Second Reformed Church

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

May Sermons

D. V., I will be preaching as follows in May -- join us at 10:30 AM for worship!

 John 2:23-25“What’s In Man”

5/10/15 Mother’s Day
 John 3:1-8“Born Twice”

5/17/15 Ascension
 John 3:9-15“Lifted Up”

5/24/15 Pentecost
 John 3:16-21“God’s Love”

5/31/15 Trinity
Guest preacher:  Rev. Tom Henion, Living Word Reformed Church

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"This Temple" Sermon: John 2:13-22

“This Temple”

[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.

Reformed Wisdom

On John 2:7 (changing water into wine):

“No doubt the Anabaptists, if they had been present, would have seriously rebuked the Lord, if not excommunicated him.” – Martin Bucer in Reformation Commentary on Scripture:  New Testament IV:  John 1-12, 72.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Top Shelf" Sermon: John 2:1-12

“Top Shelf”

[John 2:1-12]

April 19, 2015 Second Reformed Church

            If God brought a bottle of wine to a wedding, do you think it would be good wine?

            As we continue our look at John’s Gospel, we see that half-way through Jesus’ calling of His twelve disciples; He had a wedding to go to.  John tells us, three days after calling Nathanael to be His disciple; there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.

            Now, in Jesus’ day, the most important thing a person could give the bride and groom was his attendance and celebration at the wedding.  It was much more important to have a huge gathering of every family member and friend and friend’s friend, than it was to have an expensive wedding or to have expensive gifts.  Of course weddings were an expense and a feast, but they didn’t cut the guest list short in order to have better food or have the wedding in a better location.  It was all about the blessing that the people at the wedding were to the couple being married.

            The first thing we should notice this morning is that Jesus honors – blesses – marriage.

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.”

Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God Who came to earth to live a perfect life under God’s Law, die for the sins of His people, and physically rise victorious from the dead, glorifying God and making His people right with God, saw the wedding of this couple to be important enough to be in attendance to say, “Yes, this is right, this is blessed of God.”

We remember that God instituted the rite of marriage between the first man and the first woman:  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, ESV).

Marriage is a God-ordained rite in which a man and a woman are not merely physically united, but spiritually united.  God created this union and blesses this union, and Jesus went to bless this wedding, to celebrate with the couple, and to enjoy the celebration and the coming together of a man and a woman as God normally intends it.

Second, we see that the mother of Jesus humbled herself to the Will of her Lord.

“When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’  And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come.’  His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

Did you notice, in this text, the mother of Jesus is not named; she is just called “the mother of Jesus”?  That is not because John did not know who she was – he knew who Mary was.

The point that is being made here is that although Mary would always be Jesus’ mother, and although Jesus always owes His mother honor, Jesus, Mary’s Son, is also God the Savior, her Lord, and she had to learn to submit herself to His Will.  The Center of the Gospel, the center of the Scripture, the Center of this text, is Jesus, Who He is, and what He came to do.  Everything else, including His mother, had to submit to His Divine Will.

At this point, John tells us that Jesus had not done any miracles – and we remember the point of miracles is to show Jesus to be God the Savior.  Miracles are signs that point to Jesus.  They do not exist for themselves or merely for any lesser reason.

So, Jesus and His mother and His disciples were at this wedding – it had gone on for some time – they were eating and drinking and enjoying themselves – and then the mother of Jesus noticed that they ran out of wine – which would have been an embarrassment to the couple, so she told Jesus what she observed.

What did she expect Jesus to do? 

Perhaps as an up-and-coming rabbi, she expected Him to say some kind and soothing words before the guests became upset about the wine running out.

Perhaps she thought of what the angel told her that she always pondered in her heart:  “[Jesus] will be great and be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33, ESV).  Perhaps she though there was something more He could do given His prophetic pedigree.

We’re no told what she really had in mind.

Jesus responded with what seems like a harsh rebuke of His mother:  “Woman, what does this have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come.”

The commentators assure us that the comment is not harsh, but respectful, though it is given to remind Jesus’ mother that Jesus had a time-line for His plan, and both He and she had to submit to the Will of God and follow it – so she had to submit to Him as He submitted to the Will of the Father.  She had to understand that miracles occurred in accordance with the Divine Will, not any human will.  Jesus did honor His mother, but He was not going to go against the Divine Will even if she asked Him to as His mother.

            The mother of Jesus understood what He was saying and submitted to His Will, telling the servants to do whatever Jesus said.

            How are we at submitting to the Will, the Plan, and the Promises of God?

            Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount to thank and trust God because He will provide us with whatever we need.  Do we follow after the Will of God and trust that no matter how things look, God will provide for our every need?  Do we strive to be faithful and obedient to God and to work hard with the gifts and abilities that God has given us and believe that God will provide us with what we need?  Do we believe that we will always have – at the right time – what we need for that time?  Do we place our hope in God’s Will being done on earth as it is in Heaven – or are we hypocrites?

            Here we are called to pray that God would do whatever He knows is best – His Will – and that we would be thankful and glorify God for what He does.

            “Do whatever He tells you.”

            At this point, Jesus acts, and we wonder why:  didn’t He just tell His mother this was not His problem and it was not His time?  Why does Jesus now solve the problem?

            Was the rebuke merely to show His mother that she had to submit to His Divine Will?  Or did His human will just not know that it was time for Him to perform His first miracle?  Or is something else going on here?
             What we can conclude is, third, Jesus gives lavishly.

“Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’  And he said to them, ‘Now draw some and take it to the master of the feast.’  So they took it.  When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, then the poor wine.  But you have kept the good wine until now.’”

Jesus told the servants to fill the six empty stone purification jars with water.  These jars would have been filled with water for the ceremonial washing of hands and other such rituals.  And they were very large – twenty to thirty gallons a piece – some 180 gallons in total.

Jesus told the servants – surely not more than six – probably closer to two – to fill the jars with water.  The servants would not have been used to being told what to do by the guests, but they respected Jesus and His mother – perhaps they knew of Him – perhaps they simply respected His mother as their elder – and they filled the jars will water.

Once they had filled the jars, Jesus told them to take some of the water which was now changed to wine to the master of the feast – the caterer – perhaps a family member who was footing the bill.  And he tasted the wine, and he couldn’t believe it, so he called the groom to him – this wine was top shelf!

And he states the obvious to the groom – though neither of them knew what happened or how:  when you have a big party, you start out with the best wine you have, and then, after people have been drinking for a while and their senses aren’t as keen, you start serving the table wine, and eventually, you serve them the really cheap stuff – but this wine that they brought out at the end of the feast was the best wine he had ever tasted!

And Jesus had not just caused a bottle of wine to be made.  He had not caused a gallon of wine to be made.  He caused around 180 gallons of the best wine anyone had every tasted to be made!  When God gives, He gives lavishly!  It is inconceivable that there would be enough people to drink 180 gallons of wine, especially after all the drinking that they had done, but God changed an enormous amount of water into wine to provide for the wedding and for the future.

God gives the best and God gives lavishly.

Consider, do you have enough of everything for this moment?  Do you have more than you need for this moment?  Seriously, do you have more than you need to exist and be doing exactly what you are doing right this moment?

Just consider the basic principle of the tithe – that we are to give back to God ten percent of our gross income.  That means God has given us at least ten percent more than what we need.

Here what Paul writes, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28, ESV).

Did you hear the principle of lavish receipts – if you have been stealing, stop stealing and work an honest job, so you can support yourself – and have plenty to give away.  We don’t merely work and earn income to support ourselves and our families, but so we will have enough to give to God and to those in need.  This is what God wants, and He provides it for us.  So, even minimally, God provides lavishly, because we have more than we ever need.

That being the case, what sort of thankful people ought we be for all the things God has given us – including the lavish gift of His Son for the sake of our salvation?

Fourth, we are told that Jesus “manifested his glory” in changing the water into wine.

“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.  And his disciples believed in him.’

“After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.”

When we talk about Jesus manifesting His Glory – we are talking about the same thing as when we talk about an epiphany of Jesus – we are saying that this event showed Jesus to be Who He truly is – it pointed to Him as the Savior God promised to send.

Jesus was revealed in turning the 180 gallons of water into the best top shelf wine they had ever tasted.  They understood that Jesus was not merely a man – He is more – He is Divine.

As we have noted, this is the point of John’s Gospel, as well as the whole Scripture:  “Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:20-31, ESV).

Now, how many people knew that Jesus turned the water into wine?

Jesus’ mother, the six disciples, and maybe as many as six servants.  That’s it.  All the rest of the people at the wedding had no idea what Jesus did.  At that moment – the performance of His first miracle – was for His mother, the disciples, and the servants of the household at the wedding in Cana.  This miracle was to show this small group Who He is.

And we might be thinking, “Well, didn’t someone say, ‘Jesus turned the water into wine’?”  We are not told that any such thing like that happened.  The text reads as though no one else knew, and the servants didn’t explain where the wine came from.

And we might say, “Well, wouldn’t Jesus want everyone to know, so they would all see Who He is?”

And here we face the problem that came up when the wine ran out – the mother of Jesus said, “Do something.”  And now we look at the account and think, “Jesus, take credit for the miracle – reveal Yourself.”

But it wasn’t time.  It wasn’t according to plan.  It wasn’t God’s Will.

I suspect we all have had times when we wanted to tell God a better way to do something – as we read the Scripture and shake our heads thinking, “Oh, no, Lord, if You don’t let people take part in their salvation, they aren’t going to be willing to believe.  Let’s make salvation equal what You did plus all the good things we do.” 

Or, perhaps, “I’m thankful for how You have provided for me, but I didn’t get that promotion, and You know if I got that promotion, I would have more access to people to tell them about You, so change my boss’ mind, ok?”

We think we’re so smart, but “[God] who sits in the heavens laughs; and the Lord holds them in derision,” (Psalm 2:4, ESV).

Shall we stop being arrogant and submit to the Will of God, rejoice and give thanks in the lavish gifts that God gives us, trusting Him for all of our needs?

Shall we see all that God has done for us and recognize that all God has done – according to His Plan and in His time – show Him to be exactly Who He has always claimed to be?

Shall we humble ourselves before our God and Savior Who created the best wine ever tasted and invites us to receive the bread and the wine, proclaiming His death and resurrection until He returns, when He will share in the fruit of the vine with us at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb?

Let us pray:

Almighty God, we thank You for the blessed rite of marriage and for those You call to union in it.  We ask that we would hold marriage in high esteem as a holy ordinance of Your creation.  We ask that You would help us to listen and hear You and follow after Your Will, giving thanks for Your lavish gifts and for the provision for our every need every day.  We thank You that You have chosen to reveal Yourself to us and make us Your children.  And we ask that You would lead us in the Power and the Wisdom of God the Holy Spirit.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.