Tuesday, April 28, 2015
"This Temple" Sermon: John 2:13-22
April 26, 2015 Second Reformed Church
What do you think about what we’re doing right now? Have you gone through any special preparations to be here? Is there anything that you would not want to see happening at this time? What does it mean to you that this is a worship service?
After Jesus attended the wedding at Cana and performed His first miracle, Jesus and His mother and His brothers and His disciples went to Capernaum and spent a few days there.
“The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.”
It was required of all Jews that they be in Jerusalem for the Passover – that annual remembrance and celebration of how God delivered Israel out of slavery in Egypt – and specifically, how the angel passed over the houses of all those who believed in the God of Israel and marked their homes with the sign of the blood of the lamb so the angel did not kill their first-born, but left them in peace so they could escape.
So Jesus and His family and His disciples made the trip up to Jerusalem. (Capernaum is about sixty miles from Jerusalem.)
Now, when someone went to the Temple to offer up a sacrifice, it was often the sacrifice of an animal – a blood sacrifice. Depending on the money one had, a person would offer up anywhere from a pigeon to a bull in the blood sacrifice.
And we will remember that it was not acceptable to offer just any animal – the animal that was being offered had to be in pristine condition: it could not be lame or blind or diseased – it had to be the best of the best of the animals – and the priests would inspect the animals and approve or reject them for sacrifice.
In order to help the people desiring to make sacrifices, it had become a common practice that there would be animals for sale at the Temple which had been approved by the priests. So, if one did not raise animals, or was coming from a distance, one could buy the animal there and not worry about getting an animal and transporting it and hoping it would pass the inspection of the priests.
Also, people came from all over the world, having all different types of coins from different realms – especially Roman coins – which would have been unacceptable to offer in the Temple – only official Temple coins could be offered in the Temple, so, it had become apractice that there would be money-changers at the Temple to exchange other coins for the Temple currency, so everyone could offer the proper money without searching for a place to exchange it.
The problem was that the priests and the animal sellers and the money-changers decided that they didn’t want to just assist people in the proper worship of God – they wanted to profit off of what they were doing – and they weren’t above cheating the people coming to the Temple.
People would come, thinking they had enough money to buy a bull, and the animal sellers would sell them one that was sick, or they would sell them a goat, saying that price had gone up due to this and that fake reason.
And people would come to exchange their money, and the money-changers would weigh out the money for exchange, but they would use false weights or slip a fat thumb on the scale to throw off what the exchange rate would be.
The people were being cheated by the priests and the money-changers and the animal sellers. The priests and the money-changers and the animal sellers were stealing from the people coming to worship.
With this background, we see, first, this morning, Jesus had the authority to cleanse the Temple.
“In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip out of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen.”
Jesus had the authority to cleanse the Temple because His zeal was a controlled zeal.
Jesus did not walk into the Temple and fly off the handle. This was not a special day when the Jews first started cheating worshipers. This was something Jesus knew was going on. This day, the time was right, and in a controlled fashion – filled with zeal for the pure, holy worship of God that ought to be occurring the Temple – took strands and wove them together into a whip. Then He took the whip and drove the animal sellers and the money-changers – along with all of the animals – out of the Temple.
“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.’”
Jesus had the authority to cleanse the Temple because He is the Son of God.
As Jesus cast out the animal sellers and money-changers who were profaning the worship of God – stealing from the people who came to give offerings – He told them that the Temple is His Father’s house. The Temple was the Temple of God – Jesus is the Son of God Incarnate, and God the Father is His Father – and They are Two Persons of the Holy Trinity.
Jesus had the authority to cleanse the Temple because worship is not a business.
Jesus threw over the tables, spilled out the money, whipped the cheats out of the Temple, and sent the animals out – proclaiming that the worship service is not about making a profit off of the worshippers – it is about worshipping the God Who fulfills our every need and gives us much more so we can share and be generous with each other – and especially those in need.
Don’t misunderstand; God does command us to give a minimum of ten percent of our gross income to Him in worship. The tithes and gifts and thanksgivings we give to God in worship are right and good things.
And, it is true: we use much of the money that is given to the church to pay for our bills to be able to maintain the church. But we don’t come to pay the bills; we come to worship God – trusting Him will all things, including our money.
A similar sin to the one the priests and animal sellers and money-changers were committing would be committed if we said that if each person had to contribute five hundred dollars a week or lose your salvation. That would be sin – robbery – because salvation can’t be bought – it would be cheating the worshippers.
Notice, Jesus specifically addresses the pigeon sellers on this matter. Why?
