Note to New Readers: On Sunday Pastor Yolanda posts her Sunday sermon! Monday-Saturday she offers a very short devotion or meditation! God Bless You!
Third Sunday in Lent
John 2:13-22 (NRSV)
The cleansing of the temple
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
In today’s scripture Jesus goes up to Jerusalem in order to celebrate Passover. Passover is a Jewish religious holy-day in which the Hebrew people remember their supernatural deliverance from enslavement in Egypt, when the Spirit of God killed every first born child of the Egyptians, but “passed over” the homes of the Jewish people who had the “blood of a lamb” painted over their doors. This miracle was—and is—considered by those of the Jewish faith to be worthy of commemoration every single year as it was the means of their liberation from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh and his people.
Jesus, being a good Jewish man, headed to Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Passover appropriately. But, when he got to the temple, he was shocked to find that his way to worship was obstructed by the many people who were selling animals for sacrifice and changing money for the worshippers. Upon seeing this Jesus “freaked out!” He fashioned a whip and began to drive these people out of the temple, whilst simultaneously overturning their tables and shouting, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” When Jesus was called to account for his indignant behavior he said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” At this point I am sure there were many who probably thought that Jesus had lost his “ever-loving mind.” But, what do we say today? Why was Jesus so angry?
Well, I cannot claim to know the mind of God, but I can make some educated guesses based on my relationship with Jesus. First of all, it seems to me that any obstruction to worship cannot possibly please God. It is very clear to me that God loves us and that God loves all of us equally. It doesn’t matter if we are rich or poor, old or young, black or white; God wants all of us to come before God in unfettered worship; as we worship, we steadfastly fix our eyes on Our Beloved, without obstacle and without distractions.
It is a sad fact that many people place obstacles/distractions in the path of people’s desire to worship God. It is almost as if you need to purchase a “ticket” to get into some places of worship! For example, I am sure that we all know of communities of faith where everyone present dresses a certain way, ascribes to a certain political philosophy, shares the same socio-economic class, and descend from the same continent.
Although there are no visible signs which read “our kind only,” the message is subtly conveyed when an “outsider” dares to enter. I have actually been in churches where people have refused to shake a visitors hand or share a pew with them because they did not belong. How this must grieve the heart of Jesus! It must have hurt him to his core to see the “outsiders” standing around the temple--the ones who did not possess a “ticket,” the ones who could not afford even a small dove, the ones who were too ashamed to press into the place of worship for fear of the judgmental eyes of others!
Secondly, I believe Jesus was angry because the animal sellers and the money changers were propping up the status quo, whilst simultaneously and selfishly taking advantage of people’s fear of condemnation, in order to enlarge their own pocketbooks.
See, the status quo taught that you must know and fulfill the Ten Commandments (e.g., The Law) and if you couldn’t then you must make it right by buying an animal and making a sacrifice. While this was the law as given to Moses by God, I cannot imagine that the Ten Commandments--and the prescribed sacrifices--were ever intended to serve as a “get out of jail free card” for God’s chosen people.
Instead, I believe that The Law was established to vividly illustrate to God’s people that there was no way that they could ever hope to live holy apart from God and God’s grace! The Ten Commandments are comprehensive. They address our relationship with God and with other people. They make it clear to me (on my more humble days) that I absolutely, positively need God’s Amazing Grace on a daily basis in order to get right—and stay right--with God.
See, the Law was not meant to remain sterile and inanimate rules on a page! Instead, it is meant to bring people into a loving relationship with their living God! It is meant to gently show us how short we fall of God’s very high holiness standards. It is meant to be the means by which we are able to articulate the need to love God and neighbor and the vehicle that will drive us into the arms of our loving God for forgiveness and grace when we do not!
