Summary: God is looking for those who have a passion for His House, for those who have a zeal for His House, for those who are in love with His House - those who share His heart for His house.
Journeying with John, It’s a Trip (JWJ-12)
A Passion for The House
Before becoming president Teddy Roosevelt was a Sunday School teacher. One day a boy came in with a shiner, and Teddy asked him what had happened. He said another boy was tormenting his sister, so he took a swing at him. Teddy gave him a silver dollar as a reward. Teddy was asked not to teach anymore. You see the church valued turning the other cheek, but not defending the weak. Teddy valued the other biblical value.
So let me ask you this - is the Jesus you believe in more like Mother Teresa or William Wallace?
Rick Warren says “80% of American Churches are [soft] churches. The greatest commandment is to be nice. The pastor’s job is to keep the peace . . . It’s velvet coffin Christianity.”
This morning’s passage is one that you may find difficult to fit into the Mother Teresa mold of Jesus - you know the account well (John 2) where Jesus enters the temple, gathers some cords together to make a whip, and cleanses the temple.
We are about three months from the start of Jesus public ministry, and about 15 miles away from last Sunday where we looked together at the wedding a Cana.
The time of the year was Passover - that time when all Jews throughout the world were meant to return to Jerusalem and celebrate the deliverance of the Jewish slaves from Egypt back in the days of Moses and Pharaoh. It seems that about 2 million would come in from out of town and the feat lasted 7 days - so it was a huge event. In anticipation of increased traffic they would repair the roads and they would even whitewash the tombs so that nobody would accidentally touch them and thereby defile themselves.
During this 7 day feast people were required to go to the temple and do two things.
Firstly, they had to pay their annual temple tax - which was a silver half shekel.
Secondly - they had to offer a sacrifice - either an ox, or a sheep, or a dove - depending on what they could afford. The temple tax they had to pay had to be a silver temple half shekel - they could not pay in any other currency and animal they offered would have to be without defect, they could not sacrifice an animal with any spot, blemish or deformity.
At first, when people came from cities other than Jerusalem or even from Jerusalem, they could either bring their own animals for sacrifice, or they could purchase them when they arrived in Jerusalem. For many it made sense to buy them when they got to Jerusalem. That way they did not have to drive them from wherever it was they came from. Well it was not long before merchants selling these animals realized that the closer they could sell these animals to the temple entrance, the more convenient it would be for the purchaser - especially those who came from out of town, and, of course, the more business for the vendor. So they moved their vending stores closer and closer to the temple. Soon these vendors where encroaching on the outskirts of the temple property in their jostling for prime positions. The Pharisees realized they could rent out space to the vendors and make some money on the side - and as you could imagine, it was not long before the entire system became corrupt. Vendors paid dearly for prime Passover vending positions - and they were in cahoots with the Pharisees who benefitted richly from the arrangement. If you brought your own ox or lamb or dove it would declare it unclean and unfit for sacrifice - and so you would then need to pay dearly for a clean animal from an approved vendor. Likewise, when you brought your temple tax - you had to pay with a temple half shekel, and the money changers charged exorbitant rates for the temple half shekel.
Well, by the time Jesus has started his ministry in their clamor for prime space had got so out of hand, they vendors were now actually in the Court of the Gentiles - and they were fleecing the people. There were five main parts of the temple, each with decreasing sanctity and access to God - and you had to pass through the lower courts to access the court you were allowed into. In the very heart was the Holy of Holies that was in the Holy Place. Nobody was allowed in there except the High Priest - and he only went in once a year. Next was the Court of the Priest, where the holy priests could go. Then came the Court of Israel - it was a men’s court - and then the Court of the Women where Jewish women could go. Then around that came the Court of the Gentiles - where Gentiles could go. The Court of the Gentiles was an area of about 14 acres - and was designed to be a place, the only place, where people of all nationalities, races, ages and classes could come and meet with God. And the priests had turned into a bazaar. What was meant to be a time of worship and remembrance had become a cesspool of malpractice for gain - Religion for Profit had become the order of the day.