Summary: Answering God’s call to be the only way is can be difficult but rewarding
Electronic Arts has beat another company as Midway Games filed for chapter 11 this past Thursday. Midway’s big game was Mortal Combat but they also took a stab at sports games.
Blitz the League I, a 2009 football game, aired an interesting television ad in which a computer-generated Lawrence Taylor pitches this extremely violent video version. Standing on a CGI football field Taylor’s voice over declares:
"Every Sunday, when America goes to church, we go to war. While they pray for salvation, we play for survival." Pointing a football at the stadium he’s says "This is our cathedral." Holding the football up Taylor declares, "This game is our religion." Then looking into the camera he delivers the sales line, "And every religion has its judgment day."
When I was the associate Pastor in Abilene Texas we had people stand up and leave during the last hymn if the Dallas Cowboys were kicking off at noon. You didn’t plan Friday evening activities because of High School football. And although I’d like to say football is the only source of such false religion it’s not. Anything that gets in the way of coming to the Father angers Jesus.
First century Jews didn’t have football, golf, fishing, camping, activities or the things we have that interfere with our worship of the Father. They weren’t tempted by internet porn. They were too sure in their faith in the One-True God to be pulled into other temples. They weren’t so into the latest and greatest that they ran from one fad to another.
What we see in John 2 is what had happened for years. People came to Passover, as many as a million or more, to sacrifice, pay the taxes to keep the temple up and to gather with family and friends. There is nothing to suggest that Jesus came upon anything that was strange or out of the ordinary. Among the crowd and noise moneychangers made money exchanging Roman coinage which had the emperor’s image on it for temple coins. Animal sellers were there because sacrificial lambs had to be without blemish. There were also priest there. They examined the sacrifice and certified it to be "without blemish". They also guided people through the process. If everything had been above board, no gouging, cheating, or taking advantage of others it would still have made Christ angry. That’s because this whole market was set up in the only place where non-Jews could hope to hear the law taught, the Court of the Gentiles.
Christ is opposed to any and all actions which interfere with others hearing of the Father’s love. So, he gets angry, and starts trouble. He overturns tables; he grabs some cords and starts driving the animals and sellers from the stalls. A place of worship and prayer had become a place of crowds and noise. Those hawking their animals, the bargaining, oxen, sheep and the rest made it impossible for anyone, let alone a Gentile, to hear God’s word. When the Pharisees’ come at Jesus for what he’s done he simply foretells his death and resurrection.
Christ also answers his critics and declares His authority by prophesying about what was to come. Henry Nouwen wrote,
"The resurrection of Jesus is a hidden event. Jesus didn’t rise from the dead to prove to those who had crucified him that they had made a mistake, or confound his opponents. Nor did he rise to impress the rulers of his time or to force anyone to believe. Jesus’ resurrection was the full affirmation of his Father’s love."
Jesus, this full affirmation, becomes the way that all can hear of God’s love. In Christ there is no need for a "Court of the Gentiles" for the world, and Christ’s church becomes both the place and the message of a God who forgives, redeems and transforms.
His death and resurrection sweeps away all hindrances to God’s love and breathes new life into dead people. When our world seeks to set up false Madoff like messiahs, ruinous roads to a futile salvation, or tests of faith that go beyond the clear understanding and meaning of God’s Word we have become no better than those sellers and moneychangers in the temple.
Don’t get me wrong, Jesus is the ONLY way anyone can enter into the kingdom of God. And although Jesus is the only way, there are varieties of paths which lead individuals to the place where the Holy Spirit enables and causes their faith to take hold. The "Court of the Gentiles" was one such place. Today you may well read of Muslims coming to faith through dreams of Jesus supplanting Muhammad and of intellectuals reasoning them into a place where they were forced to deal with the claims of Jesus.
I can’t wait to see how they end the film Voyage of the Dawn Treader for Lewis’ book is blatantly Christian. I am sure many will attack it if they are true to the ending.