Jesus knew all of this! Jesus knew the real purpose of the Law and it probably devastated and enraged him to see people standing in line waiting to “purchase” their salvation. It probably pained him in his heart to see the people—young and old, rich and poor, saint and sinner, standing in line, some of them clutching the very last pennies they possessed, hoping to buy dove, sheep, or cattle that would secure their peace with God. To this Jesus shouted, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
Isn’t it ironic that we don’t often think of Jesus as angry? We are much more comfortable with the image of baby Jesus swaddled in the manger or meek and lowly Jesus dying upon the cross. I believe this is because we associate all anger with sin; but Jesus did not sin. So it is possible to be angry apart from sin; this is called righteous indignation. Any time we become angry for the sake of God, Gospel, Good News, justice or mercy, we are righteously indignant. Any time we become angry on behalf of the poor, the exploited, the suffering, or the ashamed, we are righteously indignant! Now be careful my friends! Don’t use this as an excuse to vent your unholy temper on other people. Remember, righteous indignation is always rooted in true love of God and neighbor!
Today, I can hear Jesus shouting to us in righteous indignation! Can’t you just hear him saying, “Stop thinking that if you work enough hours, you can be made right with God! Stop thinking that if you earn enough money, you can be made right with God! Stop thinking that if you just carry out the rituals of your church to perfection, you can be made right with God! Stop thinking that if you just give your three hours of week at the soup kitchen (because you feel you have to), you will be made right with God! Stop thinking that you can substitute bypass a personal relationship with God! It will not work! It cannot work! I will not allow it to work! I WANT YOUR HEART…I WANT A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU!”
My! My! That was what the Law was all about—establishing relationship. But, human beings in our ignorance, vanity, and/or pride have tried to make believe that we can actually fulfill the Law by ourselves and that we don’t need God to do it! Oh my! What a prescription for disaster!
Finally, I believe that Jesus was angry because he knew that HE was The Temple, the place, the one, to whom people needed to come to receive forgiveness and grace. He knew that in just a little while he would take the long hard march to Calvary to die on an old rugged cross in order to become the penultimate blood sacrifice which would take away the sins of the world. Jesus knew that his day was soon coming when he would be slaughtered upon an instrument of torture baring the sin of the entire world upon his frame. Jesus knew that we could not fulfill The Law so God introduced salvation by way of The Cross.
I love Paul’s message about the cross. He says in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Isn’t it just amazing that God—All-Powerful and All-Mighty—chose to reveal God’s self to us in the foolishness, suffering, humiliation, and shame of the old rugged cross?
Now, all of this might have been on Jesus’ mind when he said in explanation of his bizarre behavior, “Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days!” The people thought he was speaking of a physical space, but he was speaking of his own body.
Jesus did die on an old rugged cross for you and for me, but the GOOD NEWS is, he didn’t stay dead! He was resurrected just as he promised! Because Jesus lives there is now no obstruction to worship. Because Jesus lives we can boldly approach the Throne of Grace. Because Jesus lives we can rest in the blessed assurance that Jesus has already paid the price for our salvation. Because Jesus lives there is now no condemnation as we walk by His side. Because Jesus lives, we are now no longer slaves to sin, but we have been set free by the Blood of the Lamb!
One of my favorite songs as a little girl was, “Because He Lives!” In it the lyricist writes,
“God sent His Son - they called Him Jesus, He came to love, heal and forgive; He lived and died to buy my pardon, An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives. Because He lives I can face tomorrow, Because He lives all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future And life is worth the living just because He lives!”
How can you share the GOOD NEWS that Jesus lives with someone standing alone, ostracized and outside of the walls of the church?
Loving God thank you that you have cleared the path to worship by helping us to realize that we can never fulfill The Law apart from you! Thank you that you lived and died fulfilling the requirement of The Law for blood sacrifice to atone for sin. Please help me to do my best to love God and love neighbor, but when I fail, help me to come running to you confessing my sin and receiving your forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Good News has now added a prayer ministry. If you have a prayer request or praise report, or would like to pray for others, please click the link found under my profile picture. You can also access the prayer site directly at http://www.kindlejoy.com/groups/goodnews.
The Good News Living Book Club will be reading Hinds Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard during March. You can purchase the book by clicking the link to the right. Please mark your calendars for our very first book club meeting to be held on Saturday, March 28, 2009, at 9:00am.
from Pastor Yolanda's blog http://aintathatgoodnews.blogspot.com