Consume or Worship
Gospel of John Series
CCCAG March 4th, 2018
Scripture- John 2:13-22
How many people here had a dad that was the disciplinarian of the house? The most dreaded words your mom could ever say is “Wait until your dad gets home!”
That was a horrible thing to do to me. Not only am I going to get a wupping, but now I have to watch the clock for several hours. I know at 445 my dad is going to come through the door grumpy from fixing cars all day, and now he is going to hear that I’ve been bad and give me a spanking.
My dad was all Clint Eastwood about it too. You remember that old Western, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?
I’d be playing in my room, all the sudden My dad would show up at my door all in shadow- little cigar in his teeth.
(Whistle theme) HE would reach down to his belt and undo it, slowly pulling it off his pants (make sound). Then he would fold his belt in half, then pull it tight suddenly to make that smacking sound. Then the lecture came, and then a couple of whacks with the belt to make the lesson stick.
A good father is one that demands respect from his children, and ideally is one that earns that respect. God is a good father. He demands respect and has done everything HE can to earn it. Therefore, when it comes to how we approach HIM, and how we worship HIM, it matters how we do it.
In the biblical account we are about to read, Jesus enters into the temple on one of the most Holy Days in Judaism’s calendar. In ancient Judaism, the temple is the center of worship- everything revolves around coming there to worship. It doesn’t matter if you live 100’s of miles away, you come to the temple on this day and worshipped God.
Jesus, being a faithful and observant Jewish man, comes to the temple as required. This is not the first time he has been to temple- it’s about 30 years old so He has come every year since Joseph brought the family back to Nazareth so He knows what to expect.
However, this time He is coming as Messiah- the Son of God, and looks at what is happening in God’s house, and reacts strongly to it.
In essence, daddy is home, and he is not pleased
We are going to watch a visual representation which follow’s the scripture from the movie, “The Gospel of John”
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people 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 courts, 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! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 The Jews then responded to him, “What 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 They 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.
The Jewish system of worship was very exact in it’s requirements. Passover had several requirements that had to be done according to the Law of Moses to be acceptable in God’s sight.
We are going to quickly review those requirements this morning to begin to understand Jesus’ reaction to what He saw.
I. Prescribed Worship
The central regulations for Passover worship are found in Deut 16, and we will focus on verse 2 as it relates to what Jesus was reacting against-
Deut 16: 2 Sacrifice as the Passover to the Lord your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the Lord will choose as a dwelling for his Name.
Let’s break this down-
A. An animal from your flock
Virtually all Jewish families had some type of livestock, even if they lived in a city. The would have chickens, goats, sheep out back to supply a constant supply of food for the family. They would breed these animals to get more animals, and either eat or sell off the ones they didn’t need.
Whenever the animals had a litter, they would pay very close attention to the babies as they were born. They would concentrate on the first born-If they found one that didn’t have any obvious imperfections- no spots on it’s fur, no disabilities or disfigurements, and no injuries from the birth- they would immediately segregate that animal from the others. They would allow it to nurse only under strict supervision and away from the others in its litter. They would constantly groom it, constantly care for it, and constantly make sure it was safe and healthy. In many ways, this animal was more like a beloved family pet then it was “just another animal out back”
As the animal grew they would feed it only the best of the food, protect it from harm or injury, and make sure that nothing marred it’s coat and that it remained pristine until the time of the Passover.
The reason the law was so exacting about the care of the Passover lamb was so that their worship of God wasn’t just a once a year thing. Worship was something that had to occupy a significant part of every day of their lives, assuring that their focus would remain on God and His worthiness to receive their absolute best.
That was the first part- a worthy animal from your own flock or herd.
God also said that this act of worship had to happen at a specific spot- the temple in Jerusalem.
Why? A person coming from Jesus’ native area, Galilee, would have to carry this animal over rocky terrain, through at least 2 river fording’s, in danger of being robbed or killed along the way by the bandits that were everywhere during that time?
Why would God require such a thing from His people?
1. To experience cooperate worship
Promise Keepers experience
There is something about the experience of corporate worship with God’s people that changes you. That is why church attendance is so important.
