Second Reformed Church

Saturday, May 16, 2015

"What's in Man" Sermon: John 2:23-25

“What’s In Man”

[John 2:23-25]

May 3, 2015Second Reformed Church

            Are people basically inclined to do good?  Or are people basically inclined to do evil?

            Are people basically loving, giving, humble, self-sacrificing, generous, and seeking after what God would have done?  Or are people basically selfish, prideful, self-seeking, greedy, looking out for “number one,” and not concerned about what God has said?

            Last week, we looked at how Jesus, full of righteous anger and zeal, at the right time, went into the Temple and threw out the money changers and animal sellers, because they had gone from providing a service to help worshippers meet the requirements of worship, to cheating the worshippers out of their money – making a profit for themselves – profaning the worship of God.

            Jesus had thrown them out and commanded them to stop cheating those who came to worship – because He is the Son of God and what they were doing was unacceptable – a stench in the nostrils of His Father.

            The leaders of the Jews demanded a sign that He had the authority to cleanse the Temple and demand the worship of God be done in holiness, and Jesus told them that if they killed Him, He would raise Himself from the dead on the third day – and the disciples understood after the Resurrection.

            The common people in the Temple had a different reaction – here was a man, a prophet, perhaps the Messiah, Who stood up to the cheats in the Temple and demanded holy worship.  He threw over tables; He whipped the money changers and animal sellers; He yelled at them and rebuked the priests.

            He put on quite a show!  And the common people liked it!  They knew they were being cheated, but they had no way to take down the people in power who were abusing them – until Jesus stood up for them.

            And we read:

“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.”

Word spread – people told the story of the things Jesus did – standing up to “the man” – and people believed in Him – they wanted Him to stand for them – they wanted Him to be their prophet – their rabbi – perhaps He was even the Messiah – the Savior of Israel.  Perhaps He was the One to free Israel from Roman oppression, as well.

We respond to people who “stand up” like they did, don’t we?

Can you think of any politician who you “knew” would solve all the problems of the country or the state or the town – only to have them fall or be stopped from bringing peace and prosperity by “our” enemies?

Saul, the first King of Israel, was chosen based on his being wealthy and being good-looking:  “There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Beocrath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth.  And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man.  There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he.  From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people” (I Samuel 9:1-3, ESV).

“Saul is wealthy and handsome and tall – it’s obvious that he would be a great king!”

Have you ever heard or watched a preacher and thought that he would be the one to change the world and prepare the way for Jesus – or at least make us healthy, wealthy, and wise – only to have them fall and be exposed in their sin?

There are still people who hold up Charles Finney as one of the greatest revival preachers and argue that we should model our churches and ministries after his.  He had money and a huge following.  The only realproblem with him is that he insisted that Jesus is not necessary for salvation – he argued that Jesus is an example to all people that we have it in us to save ourselves.  That’s a lie.  That’s heresy.  That’s not Christianity.

“Sure, he wasn’t a Christian, but he taught people to live morally, and his tent meetings were overflowing with people, and the money rolled in.”

The crowd saw Jesus throw out the cheats and call for holy worship in the Temple – and the crowd loved the show.  The believed in Him – they supported what He was doing – they believed He was doing good for the people – they wanted Him to do it again – to this person and this institution.  But they did not believe in Him savingly.

The crowd approved of what they saw Jesus do in the Temple, but they did not understand and believe that He is God the Savior incarnate in the Person of Jesus. And that is the whole point.

“But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

            It would probably be easy to go along with the crowd:  They were all saying, “Great job, Jesus!  I love the way You took down those thieves and set them right – high five!  We’ll be right there with You if You do the same sort of this to this person and this group – we’ll work out an itinerary for You!”

            It would certainly be easier to follow the promptings of the crowd than to stand up for something else – if not against them.  “Who do You think You are?  You’re alienating the people who could make You or break You.”

            But Jesus didn’t come to please people – He came to please His Father.  So, He left them.

            And John emphasized the reason why Jesus did not give Himself over to following the crowd and acting on their behalf.

            We may remember in Hebrew writing, they didn’t say that something was very, very, good – they would say that something was good-good.  They used two or three repetitions to indicate emphasis and supreme emphasis.
Here, John uses supreme emphasis – repetition three times – to state why Jesus did not give Himself over to the crowd and their will:

“But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people ….”

“But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he… needed no one to bear witness about man ….”

“But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he … himself knew what was in man.”

Jesus did not entrust Himself to the crowd, because He knew all people, because no one needed to tell Him about people, because He knew what’s in people.  The same thing three times – Jesus didn’t trust Himself to the people, because He really, really, really knew what people were like, what their motivation was, what they wanted.

When I was in college, I took a philosophy course on ethics, and one day we met outside, and the professor said that one side of the courtyard would be where those should stand who believe that people are basically good, and the other side would be for those who believe that people are basically evil.  The courtyard was shaped like our chancel and had steps in the middle of it like out cancel, as well.  Most people stood on the side of people being “basically good.”  Then there were a few who dribbled towards the center of the courtyard.  But one of my classmates and I walked down the stairs and over far to the side to emphasize our belief that people are basically inclined towards evil – because that is what God tells us.

After the serpent tempted Eve and Eve took the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and gave it to Adam and Adam ate it – knowing what it was – they both plunged humanity into sin as our representatives.  Since then, every mere human being has been born with original sin – that is, inclined towards sin.

Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV).

Paul explains, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV).

And again, “No one is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.  Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.  The venom of asps is under their lips.  Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.  Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.  There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18, ESV).

Jesus knew that our natural inclination – because we are all born sinners – is to seek what makes “me” happy.  We are born selfish, self-centered, God-hating, salvation-resisting, sinful people.

Jesus knew it would have been devastation to His mission to give it over to people with this mindset and heart.  No, Jesus came to save His people from that mindset and heart and make them right with God – not to give in to them and their whims.

That is why Paul continues, as he writes, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even while we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:4-10, ESV).

Jesus understood that the people who were following after Him were only looking for a show or to have Him confront their pet problem.  But Jesus didn’t give Himself over to their plans, because He knew that humans are born inclined towards sin and evil, and we can only pursue the love of God with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength and the love of neighbor as ourselves after God the Holy Spirit has changed us and caused us to believe savingly in Jesus Alone for salvation.  Then we can begin to learn to follow after the ways of God and find them to be our true joy.

Before we believe savingly in Jesus, all that we do is – in some way – ultimately – for us – done out of self-interest – and against God.  After we believe, we are able to choose to sin or to follow after God and His Will – seeking His Will and His Glory first – which is how we will receive true joy.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, we thank You that Your Son came bearing witness to the true state of fallen humanity.  Help us to understand that we are not born innocent or good enough or having right intentions.  Help us to understand that the fact that we are born sinners is the reason we need the Savior.  Help us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves in all our dealings.  And may we seek Your Glory in all things.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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