“For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7, NKJV)
If this page had a volume control it would be turned up high. Shouts of praise would be deafening as Jesus, riding on a donkey, entered Jerusalem. Messianic expectation had reached a fever pitch. “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9–10)
After three and a half years of public ministry in which Jesus had preached the kingdom of God and had foretold His death, the time had arrived. The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.
Not only was this the culmination of Jesus’ ministry, it was culmination of covenant promise. The womb of history, pregnant with the promise of God, had come to term.
God would pour out His mercies on Jew and Gentile, all who will believe. In Jesus Christ, in whom all God’s promises are yes and amen, the redeeming gospel of the kingdom had come. It would begin as a mustard seed and grow to fill the earth.
Mark tells us that when Jesus entered Jerusalem His first order of business was to go the temple and “look around at all things” (Mark 11:11). The sense was not to sightsee but to inspect.
Jesus was coming to the climax of His mission whereupon He would accomplish His saving work. The power center for the proclamation of that saving work would be His people. He would charge His church with the task of going into all nations to make disciples, armed with the good news of His victory and reign.
The question for Jesus in His visit to the Temple was how well God’s house was functioning for the task. What He found was that it was woefully dysfunctional. The leaders had allowed God’s house to become a den of robbers, hijacked for their own interests. They had succumbed to the strategy of the devil put forward by John Bunyan in his book, The Holy War: “Let us but cumber and occupy and amuse Mansoul (the church) sufficiently, and they will make their castle a warehouse for goods instead of a garrison for men of war.”
When Jesus returned the following day to purge the temple of idolatry and profiteering, He brought rebuke from Jeremiah (Jer. 7:9-11) and reminded them of the call from Isaiah that His Father’s house was to be a house of prayer for the nations (Is. 56:7).
It is on the winds of the prevailing prayer of God’s people that the gospel would be carried from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The proper functioning of God’s church is integral to the advance of Christ’s kingdom, as Isaiah highlights:
“For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.” (Isaiah 56:7–8)
On this Palm Sunday, we would do well to conduct a house inspection, a maintenance check. Are our churches faithful and functional as a house of prayer for the nations for the extension of the saving rule of Jesus Christ? Or have we commandeered God’s house for our own ends?
- How prominent and pervasive is prayer in the life of your local church?
- How does the constant hum of prayer in your life and your church body relate to realizing the presence, promise and power of the kingdom of God and His Christ?
Father, forgive me for my presumption and pride in neglecting my call to pray. Forgive me for not leading the church, my family, and others you given me to influence to seek You and Your kingdom above all things. Work in me the zeal of Jesus for Your house, believing that You use my stuttering supplications to accomplish great things. In Him who comes in the name of the Lord I pray. Amen.
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.