John 2: 13-25: Jesus clears the Temple
This morning's Gospel reading blows a hole in our comfortable view of Jesus being "Gentle Jesus meek and mild.".
He was anything else but meek and mild
This morning we see Jesus clearing the money changers out of the Temple.
We read in verse 15 how he made a whip of chords to drive them out and said:
"How dare you turn my Father's house into a market".
Why was Jesus so violent?
I was always taught that being angry and using force is wrong. But is that correct?.
Can you imagine Jesus getting anywhere by going up to the moneylenders coughing discretely and saying:
"Excuse me, fellows - this is mean to be a house of prayer not a street market. Would you mind closing up shop and moving on!"
No, he would have been laughed out of court.
It needed firmer action.
You see I don't believe Jesus was out of control - but the money changers needed firm encouragement to leave.
I believe that Jesus shows us that there are occassions when we can be angry.
And there are times when we have to take physical action.
Story: I have the utmost respect for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Liberal theologian who felt that Hitler was so evil that he had to join the conspiracy to physically kill Hitler.
Sadly the plot failed and Bonhoeffer was executed for his part in the July 1944 plot.
He prayed about whether he should take part and felt that God was calling him to join an armed conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler.
But back to our Gospel reading .
So what made Jesus so angry that he took a whip to the money changers?
1. Misuse of the Temple
The first reason was that those who claimed to be “children of God” were not living up to their calling.
They were abusing the people.
You might ask “Well, what they were doing was no worse than the Romans who taxed the people exhorbitantly.
So why didn't Jesus go and sort them out.”
But was it “no worse than the Romans”??
You see I think Jesus' anger was directed at the hypocrisy of those who called themselves God's people.
Jesus expects higher standards from people, who profess to love God and yet are living a contary lifestyle.
The Temple should have been
1.1 A place to pray
This passage from John’s Gospel does not tell us expressis verbis what Jesus thought about what the true use of the Temple should have been.
But if look in the Synoptic Gospels to another time when Jesus cleansed the Temple, we see what Jesus thought the Temple should be.
In Matt. 21:13 Jesus said:
It is written 'My house shall be called a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves'"
The Temple should have been a house of prayer and not a market place - a house of merchandise.
Which brought me to reflect a bit on on "Prayer".
I must confess I don't find prayer easy.
Prayer on Sunday is fine, but the Scripture teaches that we must bring God into all areas of our lives.
In other words into my life on Monday to Saturday as well.
God is interested in all aspects of my life for example
1. When expenditure exceeds income.
2.When I go for “that really fantastic” job or
3. When I or my family become ill.
I tend to be a worrier and my wife Maddy has developed a super little saying:
"Why pray when you can worry!!"
Food for thought I hope.
The second correct use of the Temple should have been
1.2 A place where God’s people could come and learn about God and how he expects us to live
The Temple should also have been a place of learning – a place where the rabbis could teach the people what God’s laws mean
I find it fascinating how Jesus did that teaching himself.
Jesus taught – how he taught that God is more interested in what goes on inside your head and heart than on mere outward obedience to the LETTER of God’s Law.
Let me explain that a bit more.
Jesus taught his disciples that for example there was far more to the Ten Commandments than simply outward show
The Commandment were there to change not only how you behave in public but also how you are to think.
For example the sixth commandment says “You shall not commit murder”,
Jesus took this to a deeper level.
In Matthew 5:21 and 22 he said
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[a] will be liable to judgment
He explained that God wants his children not only “not to murder” but to go deeper and to have a forgiving heart as well/
That was revolutionary teaching.
The third use of the Temple was as a
1.3 Place to bring sacrifices to God.
The Jews were required to bring sacrifices to God.
Why you might ask:
God required animal sacrifices to provide a temporary covering of sins and to foreshadow the perfect and complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Leviticus 4:35, 5:10).
Animal sacrifice is an important theme found throughout Scripture because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).
When Adam and Eve sinned, animals were killed by God to provide clothing for them (Genesis 3:21). Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to the Lord. Cain's was unacceptable because he brought fruit, while Abel's was acceptable because it was the “firstborn of his flock” (Genesis 4:4-5). After the flood receded, Noah sacrificed animals to God (Genesis 8:20-21).
However the priests had seen this as a good way of making money from their fellow Jews.
The temple had become a rip off zone
Let me explain:
1.3.1 The first rip of was an Abuse of Monopoly
The Priests had introduced a rule that said
you weren't allowed to sacrifice in the Temple unless you bought your animal or bird from those licensed to sell sacrificial animals and birds in the Temple Courtyard.
So of course those birds and animals were more expensive that you could buy in the street markets in Jerusalem.
1.3.2 The second rip off was the Temple Money
Any one who wanted to purchase a sacrificial animal had to do so only with Temple money which you could buy with everyday money but at an inflated rate of exchange
The pilgrim was being doubly ripped off -
1. once with the exorbitant prices required for sacrificial animals.and
2. secondly with the exchange rate.
Jesus' anger was directed at the Temple Officials because they claimed to be God's people yet they were acting no differently to the people of the world.
I believe there is a time to stand up and be counted.
Each one of us will find that place where he or she says in the words of Martin Luther:
Here I stand, I can do no other
Jesus stood up to the Temple authorities and it eventually cost him his life.
In our Gospel reading today – the passage from John 2:13-22 we see Jesus realising what standing up for God’s Truth would cost him
We see Jesus alluding to his impending death and resurrection in John 2:19 & 20 when he said.
"Destroy this Temple (meaning his own body) and I will raise it again in three days.
He realised that this collision course was going end with his death, because he knew God's purpose for his life.
Jesus summed it up well when he said in Luke 16:13
No servant 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 God and Mammon.
The Temple Officials loved money so much that they served it rather than God, yet gave to impression to the outside world that they were serving God.
Story: When God called me into the ministry I had a very well paid job.
I struggled with the call particularly as I was worried if I could survive on a much lower salary.
In the end I knew that God was asking the question:
“Which master will I serve?”
In contrast to the Temple authorities' attitude Jesus asks his disciples in Matt 6:
Why do you worry about what you will wear or what you will eat or what you will drink. For the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
"But seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given to you as well." (v.33)
That is a challenge to us all.