July 6, 2018 – Jesus’ Love for His House- John 2:13-22

temple

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

John 2:13-22 (ESV)

What Jesus would do for the love of God’s house? Was Jesus defending the sanctity of the bricks and mortar of the temple, or was He protesting the perversion of worship and extortion of the people by the ruling authorities?

The temple in Jerusalem where Jesus drove out the moneylenders was the second temple, (the original temple of Solomon was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC) and it was actually built by Herod. Herod was not so much into worshiping God as he was about making himself look good.  The second temple was magnificent- but it ended up being destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, never to be rebuilt.  The Dome of the Rock- a Muslim mosque- stands on the site today.

Jesus wasn’t really concerned with bricks and mortar. He was concerned about people being taken advantage of in the name of God.  Even today, there are those who make ill-gotten gain in the name of God by promising miracles or giving “prophecies” in exchange for cash.

It is true that the legitimate work of the church of Christ takes financial resources. The work of making disciples- preaching the Gospel, helping the needy, comforting those in need, and providing a healthy and safe place for us to worship and for our children to learn and grow in faith isn’t glamorous.  The resources to truly nurture and provide for God’s people on earth- the Body of Christ- are vital, and we are to give as our consciences compel us (2 Corinthians 9:6-15) and as we are able.  Christian communities shouldn’t operate the way the world does.  Our concern should be that the Gospel is preached, and the sacraments are given, and that as many people as possible would hear the Good News of Jesus (Romans 10:17.)

The temple Jesus spoke of was His own body, His body given freely, destroyed by every human who has or ever will live. That temple was rebuilt in three days!  Not Herod’s temple of bricks and mortar, but a far greater and precious temple.

The house of God is the body of believers-it is not the buildings where Christ’s church meets. While buildings are important for the mission of the church, the community of believers who gather for Word and Sacrament are truly the house to which Jesus was referring, and the house Jesus is passionate about.

We don’t like to picture Jesus as that guy- the one who cracks the whip and takes out His wrath.  Everyone loves the depictions of Jesus as the gentle Shepherd, or Jesus who is patiently knocking on the door, or Jesus praying in the garden.  We don’t want to think of Jesus with the cat o’ nine tails whipping the unholy thunder out of “prophets for profit” or of Jesus delivering sweet ninja moves on various enterprising merchants who are engaged in fleecing the flock.  We get a bit disturbed to know that even Jesus gets angry.  None of us likes to think about the reality of the wrath of God.

Jesus does have righteous anger against practices that take advantage of people and that slander His holy name. Just as a good father would not hesitate to protect his wife and family from an intruder who comes to rob and pillage, Jesus defends His own as well.

It is true that mercy triumphs over judgment. Otherwise there would be no hope for anyone because everyone alive falls short of the glory of God. It is good to know that Jesus loves us and defends us, even though we don’t deserve it, and even if we don’t always see His hand protecting us.

Jesus taught that His kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:33-36)  We know we are living in the paradox world of now, but not yet.  May we always trust in Jesus defending and protecting us from those who would do us harm, and may we be free to love and serve Him.

 

 

March 5, 2018 The Temple of God- Psalm 69:9, 1 Kings 6:11-13, John 2:13-22, Matthew 12:40

 

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For zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. Psalm 69:9 (NIV)

The word of the Lord came to Solomon:  “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father.  And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.” 1 Kings 6:11-13 (NIV)

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”  His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body.  After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.  John 2:13-22 (NIV)

(Jesus said): For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:40 (NIV) (Jonah 1:17)

Jesus wasn’t happy with the corruption going on in the temple. The temple of Jesus’ day was not the temple originally built by Solomon, referenced above in 1 Kings 6. Solomon’s Temple had been destroyed (2 Chronicles 36:9, Ezra 5:12) by Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who carried off the people of Israel to exile. There is a theme in Scripture to the building of, and the destruction of temples.

In Jesus’ day the physical building of the Second Temple still stood, lavishly expanded and renovated by none other than Herod the Great. The Second Temple would be destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.  Today, on the site of the Second Temple is the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock.  While most Jewish and some Christian sects bemoan the loss of the Temple Mount site to a Muslim mosque, the reality is that God is no more present in the historic Jerusalem as He is anywhere else in His creation.

It is interesting, however, how passionate Jesus was about the shady activity going on in the temple, a place that was supposed to be a house of prayer. We don’t sing hymns about Angry Jesus- though He was human, and He did get angry. The Jesus we see here, the guy who upset the apple cart- and upended the trading tables, and who destroyed the livestock cages isn’t the Jesus we feel comfortable with.  Where in this passage is the Good Shepherd, or the Jesus who wept when His friend Lazarus died, or the Jesus who said “do not hinder the children, and bring them to Me?”

Israel should have known from the prophets that God was not pleased with either their behavior or the condition of their hearts toward Him. But the people ignored God’s warning to Solomon, and they ignored the prophets’ warnings. As the centuries passed from Solomon throughout the times of the Israelite Kings, God’s people grew more and more evil and more and more separated from God. Eventually God let Nebuchadnezzar deal with Israel. They were sold into Babylonian captivity.

The Jewish people of Jesus’ day didn’t realize it during Jesus’ lifetime here on earth, but they were soon to lose their physical temple and to face temporal judgment yet again.

As time goes on in our culture, faithfulness to God is waning. Many people question the existence of God, let alone the reality of moral absolutes.  As in the time of the Judges we are in an era of “doing what is right in our own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)  Unfortunately the consequences of moral relativism- the condition of having no behavioral standards or absolutes- manifest themselves in broken families, violence, crime, drug addiction and so on. We see the temporal consequences of our brokenness and our inability to keep God’s commandments everywhere.

We can’t get too judgmental about the people of Israel, because we do the same things they did and worse. Sometimes we wonder if God is there, and if He is, why does He let terrible things continue to go on? Evil may be defeated, but it is not eliminated from the world just yet.

We know that human beings cannot even realize their need for Jesus apart from the grace of God. We cannot straighten ourselves up no matter how good we behave or how well we try to follow the rules.

The good news is that God does not live in a physical temple like in the days of the Israelite kings or even in a rebuilt temple like there was in Jesus’ day. We don’t have to go to Jerusalem to pray. There is a certain sad irony that it was Herod who restored and expanded the temple-which begs the question, were the expenditures made to beautify the temple not for God’s glory so much as for Herod’s?

God’s true temple is not a place but a Person. He is available to us anytime, anywhere. Jesus is the temple. This is what Jesus meant when he told the Pharisees and other religious authorities who mocked him when He said that He will tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days.

Jesus has taken the place of the physical building of the temple.  He is the Holy of Holies, and He is God-with-us. He is not confined to a little room that is only accessible by one guy- the High Priest-one day out of the year.  When Jesus breathed His last upon the Cross, the curtain of the temple was split in two, the dead were raised, and the Holy Spirit was set loose in the world. (Matthew 27:50-54)  In His descending to the world of the dead and rising again (as Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish) He defeated death and has won eternal life for us.

Jesus has become God with us. He has rebuilt the temple not out of bricks and stone, but of Himself. God the Holy Spirit is set free in the world- and He embraces us.  The temple is everywhere for Jesus followers.  We are free to thank Him, to worship Him- to participate in His kingdom and to let Him transform us.