Have you suffered from the "creeps" lately? It's the kind of thing that seems to crawl over you slowly over time. You feel it but you can't see it. Sometimes it's an empty feeling that something's not right with your life or your relationships
. But no matter how you describe it, you can't quite put a finger on it. The five senses can't quite get your mind around it. It's kind of creepy.
As my family has been thinking about how to prepare for Easter this year, we've been wondering what this creeping feeling is. And then it came to us as we were reading in the Gospels about what Jesus did the day after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on that inaugural Palm Sunday almost two millennia ago.
I would venture to say that Jesus had the creeps that day when He came to Jerusalem from Bethany and entered the temple. That's why He cleansed it by kicking out the merchants. Instead of a house of prayer for all nations to come and see and hear and taste the glory of the covenant God of Israel, the religious folk had made it a den of robbers. But Jesus could no longer countenance the creeping crud of the religious culture of His day that had overtaken even the sacred space of worship and prayer dedicated to God. He drove out those who sold and bought in the temple; He overturned their money boxes and tables of commerce; He knocked over the stools of pigeon sellers.
The Gospel of John also adds a detail that struck us with great force as a family. Jesus called the temple "my Father's house" and accused the religious folk of making it a "house of trade" (John 2:16). Then we imagined Jesus walking into our house, going from room to room, scanning with deeply penetrating eyes. We felt His eyes penetrating us, searching the temples that are our minds and hearts and brains and bodies. Those eyes began to bring back that creeping feeling we couldn't quite explain.
It slowly began to dawn on us why we'd been feeling that something was not quite right over the past few months. Our house had become a temple of stuff, a reflection of the images inhabiting our personal temples. It was as if Jesus, when He looked into our eyes, could see that we had made our temples into temples of trade. Our rooms proved it.
What did Jesus see? He saw our cornucopia of post-Christmas consumption, and He saw the ebbs and flows of passion and desire that came and went with it. He saw stuff like ...
The Lord of the Rings
Jars of Clay
Cartoons and television shows and videos
Basketballs and bicycles
Legos and Duck Duck Goose
Kroger and Wal-Mart
Telephones and telephone calls
"FamilyLife Today" and "Revive Our Hearts"
E-mails upon e-mails
Books and more books
Pizza Hut and Burger King
Airplane and trains and automobiles
Full stomachs and dead hearts
Checks and coins and dollars
Over-spending and buyer's remorse
Sermons and hymns and joy and joylessness
Newspaper and magazines
... and much, much more.
But where was prayer in our temples? Where was worship in our Father's house? The creeping crud of American consumer culture and religious culture—the stuff that fills our lives—had mostly crowded it out. Even the things we normally saw as good—radio shows that glorify God, for example—had sometimes replaced the more important duty of worshiping God.
The stuff Jesus saw in our home, and in the rooms of our minds, pointed us to the source of that creepy feeling that had been crawling upon us the past three months like a blanket of humidity on a dark summer night. We found the source within us and among us, in our hearts and on our shelves. Jesus reminded us, "do not make my Father's house a house of trade." But we had.
He also reminded us of the desires of our hearts. Mark 7:21 tells us, "For from within, out of the heart … come evil thoughts" and Mark 4:19 says, "the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word of the gospel, and it proves unfruitful." But as is true with every word of loving conviction Jesus speaks through the Holy Spirit (John 16:9), our hearts were both sad and glad. We were sad that we had made His Father's house of prayer and worship a house of trade. And glad that He had come to cleanse our house and our temples, to rid us of the creeps, and to prepare us for Palm Sunday and His Passion that leads to Pentecost. We found ourselves desiring and worshipping and praying, "Lord, cleanse our temples! Lord, cleanse our rooms!"
We also found ourselves praying that we would experience freedom by setting our hearts free from the consumer culture creeps...and that this freedom will last—at least longer than it has before. But we know the consuming creeps will come again. We've seen it before. Maybe that's why Jesus said we are to feast upon Him in our hearts by faith by celebrating His Eucharist ("to give thanks") with passionate memory and thanks until He returns.
Does your family have a case of the creeps? Is your house a house of prayer and worship? Are the temples of your family members temples of trade, or temples of worship and prayer in spirit and truth?
Here are a few questions you could ask your family as you consider this issue:
- What are you passionate about?
- What do you find yourself thinking about the most as you approach Easter?
- If Jesus was to come into our home today, do you think anything would displease Him?
- Is there anything we could spend less time doing so that we could make more room for prayer and worship in our home?
As your family enters into this season of the Passion, my prayer is that you will be ready to worship and pray, "Lord, cleanse my temple."
Copyright © 2004 by David Sims. All rights reserved.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.