Summary: People can religiously get out of synch with the way that they worship as it may have deviated away from what God intended.
OUT OF SYNCH
Text: John 2:13 – 22
Joh 2:13-22 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (14) In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. (15) Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. (16) He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" (17) His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." (18) The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" (19) Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (20) The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" (21) But he was speaking of the temple of his body. (22) After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (NRSV).
At one time, a Harvard Church historian (George La Piana) made this observation: “… every religious movement passes through three stages: the ethical, the theological, the aesthetic. It begins as an instinctive moral reform; it goes on to the reflective formulation of its faith and practice; finally, it elaborates in terms of beauty its buildings and the apparatus of its worship. The last of these stages marks a point of intellectual arrest and often of incipient moral decay. The movement must be born again in a fresh reformation, primarily moral in its intention.” (George A. Buttrick ed. The interpreter’s Bible. Volume 6. Willard L. Sperry. “The Book Of Malachi: Exposition”. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1987, [Thirty-second printing], p. 1139). If you follow his train of thinking, you see it begins to make sense. Then, you begin to see how people can religiously get out of synch with the way that they worship as it may have deviated away from what God intended.
OUT OF SYNCH
There is no doubt that Jesus sees that the temple system is out of synch with what God intended in this passage of scripture (John 2:13 – 22). That is precisely why Jesus got mad.
1) Is it possible that there is an eclipse that we all have to address in our own lives? When the moon blocks out the sun, we call it an eclipse.
2) Could it be that the words of John the Baptizer in John 3:30 give us a hint when he says, “Jesus must become more and I must become less?”
The religious pilgrims were not able to authentically see where things were amiss. What was the object of their obstruction? What was blocking their path to genuine worship?
1) Recalling: The Passover (recalling how God delivered the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, see Exodus 12:1- 14) is one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest of all feasts.
2) Deviation: Over the course of time, human corruption evolved and bled into the observance of this feast.
3) Obedience: According to William Barclay, “Every adult male (over 19 yrs. old) who lived within fifteen miles of Jerusalem was bound to attend it [the Passover Feast]”. This mandate got its origins from Exodus 30:13 – 14: Exo 30:13-14 Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. (14) Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD's offering” (NKJV). Even though Jews were literally scattered all over the world, they never forgot this feast.
4) Headcount: Barclay estimates that there were possibly “two and a quarter million” who would attend this feast. That is a lot of people right?
5) Opportunity: Do you see a business opportunity to make money here? Caution! Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other. Or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24 NIV). As we know it is not the money that is evil, but the love of money that is evil (II Timothy 6:10).
Does opportunity knock only once? There is an old proverb that says that “Opportunity knocks only once.” Most of the time that is true. However, the people behind the temple tax and the sale of sacrificial animals see dollar signs in the crowd that possibly numbers “two and a quarter million people”. According to Barclay, all kinds of money were valid in Palestine but the temple tax had to be paid in either Galilean shekels or shekels of the sanctuary. Therefore, the “… foreign money which was considered unclean could be used to pay ordinary debts but not a debt to God.” Why was that such a big deal? After all, it takes money to pay the bills right?