Summary: Discipline isn’t fun. It isn’t fun to receive it and it isn’t fun to give it out. But the fact is that discipline is necessary. Are you in need of a cleansing today? How will you react when it comes?
“This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” How many of you have ever used that line on your kids? I remember when I got that line used on me. I didn’t believe it for one minute. As a matter of fact, I didn’t believe it until I had my own kids and used that line on them. Don’t you hate it when that happens? It seems that there comes a day in every parent’s life when you hear your parents’ words come out of your mouth. Then in the back of your mind, you think, “Where in the world did that come from?” One of those times is the first time you say those words, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” You didn’t believe it when they said it to you. And you can’t believe you’re hearing those words come out of your mouth. But it happens. And it happens for a reason. It happens because it’s true. Does it hurt to receive discipline? You bet it does. But it hurts a whole lot more when you’re the one who’s having to dole out the discipline. But if you don’t do it, it destroys your children. You discipline your children because you love them. You want them to learn right from wrong. You want them to make the right choices in life—even when those choices are difficult. Even when they’re different from the choices that everyone around them are making. You discipline your children to develop their character to the point that they will begin to exercise self-discipline. And that is exactly what Jesus was doing in this passage. After the wedding in Cana, Jesus went with His family and disciples and moved down to Capernaum. Capernaum was about 16 miles away and was located on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. It would serve as kind of a home base for His ministry. The Gospel of Matthew called it “His own town” and they would return there several times throughout Jesus’ ministry. But each time Jesus returned there, He didn’t stay long. Each time was little more than a stopover on the way to the next place of ministry. That’s what happened here. They went from Cana to Capernaum. They stayed there for only a few days. Then they headed on to Jerusalem. It was Passover time, which meant that all good Jews headed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Of course, Jesus followed all of the Old Testament law, so off to Jerusalem He went. But when He got there, the scene was very different from what Old Testament Law prescribed.
You remember that in the Old Testament, God required the Jews to celebrate the Passover as a way to remind themselves of how God had delivered them from Egypt. Back in the days of Moses, God inflicted Egypt with a series of plagues to convince Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go. But he didn’t. He continually hardened his heart to the point that God finally hardened it for him. It was at that point that God sent the final plague upon them. He sent His death angel to kill the firstborn son of each family in Egypt. The only way for a family to escape that plague and preserve the life of their firstborn son was to apply the blood of an innocent lamb on their front door. When the death angel saw the blood, he passed over the house and the son’s life was spared. That was the plague that finally persuaded Pharaoh to release the Israelites from their captivity. And because of that, God commanded that the Israelites remember what God did for them. He commanded that they celebrate what God did for them by sacrificing an innocent lamb without blemish and eat it together as a family. He also later required that, if they were able, they had to do it in Jerusalem. That’s why Jesus and His family were there. They were there out of obedience to the requirements of the Law of God.
I want you to imagine with me, if you will, what they saw when they got there. The first thing they would have noticed was the amount of people who were there. The place was packed with Jews who were there for the same thing they were. Over the past few hundred years, Jews had been scattered throughout the Roman Empire. And when they were scattered, they multiplied. So when it was time for a major feast like Passover in Jerusalem, hundreds of thousands of Jews flooded the city. You look at all the attention Denver has gotten with the Democratic National Convention this past week. Or all the attention Beijing got with the Olympics. All of that attention meant one thing for those places. It meant money. It’s almost impossible to figure out the economic impact a major event like those things have on a city today. But that’s the same kind of economic impact that the major feasts like Passover had on Jerusalem. When Passover rolled around each year, the merchants were rolling in business. And they knew how to cater to their clientele. We’re not the only ones who know how to market to people’s needs and wants. They did the same thing. They knew where all the people were heading. Location is everything in sales and marketing, so they set up shop where the people were going to be. And that was the temple. They couldn’t go in the temple itself, but they could go to what was called the court of the Gentiles. This was the place that God set aside for seeking Gentiles to witness temple worship. God intended it as a place of witness to the nations. But that’s certainly not what it was being used for. Still today, when you travel to the Middle East, open air markets are called bazaars. In Jesus’ day, the court of the Gentiles had a nickname. It was called Annas’ Bazaar after Annas the High Priest. The place of witness to the nations had been turned into a giant flea market. But the worst part was that they weren’t just selling trinkets and junk. They were selling religion. Most of the people who came to Jerusalem for Passover, came from a long way away. It was hard enough to travel in those days with you family. Much less if you had to travel with livestock. But a sacrifice was required when you went to the temple. Depending on what type of offering you were making, depended on the type of animal you needed. You might need a bull or a lamb or a dove. And for Passover, everybody needed a lamb. So, it would have been a tremendous added burden to have to bring those animals along with you. And here was an added catch. Even if you decided to bring your own animals, they had to be without spot or blemish. And who was the ones who determined whether or not they measured up? It was the priests of course. And they were the ones who were making money off all the sales going on in the court of the Gentiles. So even if you brought you own lamb, it wouldn’t pass inspection. So you had to buy one from the priests in the courtyard. They had a monopoly going. And anytime there’s a monopoly, people will take advantage of it. And these priests did. They charged exorbitant rates. But the people had no choice but to pay it. And here they were—those that sold oxen and sheep and doves. There they were, and right alongside them were the money changers. There they were, extorting money from the people who were just trying to worship the Lord. There they were, making money hand over fist, not caring about the witness they were giving. There they were—when Jesus walked in. And Jesus walked in and destroyed the place. He turned over tables. He sent animals and money and people scattering all over the place. He basically generated chaos. And in the midst of all that noise and confusion, His voice boomed over the top—“Get this garbage out of here. This is my Father’s house and is not flea market.” Jesus cleaned house. It was dramatic. It was painful. I’m sure it didn’t feel good when He took that whip to people. I’m sure it cost people a lot of money. But it needed to be done. The temple was God’s house. And God will not tolerate trash in His house. So His Son cleaned it out. The Bible says that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. And as the temple of the Holy Spirit, sometimes we let sin come into our lives. And when we let sin into our lives, we are faced with a choice. We can either repent of that sin and allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse us of it… or we can allow it to take up residence in our lives. Sometimes, we let sin get so comfortable in our lives, we begin to look like Annas’ Bazaar. Instead of being the witness to the nations that God has called us to be, we look like a philosophical flea market—ideas and advice from everywhere, but no personal application. It’s a sad thing, but it happens. And when it happens, sometimes Jesus has to clean house. Sometimes Jesus has to bring a cleansing to our lives just like He cleaned out the temple that day. When He does, it’s not easy. As a matter of fact, it’s painful. It’s painful, but He does it because He loves us. The writer of Hebrews describes it like this in Hebrews 12:5-7: He writes, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” In other words, sometimes we need a spanking. Sometimes we need to be chastened by our heavenly Father. Sometimes this temple of the Holy Spirit needs to be cleansed. The question is, how do we respond when it happens? In this passage, we see that cleansing can result in four different kinds of responses. As you can imagine, some responses are good and some are bad. We each have to decide how we will respond when the Lord cleanses us. The first response to cleansing is that cleansing can result in remembrance. Look at verse 17: