Temple Cleanser

John 2:13: The Significance of the temple cleansing

John 2:14-17: The tone of Christ’s ministry

John 2:18-22: Temple or Sanctuary?

John 2:23-25: The strength to be hated by the ‘right’ people
Many people seem to believe that Jesus is like a candy-coated Prozac. You take a dose of him once-a-week and it helps you feel better. To them, Jesus is a comfortable, neighborly ‘guy’ that lifts your spirits and doesn’t cause a whole lot of controversy.

In this lesson we read about the ‘OTHER Jesus’. He is not a comfortable ‘guy’. As soon as you think you have the ‘Other Jesus’ in a box – you find that you are like a man giving a bath to a bobcat in the kitchen sink.

This is not the Tea-Party Jesus. He is not the Potluck Jesus; the Jesus who sings praise songs with us in the pew nor the Jesus that makes us feel comfortable with our placid commitment to a ‘good-time’ religion.

This is the Jesus who comes to our church and asks why we have cushioned pews instead of mattresses for the homeless. This is the Jesus who interrupts worship and says; “Why are we singing happy songs in here when children in this very neighborhood are forgotten and abused?”

[Amos 5:21] “I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. [22] “Even though you offer up to me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept {them} and I will not {even} look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. [23] “Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. [24] “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (NAS)
The Other Jesus invades religious assemblies and motivates attendees (with a whip made from his belt) to move aside and make way for the crippled, the unclean and the broken. The Other Jesus won’t let us treat him like a weekly ‘upper’; a lukewarm response to the Other Jesus is even worse than denying him to his face! “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” [Revelation 3:16]

This Jesus doesn’t want us to visit him on weekends and remember him in prayer. This Jesus turns away his own mother and brothers in favor of those who obey what he teaches: “But He answered and said to them, ‘My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.’” [Luke 8:21]

This Jesus wants us to demonstrate our belief with action!

This ‘Other Jesus’ is difficult to preach about. He convicts, he shouts, he shoves, he even whips! Throughout a great many ‘Prozac’ churches this Sunday, Pastors will try to ‘explain’ this Jesus in contemporary terminology. “We mustn’t misunderstand him.” “We must realize that ‘those times’ were different.” “We don’t understand the ‘religious connotations’ of his cultural-based actions.”

However, the reality is; this Jesus cannot be explained. He must not be explained. We are left with three choices: Run away from him; stand with open mouths embarrassed by him; or run out and bring in the crippled, unclean and forgotten to fill the gap that is left when Jesus is done.

Let’s quit explaining this Other Jesus. Let’s quit acting like embarrassed relatives of a madman. Let’s start really asking; “What would happen if this Other Jesus came to cleanse my sanctuary?” “What would happen if this ‘Other Jesus’ came into the temple of my heart?”
[John2:13] When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [14] In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. [15] So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. [16] To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”

[17] His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

[18] Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

[19] Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

[20] The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

[23] Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. [24] But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. [25] He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man. (NAS)

[13] When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (NAS)

In order of significance
The first thing we note about John’s version of this event is that he places it at the start of Christ’s ministry while the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew; Mark and Luke) place it as one of the very last events in Christ’s life. This is not a contradiction as some might think. We must remember that John is sharing his remembrances after seventy years of reflection. He is not recounting his images in chronological order; but in order of significance. John puts this event right at the start of his book because he wants us to understand the significance of this event in Christ’s earthly ministry. This event, to John, sets the tone of Christ’s work on earth.

[14] In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. [15] So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. [16] To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”

[17] His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (NAS)

The tone of Christ’s ministry
So what is the number one thing that John feels is so significant about Christ’s ministry on earth? “Zeal for your house will consume me [Jn 2:17].”

This simple sentence only came to John after seventy years of reflection. It is a quote from Psalm 69:

Psalm 69:7-9
7 Because for Thy sake I have borne reproach; dishonor has covered my face.

8 I have become estranged from my brothers, and an alien to my mother’s sons.

9 For zeal for Thy house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me. (NAS)

It is truly worth taking a moment to look at the words used of the passion of Jesus.

· Zeal [GSN2205, zelos]

The root word of zeal is zeo [GSN2204] and it describes boiling liquids or metal that is molten hot. Applied to a person; the word would mean jealousy, indignation or to burn with anger. The image John gives us is of our Lord (the face of God on earth) burning, seething with anger.

· Consumes [GSN2719, katesthio]

Anything that burns is consumed. It literally means to be devoured. What is Christ devoured by?

· Father’s House [GSN3624, oikos]

Christ is consumed by a passion for his Father’s house. Yet, we must always remember, that the Lord’s house did not imply a temple prior to Solomon. It was a people. It was the family of God, the people of God. Above all else, it represented the commitment of the Nomadic tribe of Abraham and Moses to protect each child. The house of God is the ‘refuge’ of God; a place where the poorest of the poor find shelter, food and comfort. The House of God will leave no one behind – even at the expense of the whole!

Look at the clear picture of God that this event and story gives us! Look at the clear picture this gives us about being a follower of Christ. What consumes Christ should consume us! It is not a passion for buildings or temples. It is a passion for God’s people – the one’s most easily left behind. You don’t see the early apostles start talking about expanding the upper room because the church is growing. They are out on the streets – preaching in public places. They are taking God’s message out of the Upper Room and into the cities. Indeed, look at what happens when they start talking about getting comfortable; “Let’s divide up the ministry – it isn’t fair for us preachers to have to feed the poor too [Author’s reflection on Acts 6:2].” It is at that point that the weight of the Chief Priests and the Romans comes down upon the church and forces it out of it’s comfort zone; out of Jerusalem; out into the world.

