Summary: This describes Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, and why He did it: because the leaders were making worship too hard, and too easy.
John 2:13-25 – How Much Does Worship Cost?
We started this passage this morning, but I felt as though I needed another message to give you a better idea of what was happening. This morning dealt with Jesus’ personality and response to injustice. This morning we saw that Jesus was a social reformer, an activist, someone who would stand up for the little guys.
But tonite we are looking at what it was He was fighting for. The issue is worship, and that’s what we will focus on tonite. Let’s read.
Now, let’s go over this again. This is Jesus’ 1st Passover since He was baptized, since He started His public ministry. His 2nd is in Luke 6:1, His 3rd in John 5:4, and on His last one He was crucified. He has returned to Jerusalem to offer the sacrifices for the holy day. Now, the Temple area was about 1000’ by 1500’. It took up about 35 acres of land in Jerusalem. This was a big structure.
The temple precincts were made up of four courtyards that surrounded the temple building, each decreasing in their importance to the Jewish mind. First, there was the Court of the Priests. Only the priests were allowed to enter this court. Second, there was the Court of the Israelites. This was a huge courtyard where Jewish worshippers met together for joint services on the great feast days. It was also where worshippers handed over their sacrifices to the priests. Third, there was the Court of the Women. Women were usually limited to this area except for joint worship with men on the Great Feast Days or to make a sacrifice. Last was the Court of the Gentiles. It surrounded all the other courtyards, and was the place of worship for all Gentile converts to Judaism.
Notice it was also the furthest removed from the Holy of Holies, the very center of the Temple area, which represented God’s presence.
A high wall separated the Court of the Gentiles from the other courts, so this was the closest they could come to God’s presence. There were even signs hung threatening death to any Gentile who went beyond their own courtyard.
What Jesus did was not so much clear the Temple itself, but cleared up the outer court, the place where Gentiles were supposed to be allowed t worship. The Temple was a place of worship and prayer, but the atmosphere in the courtyard was more like that at a carnival. Imagine what it would be like if we had a worship service like the Gentiles had. There is no organ music quietly playing in the background, no sound of a choir. Rather, there is the bleating of sheep, the flapping of pigeon’s wings, the ringing of cash registers, and the haggling over prices. And the smell is like a barnyard. What a way to worship.
Maybe the worst part of all is the fact that it was in the Court of the Gentiles. This was the only place that Gentiles were allowed to enter for worship. Jews might be able to get away from it all, but this market place in the Temple virtually excluded the Gentiles from worship.
And Jesus stood up to this. Jesus made His own kinsfolk angry by standing up for the outsiders. Jesus annoyed the Jews by sticking up for the Gentiles. Jesus was a rebel with a cause, a social revolutionary.
So what was the problem? Well, I want to look at 2 things that this story tells us about worship, and they are going to seem completely opposite of one another. First, this tells us that worship is not meant to be made to be too hard. And 2nd, this tells us that worship is not meant to be made too easy.
Now, the word “worship” is a little hard to define. Someone said that worship is the humble response of believers to God. It is based upon the work of God. It is achieved through the activity of God. It is directed to God. It is expressed by the lips in praise and by the life in service. Worship is what happens when a believer really sees God for who He really is. It’s not a matter of rituals and duties, though they are tied into it. Worship is what happens in the heart when a believer aims to let God know that the creature appreciates the Creator.
The Gentiles were trying to worship. They may not have gotten it right, but I don’t know if anybody actually ever does. But the shopkeepers and moneychangers were making it impossible for the Gentiles to worship. They were putting their own whims and wishes and desires and conveniences ahead of others’ needs. They were distracting and blocking other people from worship.