Based On: John 2:13-22
It is time again to say thank you to all of those who helped my family move to Sleepy Eye. It was nice to have people carry boxes to the place they needed to go. Not just nice, it was fabulous. Everything was approximately where it needed to be and you could still walk through the house without too much trouble. We have moved several times and it isn’t always this way. I remember one move where most of the boxes ended up in the living room. You could barely get through the living room and let’s not even talk about trying to actually find anything in the living room.
Now why am I talking about this? As I read about Jesus clearing the temple and as I understood why he drove the merchants out I began to think about all those boxes in the living room several years ago. You will begin to see the connection as we talk about why Jesus so forcefully removed those merchants from the temple.
Jesus was going to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. He was going to worship his heavenly Father in the way that God had directed the Israelites. Think about that. The temple was the symbol of God’s presence among his people. Now the fulfillment of all that the temple represented was entering the temple courts to worship. This is “Immanuel” – God with us – walking with other worshipers into the temple.
What does he find in some of the courts surrounding the temple? A cacophony of animals making noise and merchants haggling with customers. With these surroundings you couldn’t meditate, pray, or listen to someone teach. This place of worship had been turned into a marketplace. Perhaps not as bad as Wal-mart on the day after Thanksgiving, but certainly not a quiet sanctuary.
Jesus drove them out not just because it was disrespectful, not just because the merchants were cheating the worshipers, not just because the animals were making a mess in the temple area, but because all of this was a distraction to the real purpose of the temple – to teach people about God. It was like all those boxes filling the living room and preventing you from getting the one thing you really need. Jesus had to clear the room so that his purpose and the purpose of the temple could be accomplished.
As you can imagine this event attracted some attention. John writes about two different reactions. First, the Jewish leaders were not pleased and challenged the authority of Jesus to do this. Of course, they were the ones who allowed the merchants to be there in the first place. These Jewish leaders were the kind of people who wanted others to think they were worshiping God, perhaps thought they were serving God, but were instead following their own rules. They were not willing to hear what God’s Word actually said to them. This bold action of Jesus threatened to change their comfortable way of life.
We see the other reaction to this event in the disciples. They saw what Jesus did and remembered what the Scriptures said about the Messiah. They remembered Psalm 69 which said “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Through the gift of faith they saw what Jesus did and recognized the hand of God. It changed their lives.
Let’s shift away from this part of our Savior’s life for a moment. Did you know there is another temple Jesus cleaned out? It is the temple of your heart. In baptism he told Satan to leave and drove out all your sins. He used his own blood to wash you clean from their filth so that you could hear what God had to say to you. He cleared out of that temple the things that got in the way of learning about God’s love for you.
But what is our problem? We keep inviting those distractions back into our hearts, don’t we? The sin, the obstacles to hearing God’s Word – we allow those merchants of death to set up shop in our heart.
Let’s look at one aspect of this Consider your relationship to God’s Word outside of Sunday morning worship. Do you regularly read God’s Word or have a devotion? If you do, wonderful. It will strengthen your connection to your Savior and it will continue to change your life like it did for the disciples. If not, why not? Do work or hobbies fill your life so that there is no time left? Is it the dangerous idea that you are doing just fine the way you are? Maybe, like those Jewish leaders, you are afraid of the change God’s Word will produce in your life. Whatever the reason, it is like filling the living room with boxes so that when Jesus comes to the front door you can’t reach it.
Now we take another look at why Jesus cleared the merchants out of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus went to the temple to worship. He cleared the temple so that he and others around him could worship God properly. But that was not all. He also went there for us to do perfectly what we often fail to do. His actions to remove the obstacles to worshiping and listening to God’s Word – they count as our actions. His act of worship counts as ours. His death on the cross also counts for you. The proof of his authority to do these things comes on the third day after those religious leaders destroyed the temple of his body – he raised himself back to life.
God made you his holy temple. Through his Holy Word he speaks to you and you worship him when you listen to his words. For our own sake we ask God to help us keep the distractions and obstacles out of our hearts.