This post is part of a Lenten reading plan created to compliment the Lenten sermon series at Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo. You can follow that reading plan here.
Today’s reading: Mark 11:15-19
Key Verse: On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there - Mark 11:15.
Most of us have heard about giving up something for Lent. If, like me, you are not from a tradition that normally celebrates Lent, then you might wonder exactly what "giving something up" is all about. Clearly it is not about earning any kind of religious points with God. God gives himself to us freely and is unimpressed with our religious striving, especially religious striving that is primarily about scoring points with God or anybody else.
Giving something up for Lent is primarily about making room for the God who gives himself freely to us. It is amazingly easy for us to crowd out God in our lives. I'm not talking about sin here. I'm talking about things that are in themselves fine things. Little by little these things fill up our lives and crowd up the presence of God. When God gets crowded out, even the best things can turn evil in a hurry.
My guess is that the first time a money changer set up shop in the temple, it appeared as something helpful. Jews abhorred the coinage of Rome with its graven image of Caesar. Money changing gave them the opportunity to carry less offensive money into the Temple for worship. The animal sellers also provided a needed service for urban worshipers who had less access to animals than their rural counterparts.
Overtime, these services crowded out the presence of God and turned nefarious. They became not only instruments of crowding out God's presence, they became the means of fleecing his people.
Jesus took one step into the Temple courts and cleared them out! Giving something up for Lent allows Jesus to do the same in our lives. "Clear out what keeps me from you," that is our lenten prayer.