Summary: Three kinds of faith that invite the judgment of God.
March 19, 2006 Third Sunday in the Season of Lent
A side issue related to the text this morning begs our attention:
• How can an angry Jesus, whipping the money-changers, be the loving Lord we know?
At least one author has stated it this way: Spineless love is hardly love. God himself explains why He acted this way in the Jerusalem temple...
Chasten thy son while there is hope,
and let not thy soul spare for his crying.
Proverbs 19:18 (KJV)
The reason Jesus chased the people and animals from the temple was to teach the people what is right. In the same way a child must be taught what is right, God knows how to teach His children. And, we must never forget that Jesus was God in flesh!
A side issue off the side issue would be a word to parents. If chastening with the rod is good enough for the heavenly Father – don’t be mistaken – chastening your own children appropriately is an important part of disciplining! (Now that I’ve made an enemy of every child in the church, we can continue!)
And now, let us get to the main thrust of the text.
John uses a literary device which is common in today’s TV Dramas -- In Medus Res (in the middle of things). Just as a mystery will sometimes open with the most exciting scene, and then switch back to the beginning, John shows us the most dramatic confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. John depicts the great cosmic struggle between faith and unbelief.
He began with the wedding at Cana, the miracle of water changed to wine. With the change there came in his disciples a flood of belief. John then immediately thrusts us into the pungent cesspool of Jerusalem’s decomposing religious structure. We are forced to look upon the face of unbelief in its most hideous form – religious insincerity – hypocrisy.
What is so alarming about these pictures is that John is not just reporting the news of the first century A.D. He is like an artist, painting timeless portraits of humanity apart from God. He paints our souls in 13 verses. In just a few paragraphs he teaches us the kinds of faith that invite the judgment of God. He shows us where judgment begins!
I wish to point out for us this morning THREE KINDS OF FAITH THAT INVITE THE JUDGMENT OF GOD. The first kind of faith that invites the judgment of God is...
Everyone understands the bottom line of finances. A wealthy old man was very enthusiastic about his lovely young bride but sometimes wondered whether she might have just married him for his money. So he asked her: If I lost all my money, would you still love me? She immediately answered, Of course I would still love you. Don’t be silly. I love you. I would miss you, but I still love you!
As chapter 2 opens, Jesus had attended a wedding, and worked the first miracle of His earthly ministry (changing the water into wine). After a few days’ vacation, Jesus and his disciples travel to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple.
What Jesus saw was the ancient equivalent of carpetbaggers, trying to turn a quick profit at the expense of the poor who had come to worship. How did they do it? The Temple tax was important. Roman coins had Caesar’s image on it. A coin with the Roman emperor’s face was forbidden in the Temple. Roman coins had to be exchanged for Jewish script. The money exchange was big business – and therefore subject to abuse.
Suppose our Stewardship Committee met and decided we would no longer accept anything but crisp, new $50 bills in the offering plate. Then they decided the Committee members would stand at the front door to inspect the $50 bills you bring. You would have to bring your IRS 1040 form showing your income (so we could check to see if you’re really tithing), and the bills that you bring are appropriately unwrinkled or spotted. Of course they never would be good enough, but – not-to-worry; the committee chair would have a supply of nice, new crisp $50’s. The price is $100 each! (We could probably skip passing the plate)! However, at the temple in Jerusalem, THAT was precisely what was happening! The money changers were making a “killing” so-to-speak. They were raking-in huge profits in the name of religion, and driving the poor into the ground.
Jesus performed an exorcism, driving out those who were defiling the temple with their greed and dishonest practices.
Now, the whole problem with what was going on was not really the moneychangers – that was an important function. They just shouldn’t have been charging exorbitant exchange rates. The real problem was what was NOT happening.