July 05, 2020

Cleaning House

When Jesus cleansed the temple of selling sacrifices and money changers, was He setting up rules for our church bake sales? Listen or read to find out.

Mike Gerhardt, 07-05-20, John 2:12-25, Cleaning House, #5. A small church in North Carolina had this rule: whoever drinks the last cup of coffee, make another pot for the next person. Trying to motivate the people, someone taped a note: If Jesus drank the last cup, what would He do? The next note read: Jesus would have turned the water into wine instead of just coffee. I have said this before: when you look at the feast schedule of Israel, there were many times God called His people together to party, at least three times a year for a weeklong celebration: the Feast of Passover ran into First Fruits and Unleavened Bread, as well as the Feast of Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. Food was consumed and wine flowed for everyone to enjoy, the rich and poor together. There were special parties for the Sabbath year and the year of Jubilee. God wanted His people to enjoy his blessing, that is my kind of God. So, no wonder Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding, he was taking after his Father in Heaven. There are however some words in scripture about wine consumption: Proverbs 31 forbids wine, beer, and strong drink for kings and rulers lest their judgment is impaired. Other proverbs warn of the over-indulgence of wine, beer, and strong drink. Ephesians 5:18 prohibits drunkenness or being control by intoxicating substances as do several other passages. Abstinence from alcohol and drugs is still a good idea. Jesus in making the wine was not advocating drinking to become inebriated. I personally chose not to drink five years before becoming a pastor. Wine can be a blessing until it becomes your curse. Jesus was active in ministry not staying too long in one place. His early ministry in Galilee was summed up in verse 12-13. From Cana to Capernaum is a walk of 20 plus miles downhill. He then left for Passover. Passover feast celebrated the final plague that God struck against Egypt, the death of the firstborn. There wasn’t a house unaffected. God told them to slaughter a lamb and take the blood to splash on top and side of the doorposts so the angel of death might pass-over that house covered by the blood of the lamb. It was customary for everyone to go to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. The temple court refers to a large area called the Court of the Gentiles. There people could buy their sacrifice (they were supposed to bring their most precious and prized lamb of their own) but it was rationalized as a convenience to those far away to purchase their personal sacrifice. Selling sacrifices in the temple needed temple money that did not have the graven image of Caesar. There was money to be made in these exchanges of coins and because of the limited supply of perfect animals, the great demand from many pilgrims along with a lot of greed, there were abuses. It became a major source of income for those selling sacrifices, exchanging money, and for the temple priests who took their cut. The holy worship of personal sacrifice of a family’s beloved lamb had been corrupted. It was replaced by the sale of inferior animals sold for the temple shekel exchange for Caesar’s coins. The temple tax was a high percentage charge for this service which debased the temple into a commercial bazaar of sorts. And that is precisely why Jesus became filled with righteous indignation and anger. He did not lose his composure.

The disciples witnessed Psalm 69:9 zeal for your house will consume me. David McCullough in Mornings on Horse Back wrote: Mittie (Teddy Roosevelt’s mother) had found he was afraid of the Madison Square Church and refused to go inside alone. He was terrified of something he called zeal. He felt it was in every corner ready to pounce on him like a lion or a dragon. He had heard the minister read about it: The zeal for your house will consume me. He did not want to be eaten. I think people are still afraid of the zeal that can consume us. Malachi 3:1-4 Suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come, says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.

Imagine the scene for a moment. In moral indignation, Jesus, after putting a whip together, started a stampede of sheep, cattle, money changers, doves and pigeons, tables turned over and coins spilled out all over the place. The noise level of the sheep and goats, the money changers scrambling, the coins in the dirt, all because of the zeal of the Lord Jesus. He was not protesting the sacrificial system but what it had become. Jesus took this in a very personal way. Thomas Fuller said, when the heart is afire, some sparks will fly out of the mouth. The Jews reacted and demanded a sign to prove Jesus' authority. This may have come from knowing the scriptures concerning the Messiah. This was a common refrain from the Jewish leaders. John 6:30: What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? This, by the way, is the first of two cleansings. The other cleansing is during Passion Week. John recorded three Passover Feasts. Jesus’ challenge to destroy this temple is not mentioned in the other gospels although two witnesses at the trial of Jesu testified that he threatened to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. This seems to be the first public event of Jesus' ministry and was the last public event of His first advent. Jesus challenged the Jews: which will it be the temple of Herod or the temple of the Holy Spirit? Herod the Great had decided to replace the modest temple built after captivity by Zerubbabel. Forty-six years they were working on this temple, and the entire complex would not be finished until AD 63. It was beautiful and grand. Jesus, in his first public saying, was hinting at his death and resurrection. He had this predetermined goal in mind from the beginning. The sign again was given to the Jews. And YOU in verse 20 is emphatic suggesting their contempt already for Jesus. Notice that the disciples were clueless to understand what Jesus meant until after the resurrection. Many did see the miraculous signs the Jews said they supposedly wanted to see. Many believed in Him, but Jesus in His wisdom knew that a temporary excitement based on miracles was not sufficient, so he did not entrust himself to them. I do not believe this was a supernatural expression of Jesus' divinity. I believe Jesus had the wisdom and could read people. Some of you are like that. I personally am often naive about what people are thinking.

It is not that you say you believe that is all-important to God; it is also what is in your heart and in your actions. Three things we can learn from this account.

God is concerned with your heart condition. Outwardly you may be going through the religious motions, but is your heart right with God?

God has a way for our sins to be forgiven. The Jewish sacrificial system was in place to show people their sin and their only way of forgiveness to rightly relate to their Heavenly Father. They lost the relationship and put religion in its place.

Bono of the Irish Band U2: In Conversation, states, It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between grace and karma - what you put out comes back to you… as you sow, so shall you reap. But grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff… I am holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the cross.

God wants you to have joy. He is against an empty religion that is all about duty and work. He is all for you and wants you to have a deeper life in Him.