Sunday, April 5 • Palm Sunday

A House of Prayer for All Nations

Picture the scene in your mind: Jesus is perched on the hilltop east of Jerusalem, looking down on the city built of yellowish limestone, giving the impression of a golden city in the afternoon sun, crowned with the temple of the Lord. This was the city of the great king David, whose son would reign forever. The people had not forgotten the prophets’ predictions. After some four hundred years of mortal descendants on the throne, followed by some six hundred years of an exiled royal blood-line, it seemed the promised one was about to take his rightful place. That day the crowds gathered along the roadway, palm branches in hand, welcoming Jesus to his rightful city. Here, finally, was the son of David, their rightful ruler, riding on a donkey.

The scene unfolding before Jesus stirred a mixture of emotions in him. He wept when he considered the fate of this city and its citizens, and when he arrived in the temple, he drove out the animals that were for sale. Then he scattered the coins of the money changers. Jesus was not looking at things from the perspective of the present political possibilities. He was viewing them through the words of the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah. The Temple of the Lord was to be “a house of prayer for all nations” ( Isaiah 56:7 ). For this reason the wide plaza surrounding the temple was called “the court of the nations (Gentiles).” It had been set aside for non-Jewish visitors. But there was no space for them. It had been turned into a marketplace for Jewish pilgrims to purchase the sacrificial victims they needed for their worship. They had no idea that this Jesus, their beloved son of David—not the lamb or goat on sale here—was God’s chosen sacrifice. Nor was his eternal throne to be set up in this Jerusalem; no, the Messiah’s throne was to be at God’s right hand, in the “ Jerusalem that is above .”

In the life of Christians, the institutional church has in many ways taken the place of first century Jerusalem and its temple. It is where God’s people gather to offer prayers and praises, and to bring their offerings. Now for a time we are exiled from our buildings. But this is when we realize the church is not a temple of human construction, it is the body of Christ, the fellowship of believers—that special network of relationships which is centered in the forgiveness of sins and the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. And it is to be an open and inviting place for those who are seeking God—a house of prayer for all nations. Perhaps this secularized culture will remember to pray now. Let’s pray that when and if anyone does seek the Lord, they will discover their rightful King of Peace, Jesus, the son of David. After all, he is still on his throne, and we are still waiting for his return.

Prayer: Lord, today we begin Holy Week. We remember and walk through the events of the week leading to the crucifixion of the Holy One. When he came into Jerusalem, he was welcomed by the crowds but rejected by the powers of the age. Lord, Jesus, you are still controversial, still rejected by many and still saving all who trust in you. May all who seek you find you. Bring them into the community of believers. And give us grace to live holy and upright lives to honor you, since you have taken away our sins.