That corporate worship was not just a benefit for the worshipper, but served as a witness to the Glory of God to the unbeliever, which is the reason the temple was there- to serve as a visual representation of the Glory of God
Another reason was to-
2. To pay the temple tax.
All Jewish males over the age of 19 had a responsibility to support the priesthood and ALL the operations of the temple in keeping with the economic station in life. That’s what the tithe- 10% of their income was for, but when you add up all the tithes and offerings they were responsible for bringing over the course of a year, it added up to about 26.5% of their income. Often, this was paid at Passover when God required them to be there anyway.
The last reason God called them to travel to the temple
3. Passover is the midpoint of the Jewish Year
There were two times a year Jews were required to come to the temple. First is Passover in the spring, second was during Yom Kippur in the fall.
Yom Kippur is the Jewish day of atonement when they fasted and prayed for forgiveness, and the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies to sacrifice an animal on behalf of the enter nation for the forgiveness of their sin. Passover served as a midway point to keep people Spiritually on track during the year. It didn’t mean they could not come any other time, but they were required to show up at temple these two times.
That the what and the why behind the Passover regulations, so now let’s look at the
II. The problem that drove Jesus into a rage
Keep in mind all of these regulations and rules regarding Passover worship, and now think of the Son of God-Jesus the long-awaited Messiah walking into the outskirts of the temple. Jesus is hoping to see joyful, expectant worshippers- happy to come to temple and experience Father God.
Does He see expectant, joyful worshippers?
No, He sees the animals for sale, the money changers, the tax collectors all crowding out areas reserved for worship. The worst part- All of this was approved and even managed by the temple leadership.
Why did Jesus go full hulk on these people?
You see, the reason this market existed was because the people coming to the temple had gotten lazy. They didn’t want to go through the trouble of raising some lamb from birth to one year of age, and then have to carry it miles upon miles to Jerusalem to offer it to God.
So some local businessmen, seeing an opportunity, decided to open a few stalls of acceptable animals for sale.
The message being sent to the people was this- you didn’t have to go through all that trouble raising a lamb from birth to one year of age is hard work- we will do it for you, for a price. Why should you be inconvenienced when we can do your worship for you?
Oh, and Mr High Priest, I know that is a small violation of God’s law concerning Passover, but here is a little money on the side you can use for your ministry.
For the people- Good deal, right? Except most commentators and historians put the markup at 300-500% of what that animal would normally cost. Think of what that did for a poor family. A bit unjust isn’t it?
What happens if a person was actually obedient and raised this lamb and brought it to the temple- guess who first inspected it? The guys selling the animals.
“I’m sorry but this lamb doesn’t meet the specifications of the temple, but I have a wide selection of acceptable lambs here for sale that have already passed inspection. Just buy one from me- at 3-500% markup. Tell you what, I’ll give you a discount- trade me your animal and give me it’s worth in money and we will call it even.” The Animal that didn’t meet temple specifications goes into the merchants pen and is sold to the next person in line.
Do you think this is a Conflict of interest and a system ripe for corruption and for just cheating people?
Not only that, when you went to buy the animal you were told
Oh, and I’m sorry, you are from Galilee- we can’t accept your Roman Currency for these animals, or your temple tax, or your tithe- Caesar’s picture is on that coin and he is worshipped as a God by the Romans and we can’t have that in our temple, so you will have to go over to the money changers and exchange that currency for temple currency.
The exchange rates there were ridiculously high. To say they got penny’s on the dollar is not an exaggeration.
The worst part of all of this? I hinted at it before- ALL OF THIS WAS DONE WITH THE PERMISSION AND SUPERVISION OF THE PRIESTHOOD. They were fleecing God’s people for the right to worship God.
And you wonder why Jesus went full on fight club here
All of this started because the people didn’t want the inconvenience of proper worship.
They had a consumer mentality when it came to their spirituality. A consumer mentality says I want it my way, in my time, according to my preference. If you can’t give it to me, I’ll find somewhere else to go.
Sound familiar? In the last 20 years or so, this has become American Christianity.
About 8 years ago flyers started showing up in people’s mailboxes in Kenosha. These flyers were slick- not something that came out of a church office but something done by a professional marketing company.
It was a high gloss, professionally done picture of a presumably married couple jumping up and down on a bed and had the title, “The Joy of Sex”
You turned the flyer over, and it was an advertisement for a startup church coming to town.