In a time where income disparity in the United States has never been greater – in a time when such a small percentage of the world’s people uses so much of the world’s resources – we must ask if God’s zeal might not be burning now. God is not zealous to build bigger churches – he is zealous that his people be included, sheltered, fed, healed (receive adequate health care). So, the Follower of Christ must always ask; “Who is being left out?”

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that the one who is left out is him: “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, {even} the least {of them,} you did it to Me.’” [Matt 25:40]

To forget the poor is to forget Jesus. To leave behind the least of these is to leave Jesus out of our life. To not visit the sick, the elderly, impoverished, imprisoned is to not have Jesus in our day. To build bigger churches and praise God ostentatiously while health care and education is crumbling around us is to despise God. He will not bless a nation that does not have zeal for the Father’s people.

God boils for his people. The temple had become a place where the people of God were commanded to go; but where access to God was a scam. Look at the cost of worship to the common man of Christ’s day:

Temple tax = 2 days wages

Money Changer’s Share = 1 days wages

Sacrifice Inspector = ½ days wages

Sacrifice = (1 pair of doves outside the temple); 2 days wages

= (1 pair of doves purchased inside the temple – should your offering not be accepted); 40 days wages

In today’s economy, a day at the temple could cost about $3,000 – $4,000 dollars and any Jew within 15 miles of temple was required to attend at least one of the three festivals each year. The Roman historian, Josephus, wrote that Passover visitors could number as many as two and a quarter million. This would put revenues from such gatherings at hundreds of millions of current dollars. It is indeed hard to imagine such wealth in the hands of so few. Harder still to imagine the burden of poverty that would place on so many. No wonder God’s blood boiled; no wonder Jesus chased them from the temple!

And all of this injustice was done in the name of religion. That is the real definition of using God’s name in vain. Preying upon God’s weakest to gratify one’s need for power, pleasure or popularity. This is institutionalized sin; using God’s name to cover up for a rapacious system.

However, Thomas Merton (monk, theologian and servant of Christ) tells us that the greatest sin today is what institutions do in our name; with our contributions

We have learned how tobacco companies used profits to target ten to twelve-year-old children. Only now we are learning how the cult of Enron used government influence and power to fix prices that made the cost of heating oil rise to levels where the elderly had to choose between heat, food or medicine. Far too often, the cry of the Christian has been either shamefully silent or sadly on the side of profit rather than the prophetic.

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[18] Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

[19] Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

[20] The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” [21] But the temple he had spoken of was his body. [22] After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (NAS)

Here is the most amazing news we could ever receive; God made the temple obsolete by making Jesus our temple. We are no longer bound to a place or a time because Jesus broke the bonds of temporality. The temple of God had become a prison in which the religious tried to keep God in and the people of God out. Access was gained only through extreme financial sacrifice and the inside of the temple had become a wasteland – a desolate place of abomination. Were you a Gentile seeking to learn more about the faith – you would only be allowed to visit the outer court – the court of the Gentiles; a court that had been overrun by those hawking animals who were extorting the people of God. Were you a sincere believer, it would cost you an exorbitant amount to offer your sacrifice to God. The House of God, his temple, had become a sham.

God took worship back and gave it to the people. Wherever Jesus was – there was the temple [GSN3485, naos]. The word also means sanctuary, a refuge, a place where those without rights can find solace and safety. So, “what miraculous sign did Jesus show us to prove his authority to do all this?”

His own body!

The Body of Jesus is the miraculous presence of God given as both example and sacrifice. Through Jesus we can taste and see the goodness of the Lord: “O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him [Ps 34:8]!”

We do not need to fight for Jerusalem or ‘the Holy Places’ because wherever we are is holy if Jesus is with us! Wherever two or three are gathered in his name – that is our temple [Matt 18:20]! No longer are we tied to a place, a location or even a doctrine; we are tied to a relationship. If we follow Jesus wherever he goes – we are tied to him through his miraculous sacrifice. If we learn anything from this lesson it is that we should never become attached to places and buildings again. We should be tied and attached to the Body of Christ in the form of the least of these. To heap exorbitant amounts on buildings and comforts while God’s body is wounded and impoverished is an abomination before the Lord. God does not want us meeting in ornate churches – he wants us meeting with the least of these. The fancier our meeting places – the more it attests to our selfishness and the lack of God’s presence! We must begin meeting in jails, hospitals, rest homes and on street corners for that is where the Body of Christ would lead us. God will rejoice on the day that we turn our empty buildings into adult day cares, children’s after school programs, restoration ministries and bread pantries with a little coffee shop for the visiting impoverished

Isaiah 1:13-17
[Isa 1:13] “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies– I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. [14] “I hate your new moon {festivals} and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to me. I am weary of bearing {them.} [15] “So when you spread out your hands {in prayer,} I will hide My eyes from you, yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. [16] “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, [17] Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless; defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (NAS)

To love the Lord is to focus on his body – not a building. To love the Lord is to become refuge and sanctuary for his wounded. To love the Lord is to be the Samaritan; the hated outsider who goes out of his way and gives from his depth to care for the unknown wounded – a man he may never see again! The two religious men were busy hurrying to the temple – they did not want to be distracted by the wounded man. But… that man is Jesus!

the temple is a living place. It is made out of the faith and justice of those who cared for the wounded body of Jesus. Someday, that glory will be abundantly evident to those who ‘endure’ – who are not dissuaded or waylaid by the temptations of the temporal and spatial. Focus on the body of Jesus and his temple will be inside of you!

It is worth everything to find a community that will challenge you to be like Jesus by including the least of these. Humble yourself before the Lord and ask others to challenge you to remain open to the needs of the people of God. Remaining open to the lost will open your ears to God. Seek a group of people who will engage you in the quest to find the invitational Jesus