Because pigeons were bought by those people who were too poor to buy any other type of animal. It was as though Jesus was saying, it’s bad enough to cheat those who have money, but cheating the poor is even fouler.
Jesus had the authority to cleanse the Temple because the cleansing of the Temple was prophesied of the Messiah:
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord” (Malachi 3:1-3, ESV).
Malachi records God saying that He will send John the Baptist before the Savior comes. The Savior will appear in the Temple and cleanse it. (Of course, the final cleansing has not occurred yet – the final cleansing will occur when Jesus returns. Still, the Jews should have recognized the sign that Jesus was giving them in cleansing the Temple – that He is the Promised Savior.)
Jesus had the authority to cleanse the Temple because of His Holy Zeal.
“His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”
David prophesied in Psalm 69 that the Servant of the Lord will be consumed with zeal for the holy worship of God in His Temple. David goes on to say that the Servant of the Lord is persecuted by those who hate God. And he prays for their downfall and ends the Psalm praising God.
Jesus had the authority to cleanse the Temple, because His zeal was controlled, He is God the Son, worship is not a business, the cleansing was prophesied, and His zeal was prophesied. So, Jesus was well within His authority to cleanse the Temple and to fulfill prophecy as a sign of Who He is.
Second, Jesus had the authority to raise the Temple.
“So the Jews said to them, ‘What sign do you show us for doing these things?’”
They didn’t get it – the scholars of the Scripture – who would have known the prophecies of Malachi and David – were completely blinded to the fact that Jesus just gave them a public sign showing Him to be the Messiah – the Savior!
So, Jesus graciously gave them another sign:
“And 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 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.”
Jesus spoke to them using words and expressions that they should have recognized: the word for “temple” can also mean “body,” and the word for “raise” can also mean “resurrect.” They should have heard Jesus and recognized that He could not have been saying that He could rebuild the building that they referred to as the Temple in three days – no, what He was saying, is, if they put Him to death, He would bring Himself back to life on the third day.
We may shake our heads and think “that doesn’t see so clear to me,” but in that day, in Hebrew, among those priests of the Temple – this type of speech would have been common and they should have understood it. But they were blinded to this sign, as well.
Jesus explained His authority to raise the Temple – that is, to resurrect His body – to His apostles:
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice so there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes my life from me, because I lay down my life of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it up again. This is the charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:14-19, ESV).
The Father gave a people to the Son, and the Son chose to lay down His life for the glory of His Father and the salvation of His people. And He had the authority, though His body was truly dead, to raise it from the dead – as was the Plan of God and the word of the Prophets.
Jesus is God the Savior and He has the authority to raise the Temple.
The stone Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. by Emperor Titus – never to be rebuilt – no matter what some Christians believe. The Temple was a shadow of Christ – and Christ has come and brought salvation for all those He came to save.
Biblical Judaism no longer exists, because there is no Temple in which to offer blood sacrifices.
Paul explains that these things are done away with, as he confronts sexual immorality in the Church at Corinth:
“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you are really unleavened. For Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. … Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is written, ‘The two shall become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes on spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you have been bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (I Corinthians 5:7; 6:15-20, ESV).
Now, we who believe are the Temple of God the Holy Spirit, but on the last day, we see, third, Jesus is the Temple:
“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need for sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring into it their glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:22-27, ESV).
In this time between the already and the not yet, when the work of Christ is finished and finishing, when we are saved and being saved, when we are holy and being made holy, we are God’s Temple on earth. But, on that final day, when Jesus returns with all His holy angels and restores the Creation, resurrects and judges all of humanity, and perfects His people, banishing Hell and death and sin, Jesus Himself, our God and Savior, the Triune Lord God Almighty – the Lamb Who was slain, will be our Temple forever.
We will have no need of a building, because we will eternally be in God’s Presence. We will worship Him in holiness on that day.
In the meantime, let us strive towards holiness in our worship. Let us keep from stealing from each other – whether that means misleading others or taking things that do not belong to us or simply not helping each other to progress in the faith – we are called to love each other – not merely to not do evil, but to seek each other’s good – the best we can be and receive as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Let us understand that we gather to worship – not to impress each other – not to pay the bills – but to give thanks to God by trusting Him with the excess that He has purposefully given us so we can give it away in joyful thanksgiving to Him.
And let us understand that Jesus has authority over us – the Temple of the Holy Spirit – so let us hear Him and obey -- seeking after Him in all faithfulness.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we desire to worship You and to give thanks for all You have done, still we are distracted by each other, and we even sin against each other. Lord, help us to be the people you have called us to be – as Christians, as worshippers, as the Temple of the Holy Spirit – as we look forward to that final day when You, our Temple – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – will be eternally among us. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.