Summary: The cleansing of the temple gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ character that is often overlooked or even denied. We see the Real Jesus in his confrontation with the money changers just as surely as in His compassion toward the weak.
The Real Jesus Takes Charge
Fortifying the Foundations # 6
Please turn in your Bible to John 2:12. This morning we come the amazing story of Jesus cleansing the temple—driving out the moneychangers and those who were selling sacrificial animals in the Court of the Gentiles. There were actually two times when Jesus cleansed the temple—the occasion in our text which occurred at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the occasion recorded in the synoptic gospels which happened at the end of His ministry. Both were prophetic statements to Israel. The first was the declaration that Messiah had suddenly come to His temple. The second was that Israel had rejected Messiah and her house would be left to her desolate.
I remember as a kid watching a game show program on TV called “To Tell the Truth.” Three individuals would present themselves to the celebrity contestants and answer questions. Then the contestants would guess who was the real individual being portrayed. The show host would reveal the real person by saying, “Would the real John Doe please stand up.” The three individuals would move in such a way where for a moment you couldn’t tell which was about to stand. Then when the real John Doe stood many times there was a gasp and shock amongst the contestants because he would not be the one they thought he was.
Perhaps in his gospel John is saying, “Now would the real Jesus please stand up?”
Today in our text the real Jesus stands before us and He is not what many people think He is. Would the meek and mild Jesus that our Sunday School teacher told us about make a whip and drive people out of the house of God? Last week in our study of the Wedding at Cana we saw a Jesus that doesn’t fit some people’s concept of Christ. Would the real Jesus spend time at a lighthearted wedding and turn water into wine? Jesus came to show us the Father. In Jesus we see what God is like. How we understand Jesus is of paramount importance to our Christian life. Why? Because He is our example and the way we understand Him is the way we will try to be.
Every one of us have come here today with some kind of picture in our minds of what Jesus is like. That picture is at best incomplete and imperfect. Even Paul, the great Apostle, says in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ…” We are all in a process of knowing Him better, of maturing in our understanding of Him. It is extremely important that all of us, no matter what our concept of Jesus is right now, allow the inspired word of God as a whole to inform our understanding of Jesus. The temptation is to come to God’s word with a preconceived idea of what Jesus is like and then discount those passages that don’t fit that concept. Will I try to shape an interpretation of God’s word to fit my image of Jesus or will I allow God’s word to shape and mold my understanding of Him?
What is Jesus really like? Is He the fun loving hippie that many in my generation imagined during the Jesus Movement? As a reaction to the stoic, solemn portrayal of Jesus that legalistic Christianity had given us, many coming out of the Hippie Movement in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s decided Jesus was a lot like them—just a guy with little purpose hanging around with His buddies having a good time. When one of my friends experienced Christ he trimmed his beard and combed his hair just like one of the popular pictures of Jesus. He wore clothes like the ones he imagined Jesus wore and topped it all off with sandals. That was his sincere effort to be like Jesus. Of course, the institutionalized religion that many had come out of showed Jesus at the other extreme—never cracking a smile, always at least a little disappointed in everybody including the disciples.