“We are the church for the people who don’t like church. 55 minutes in and out- guaranteed. Loud music, Free coffee, snacks, and safe programs for your kids. We guarantee- You will never be made to feel uncomfortable”
Their first Sunday, over 900 people showed up, and every other church in the city saw it’s lowest attendance figures for the year.
Consumer church at it’s finest.
Everyone wants to pick on the religious leaders of Jesus’ day for their hypocrisy, and much of the criticism is deserved, no doubt.
But what about the people? No one really considers that perhaps the priests were under pressure from the people to change things to make it easier on them.
Yesterday I read a social media post from a pastor who just got hired by a church. First board meeting- the board told him he has 2 years to double church attendance or they were finding someone else.
Today pastors face church boards (thankfully not ours) demanding that they grow the church. Many pastors face ultimatums, “Be at this number by next year, or we will look for someone who can get us there”
So the temptation to compromise a little is huge in today’s church- and many church’s and even whole denominations have gone down that road. Most pastors have no other marketable skills other than a theology degree, they have families and mortgages like anyone else, so they have to bend a little to the will of the people.
What happens is slowly those people go from worshipping God, to being consumers of a religion. repeat
Listen, it would be very easy, even here in Trempealeau County- the Mecca of Lutheran religion in Western Wisconsin, to grow a non-denominational or even an AG church.
Let me show you how- (Intro Video)
Hire a professional marketing team to do our ads. 20,000 mailers going out every week for a month to every house in the county.
Let people be greeted by paid, professional greeters that make them feel special and hand them free Starbucks Coffee as they come in.
Let me hire a professional worship band that plays really loud music with little spiritual depth but really high emotional content.
Let’s turn the lights down and use lightening and fog machines to set a mood. Let people just sit down during worship and watch, don’t encourage participation.
We will get a creative graphics team to make the projection pop. 3D graphics and holograms. Don’t laugh- church’s are doing just that.
A team together to water down the sermons to a self-help lecture lasting 12 minutes
Our attendance will be in the 100’s in a year.
But then we will have to face a whipping swinging Jesus, and me in particular.
Jesus reaction to the condition of the temple in his day is was as much an indictment on the worshipper as it was the people taking advantage of the laziness of the worshipper.
I want to end this morning with what I think angered Jesus the most.
Landing Strip- It’s where it happened that angered Jesus the most- Court of the Gentiles
Within the Jewish Temple, you had several areas-
The inner most part and most important part of the temple was the Holy of Holies- the area that was hidden behind the curtain that contained the ark of the Covenant. Only the high priest could enter it and only once per year.
Then you had the Holy Place- only the priests could enter the Holy Place for prayer and service
Then you had the court of men- only people of proven Jewish heritage who had been through Bar Mitzvah (Son/Daughter of the law-their catechism or confirmation) could enter there.
Then you had the court of woman. Only woman of proven Jewish descent who had received Bat Mitzvah could enter there for worship.
Then you had the court of the Gentiles.
The court of the Gentiles was the place in the temple that existed for the person who didn’t know God but wanted to worship Him and learn about Him. The priests and teachers of the law would often speak there to the unbeliever as to lead them into relationship with God.
The court of the Gentiles is where all this mess with the animals, money changers, and tax collectors was taking place. So the first thing a person seeking God saw upon entering the temple was people being fleeced for money in the name of their faith.
Do you now understand Jesus’ rage.
“Zeal for your House will consume me”
We have talked a lot about the Jewish temple, so let’s bring it home to us-
Let’s all stand
Neither the temple nor this church doesn’t exist those in attendance this morning or those who call us their church home
It exists for them (point outside the walls)
This church exists as a testimony to the Goodness of God, and His faithfulness to this community.
In order for God’s spirit to move in our midst and to bring in a harvest, we need to be worshipping Christians, and not consumer Christians.
A consumer Christian asks the questions- “What can I get out of this with the least amount of effort or cost to me?”
A worshipping Christian says “How can I use what God has given me in time, talent or treasure to see His Kingdom Come in my family, my neighbors, my workplace or my community?”
I ask you this morning- Are you a consumer, or a worshipper?
This is a hard message, but it’s the only event in the Gospels where Jesus gets angry and physically violent, so it behooves us to ask why.
If Jesus were to step to the stage today and immediately bring every deed into judgement regarding both or private and our church’s worship, would he be standing with a whip, or a reward for our church family?
This morning during announcements I gave several ways we need people to get involved.