Summary: how Jesus cleansed the temple and paved the way for our salvation

March 23, 2003 John 2:13-22

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

What is it that bothers you most about politicians? One thing that bothers me is how the candidates try to appeal to everyone - and in the process try to tip toe around the issues. For once I wish the candidates would just say, “this is what I believe. Deal with it!” But that doesn’t happen too often anywhere any more. It seems that since everyone is so afraid of getting sued or offending anyone that we have become afraid to say anything. Isn’t it refreshing then, to see Jesus take an opposite approach in today’s text?

It is Refreshing to See the Zeal of Jesus

I. For God’s house

I used to go to a very large church back in Wisconsin with about 500 members. It was a huge brick church - a very long church. I can recall several times getting irritated with my parents for choosing to sit in the back, especially when children were crying. Here we had all kinds of room up front to sit, but they had to sit in back. The church also used to have these huge brick pillars. Occasionally I would get stuck behind one of those pillars. Imagine spending a whole worship service behind a brick pillar. Not exactly a great way to worship. Those were the two main distractions to my worship.

Imagine if you had come to worship this morning, and Farmer Fred brought his cow. It’s calving season, so he figured he could just put old Bessie in back and keep a closer eye on her. Or imagine if little Sensitive Susie couldn’t bear to leave her pet dog at home - so she decided to bring it to church with her. Then imagine if Businessman Bill couldn’t keep his eyes off of the stock market - so he had to bring his laptop computer to plug into the outlet - making sure that he could keep up on the prices. Imagine what a scene that would be!

That’s basically what Jesus encountered at Jerusalem! It was the time of the Passover - one of the three annual festivals - where all of the Jews came back to Jerusalem to celebrate. It was a time to remember the great deliverance that God had granted the Israelites in the Exodus. It was a time to look forward to the sacrifice of the Savior that was to come. Then someone got the wise idea, “since all these foreigners need ceremonially clean sheep, doves, and cows, why not set up a market right at the temple?” There were cows and sheep penned up right in the house of God - with the smell of manure running rampant - the lowing of the cattle, the cooing of the doves, and the baaing of the sheep.

Another thing. Many of the Jewish pilgrims used their Passover visit as the time to pay their annual temple tax, which the temple authorities insisted had to be paid with a certain silver half shekel coin (since the money they brought had heathen inscriptions on it). And so Jewish moneychangers set up shop right in the temple, where for a price they would exchange the Roman coins you had in your pocket for the silver coin of the temple. How in the world could anyone concentrate on a worship service with cows and sheep running around, not to mention money changers haggling for a better price?

But something else bothered Jesus even more. Do you remember what God told Moses when he approached the burning bush? “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” God wanted Moses to have a sense of reverence and awe - for he was standing on holy ground! Yet here they were allowing cows to run rampant on God’s holy ground! The teachers of the Law were allowing money changers to use God’s house as a means for personal gain. They had turned his house into a den of robbers. What was worse was that nobody did anything about it! They were more concerned about the bottom line - what will make money! What will be easiest for the visitors! They never thought to ask, “what will give glory to God!”

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