BCC Note: In this post, we continue looking at an issue that is often central to change in our counselees: shattering their unbiblical assumptions about life and the Lord. Using Matthew’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry, we are reminded of how much Jesus’ life shattered the expectations many Jews had held about God and his plan for them. Those wrong assumptions needed to be replaced in order for them to experience the blessings of a relationship with him. As you read this post and reflect on Matthew 21, we hope you will see how Jesus’ ministry might alter old ways of thinking—whether in yourself or your counselees—so that you are open to being further conformed to his image.
The Story Continues
Jesus had entered the Holy City on the back of a donkey’s foal. He was greeted by many people who threw their cloaks and palm branches on the ground in front of the donkey. Quite a few were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Their greeting revealed their belief that Jesus was special—that he was the long-awaited Messiah who would be their new king. However, many of these expectations regarding Jesus’ role as Messiah-King were about to be shattered.
Matthew tells us that Jesus eventually made his way to the courtyard of the temple—and he did something quite unexpected and shocking. He does not attack any Roman soldiers; he attacks the temple! Read Matthew 21:12-17.
The temple had long been a symbol of the presence of God among his people. And Israelite kings, ever since Solomon, had been responsible to uphold the role of the temple as the place where the people could find forgiveness for their sins through the sacrificed animals they’d bring to the priests. If there was a problem with the prescribed operations in the temple precincts, God-honoring kings would see to it that the problem would be fixed. Therefore, it was incredibly significant that when Jesus comes to Jerusalem one of the first things he does (the next day after his arrival, according to Mark) is address a problem in the temple.
We usually speak of what Jesus did as “cleansing the temple,” and given the common translation of v. 13, “you make it a den of robbers,” we might assume that Jesus was merely reacting to cheating or defrauding the pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem. Indeed, this did happen; there were unscrupulous profiteers trying to make a fast buck from people who needed to buy animals for sacrifices and who needed to pay their temple tax in the required coinage. That’s why the moneychangers and merchants were there.
But Jesus’ actions in the temple courtyard meant something more. Mark’s Gospel is helpful in that he quotes Jesus more fully than Matthew: Jesus said, “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.” The temple leadership had allowed a subtle transformation to occur in the temple service: It gradually went from a focus on prayer and communion with God (which was God’s agenda) to a focus on maintaining the status quo—essentially turning the temple into a Jewish-nationalist stronghold. Therefore, the temple no longer existed for God’s purposes.
Probably still in the outer court of the Gentiles, Jesus took an opportunity to heal a blind man. But rather than rejoice in the miracle, the chief priests and teachers of the law grew more and more indignant with Jesus. Jesus was shattering their expectations for the Messiah too. Had he been a political figure coming to restore Israel as an independent nation, then their jobs would have remained secure. But Jesus, by his actions, was communicating a very different message. Jesus’ actions that day did not merely disrupt the operations of the temple; he was signifying that the time for the temple and its sacrificial system had come to an end. He would replace the temple, the priesthood, and the sacrificial system once for all. The chief priests were receiving their pink slips!
Matthew’s Message for Us Today
Clearly Jesus is a master of shattering expectations. It’s natural for non-Christians’ expectations about him to be off-base. But what about Christians? They too can be prone to wrong expectations about Jesus. Even when they don’t know it, their behavior demonstrates it. For example, I’ve known professing believers who expected that Jesus will look away as they engaged in immoral—and even criminal—behavior. They were wrong, and Jesus shattered their expectations.
On the flip side, however, there are also professing believers who do not expect that their sin will really be covered by the shed blood of Christ. If asked, they wouldn’t say that. But I remember counseling a Christian woman who struggled with shame over a crime she’d committed several years in the past. She said she had asked for forgiveness, and yet, weeks later, she “relapsed” into shame. There was no new sin in her life, but she came into my office rehearsing the same experiences she had told me the first time we’d met. I said to her, “Wow! What’s it like to have committed a sin that is too big and too bad to be covered by the perfect sacrifice of the Son of God?” That comment shocked her, because she had not thought about what her relapse into shame-based thinking revealed about her low expectations of Jesus’ sacrifice.
These examples underscore how wrong assumptions and expectations will inevitably undermine anything you try to accomplish with counselees. Here are some questions that might be useful as you confront your counselees’ unbiblical assumptions and expectations about Jesus:
- Do you live like Jesus is your King—or do you fudge on submitting all of your life to him?
- Do you live like Jesus is your Savior—or do you struggle with assurance of salvation by faith alone?
- Do you live like Jesus is your Model—or do you rather pattern yourself after someone else whom you admire for self-centered reasons?
These can be very challenging questions for people to process, but they cannot be ignored, because when Jesus returns again, all false assumptions and expectations will be shattered by the Judge of the living and the dead.
Join the Conversation
After the last post, I asked you to consider how you’ve helped counselees think more critically about their assumptions and expectations of the Lord. Today, think about the dramatic ways people’s lives have changed once their unbiblical expectations were shattered. Can you share some examples of such victories in Jesus?