Since Jesus turned twelve years old and was legally an adult He has attended the three celebrations required by law. These required celebrations were the celebration of the Passover, the celebration of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles or booths. These celebrations meant going up to Jerusalem to the temple. These celebrations were huge events with many people coming from all over to take part.
Our text for this morning brings us to the particular celebration of the Passover. This celebration required that sacrifices would be made by the people. Many people who came to the Passover celebration came from far away. Some came and bought the animal they would sacrifice when they arrived in town. Others brought their own animals with them. The problem with the one’s who brought their own animal was that the animal had to pass the inspection of the priest to make sure it was a spotless animal. However, many times it would appear that the animal was deemed as unworthy for the sacrifice. Once they were deemed unworthy they had to sell the animal and buy one which was worthy, at least, according to the priest.
For many years the ones who were selling these animals were down the street, maybe at the other end of town. Over the years they found it more convenient to be closer to the temple, until at this time they had already reached the temple courtyard, the courtyard of the Gentiles. So, in Jesus day, the temple courtyard was overrun with these zealous sellers of “spotless” animals for sacrificing in the temple. All this is according to the “letter of the law.” I suppose that if a modern day news team were to investigate what was happening that they might find that the same animals which were deemed unfit for sacrifice were later sold to someone else as being fit for sacrifice. I suppose they would uncover a nice money making scheme in which little or nothing was paid for an “unfit” animal and then the price hiked on one which would be declared “fit.”
But the scheme does not stop there. In order to purchase in the temple courtyard you had to have the right currency. Remember, people were coming to Jerusalem from all over the world with many different currencies. In order to help and be of service to you, so that you would have the right currency, there was a booth to exchange monies. Here again, the local investigative news team would probably find that this exchange of monies was also a good way to make money. What this boils down to is that all these activities going on in the temple were merely places were money makers were legally robbing the worshipers.
So, what does this have to do with us, with you and me? When we are reminded that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we begin to get a better idea of what was happening. Jesus would rather have us all to Himself. He would rather our lives not be cluttered with so many distractions. Too often these distractions creep in unaware. It is like the story of the camel in the desert. The nomad stopped for the night and pitched his tent. About 11 pm the camel stuck his head in the tent. The nomad asked him what he was doing and he said, it was so wind outside and would the nomad mind if he just stuck his head in the tent. The nomad said he did not mind. About midnight the nomad awoke to find the camel’s front feet in the tent. Again the exchange was that the camel merely wanted to put his front feet in the tent, it was so windy outside. The nomad agreed and went back to sleep. About two am the nomad awoke and the camel was more than three fourths the way in the tent. And again the exchange that it was so windy outside the camel asked if the nomad would not mind. The nomad said okay. Finally, about four in the morning the nomad awoke to find himself outside the tent. We are so much like this in our daily lives. The devil does not tempt us to not go to church, or Bible class or Sunday School. He does not tempt us to not give of our time and talents, no, he just tempts us with other things. We have so many things vying for our attention, our time, our talents, our treasures. Little by little we allow these things to take over until we find ourselves outside the tent. Until we allow the Lord’s temple, our lives, to be cluttered with everything except Him.
But then Jesus “rides” into town with His whip. We are told that He is zealous for His Father’s house and we are reminded that He is the Son of God. This temple is His Father’s house. He is sick, as we should be, of the atrocities which were happening in this house of worship.
Jesus has come to town to celebrate the Passover. He takes the time to walk around the temple to see what is happening. Everywhere He looks He sees deception and stealing going on. And He is angry. He has every right to be angry. As He walks through the temple courtyard He is braiding some cords together to make a whip. He is angry, but He does not sin in His anger. Remember, anger in itself is not sin. How you act out anger may be a sin. Jesus did not sin in His anger. He did not sin in His casting out of the money changers. He attacked no one and hurt no one. He merely removed the physical property which was used to steal from the worshipers.
By His actions Jesus shows He is God. John writes a commentary in an aside as he says, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”
Jesus drove the money changers, the thieves, those legally stealing from others, out of the temple. And then He meets His opposition. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law ask the question, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” There was no question concerning whether or not this was a good thing which Jesus did, which we see that it was a good thing. There was rather the question, springing from the loss of revenues, of “authority.”
The answer to their question was seen in His actions. Jesus had been and continued to show His authority through the signs, wonders and miracles which He performed. Time and again was the question put to Jesus concerning His authority. Time and again His divinity, the fact that He is God, was attached to a miracle He would perform and time and again He showed Himself to be who He said He was, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
The second answer Jesus gives is the answer of His death and resurrection. This answer is spoken in a mashal, which is a teaching statement. Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” We are clued in and understand that what Jesus is speaking about is His body. Those hearing this do not have a clue and believe that He is speaking about the actual physical building of the temple. In another aside commentary, John says, “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.” As Jesus reached the end of His earthly life and when He was put on trial, a few days later, this statement would be used against Him in a court of law. And His conviction in that court proved what He was saying, as He did die on the cross and three days later, rose from the dead.
Now, let me ask you, did you keep your eye focused? How does this text focus our attention on discipleship? How does this text apply to me? First, we must begin by admitting that we are sinners. We are born in sin. We add to that inborn sin our own sins of commission and omission. We are slavers to sin. We have already stated our tendency to let the things of this world take priority over the things of God. But there is more. We are often no better than the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. We question Jesus’ authority. Who is He to ask for our time, our talents, our treasures? Who is He to judge us? Who is Jesus to tell us right from wrong? Too often we are so in tune and in grained with the thoughts of our society that we are actual enemies of God. We spout Biblically incorrect statements like, “what anyone does is their own business.” “You are not supposed to judge other people.” The heart of these statements and statements like them is authority and does God have the ultimate authority over us?
Fortunately, for us, we have the answer. The answer is Jesus and His answer is what laid ahead of Him. His answer is the cross. His answer is that He came to give His life, His life for ours. It is our sin, our confusion of priorities, our demand for our own authority which puts Jesus on the cross. It is His love for us, so much so that He denied Himself and took up the cross in order that we might have forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ authority is an authority of love, giving Himself for us.
Now that we have been brought back into a right relationship with our Father in heaven, through faith in His Son, faith which has been given to us. Now that we have been made right before God, by Jesus, God Himself in human flesh. Now that we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life, purchased and paid for by Jesus’ blood. Now, we also have the Holy Spirit who works in and through us so that we might respond to all that He has done for us. Our response is a response of faith and submission to His authority and giving of ourselves.
I think Paul summarizes it best for us in the words of this mornings Epistle lesson, “22For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-25). I pray that your focus may ever be on Christ and Him crucified. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.