Summary: Jesus is the one sent by God, who is the only way to God. All previous institutions, customs and feasts lose meaning in the presence of Jesus.
In Jesus Holy Name March 19, 2006
Text – John 2:14-21 Lent III – Redeemer
“God Came Near – No One Noticed”
When we open the pages in the Gospel of John, the first miracle that John records, finds Jesus changing water into wine. After a few days Jesus and his extended entourage travels to Jerusalem for the Passover. This is where our text begins today.
John wraps the historical realities with a theological message he wants us to see and know.
The stone water jars at the wedding feast were meant for the Jewish religious rite of purification. Jesus replaces this water with the most wonderful wine to touch the lips and flow over taste buds that could only respond….ahhhh! You can not experience the word without seeing a smile.
This replacement is a sign of who Jesus really is, namely the one went by the Father who is now the only way to the Father. All previous institutions, customs and feast lose meaning in the presence of Jesus.
(Max Lucado in his book “God Came Near” describes the follow scene.)
“The noise and bustle began earlier than usual in the village. As night gave way to dawn, people were already in the streets. Vendors were moving to the most heavily traveled avenues, taking up their corner locations. Store owners were unlocking doors to their shops. Children were awakened by barking dogs and the complaints of donkeys pulling carts.
The owner of the inn had awakened earlier than most. After all the inn was full, beds taken. Soon there would be lots of work to do. At breakfast did the inn keeper and his family mention the arrival of the young couple the night before? Did anyone ask about their welfare? Did anyone comment on the pregnancy of the girl on the donkey? Nothing unusual, several families had been turned away that night.
Everyone was busy. Bread had to be made. Morning chores had to be done. The economy was booming, thanks to Augustus. There was too much happening to imagine that the impossible had happened.
God had entered the world as a baby. Only a few really noticed.
This baby had overlooked the universe. These wool rags, made by human hands, kept the Creator of the universe, warm. His golden throne had been abandoned for a stable.
The merchants are unaware that God was in their midst. The innkeeper could not imagine that he had just sent God into the cold.”
And so he comes. It was the time for the Passover. His steps take him to the edge of the Temple complex in Jerusalem. The water for purification flows over his feet. Each step carries him up the limestone stairs, placed there years ago by Herod’s masons.
Pilgrims and merchants jostled each other. Jesus and the disciples climb the stairs. An opening of white light is their destination. On the temple platform they are greeted by brilliant glare as the sun reflects from the limestone walls. The chatter of voices, the hawking of merchants selling doves and sheep compete for the worship of God.
Festivals always made the merchants rich. Coins of nations had to be changed into Jewish coin, for a price, of course.
God had entered His temple and no one noticed.
How could one worship with the bleating of sheep, the mass of people competing for space and coin?
“So he made a whip out of cords and drove them out, the money changers and merchants with their wares. He overturned their tables.” “Get out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market.”
Then the Jews (probably the priests and religious authorities) demanded: “Who gave you this authority? What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority?” Who was he to derail their worship, their income?
And so the verbal exchange begins. If we listen carefully we will John’s theological message.
V 14 In the temple courts. The Greek word for temple used by John means the “temple complex”. In v 19 when Jesus says: “Destroy this temple”. He used a different Greek word which should be translated “shrine.”
I was not there, but I wonder…when Jesus said, “Destroy this shrine”, did he point to his body? Or the white limestone building which house the “holy of holies”, the place where, in the Jewish mind, God chose to dwell.” (See I Kings 8:10-11)
The Jewish authorities reply: “It has taken 46 years to build this “shrine” and you are going to raise it in 3 days?” The sneering laughter echoes off the walls, filling the silence.
John with his mind set on theology tells us what they chose not to hear. “The shrine he had spoken of was his body.”
“Jesus is the one sent by the Father to bring salvation to the world. He, himself replaces the now polluted Jewish institutions, customs and feasts.” God had entered his temple. The Holy of Holies, where on the Day of Atonement blood was sprinkled and the forgiveness of God proclaimed is being replaced.