have faith that what God ordains to happen will come to pass. Peter heard the word of Jesus. Remember back in verse 14, it says that the disciples heard it. They couldn't plead ignorance to what Christ had said! But apparently they lacked the faith in His Word!

Story:

All through our society, we have people who say they have 'faith.' The late Christopher Reeve who played Superman in all those movies but due to an accident was confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic, told some young people, "What's important is that you have faith. Faith has gotten me through so many problems and is getting me through right now. And if more people just had faith, the world would be a much better place."

The problem with what Mr. Reeve said is that he never said what he placed his faith in. Some people walk around having faith in faith. The Pharisees walked around having faith in their position and in their power and in their intelligence and in the Temple Building. Some have faith in other gods! Some simply have faith in themselves and the American Dream.

What does Jesus say? "Have faith in God." You see, if you have faith in God, you'll have faith in His Holy Word! And this faith in God's Word is not simply a feeling of affection you have --- simply knowing in your hearts and minds that the Bible is a special book! It is a special book, but it is so much more!

The way we show we have faith in God's Word is through obedience to His Word! Will you always understand it? No, not at first! But the Holy Spirit will be there to give you understanding! Will you always agree with it? No, but the Holy Spirit of God will soften that area of resistance in your heart as you obey. But must you always treasure it? Yes, our Lord will lead you even through the valley of the shadow of death and even make that terrible place a place of peace for you. Why? Because He is with you!

Story:

A television program preceding the 1988 Winter Olympics featured blind skiers being trained for slalom skiing, impossible as that sounds. Paired with sighted skiers, the blind skiers were taught on the flats how to make right and left turns. When that was mastered, they were taken to the slalom slope, where their sighted partners skied beside them shouting, "Left!" and "Right!" As they obeyed the commands, they were able to negotiate the course and cross the finish line, depending solely on the sighted skiers' word. It was either complete trust or catastrophe.

Jesus tells the disciples, "Have faith in God!" If you listen to His Word, even in your blindness, He will lead you home! Even in your weakness, with faith in God you can move mountains! Remember how Jesus said in Mark 11:23,

"For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith."

There was a popular saying in Jesus' day which said 'the rooter up of mountains.' It was found in Jewish literature dealing with rabbis who could solve difficult problems that seemed impossible. Jesus used this illustration to help the disciples understand the nature of having faith in God. God has granted us access to His blessed power. God has granted us access to Him in prayer. God has granted us even with the capability to forgive others when they have hurt us --- for that is part of prayer, isn't it?

Conclusion

It was speculated that Satan called a worldwide convention of demons. In his opening address he said, "We can't keep Christians from going to church. We can't keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We can't even keep them from forming an intimate relationship with their Saviour. Once they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to their churches; let them have their covered dish dinners, BUT steal their time, so they don't have time to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is what I want you to do," said the devil: "Distract them from gaining hold of their Saviour and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!" "How shall we do this?" his demons shouted. "Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes
to occupy their minds," he answered. "Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow."
"Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles."

"Keep them from spending time with their children."

"As their families fragment, soon, their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work!"

"Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice."

"Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive. Try to keep the TV, VCR, CDs and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ."

"Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers."

"Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day."

"Invade their driving moments with billboards."

"Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogs, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes.."

"Keep beautiful models on the magazines and TV so their husbands will believe that outward beauty is what's important, and they'll become dissatisfied with their wives."


"Give them Santa Claus to distract them from teaching their children the real meaning of Christmas. Give them an Easter bunny so they won't talk about his resurrection and
power over sin and death."

"Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted. Keep them too busy to go out in nature and reflect on God's creation. Send
them to amusement parks, sporting events, plays, concerts, and movies instead."

"Keep them busy, busy, busy!"

"And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences."

"Crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Jesus."

"Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause."

"It will work! It will work! It was quite a plan! The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there. Having little time for their God or their families. Having no time to tell others about the power of Jesus to change lives.

I guess the question is, has the devil been successful in his schemes? It seems so! The devil deceives us by giving us lustrous leaves on the tree that is our Christian life! We look faithful from a distance. But are we bearing fruit, or too busy to even consider it? Satan will do all he can to divert us. He did so to the disciples, he did so to the religious leaders of Jesus' day --- and it can happen to us as well.

Let's Pray.