John 2 Part 3

Resumed from part 2

 

The point here is that this particular place, this locale, should be set apart not as a place of commerce. If it was to be done it should be done elsewhere. This was the court of the Gentiles but it was still associated there with the actual temple precinct.
The main point that we want to stress is that Jesus is challenging the externalism and the outward life and the commercialism that was actually becoming so rife that it became more of a context for greed and exploitation. Do not take the sacred and render it profane. We have here not only the reforming of the old system but He’s actually abolishing it. In this context, He’s specifically denouncing fraudulence of moneychangers and He’s also objecting to any business at all that’s being transacted in the temple.
They don’t question what He’s doing. It’s almost like they sheepishly acknowledge that there’s something correct and right about what He’s doing. He’s the first one to stand up to what everyone knew was an increasingly corrupted system. Indeed, in Mark’s account of the later cleansing (if we take it that way) Jesus recalls that the temple had been intended by God to be a house of prayer for all people. If you look at Mark 11:17 with me you see a slightly different angle. In fact, it even mentions He drove them out in v. 15. In John’s account, he mentions the animals and Mark just mentions the tables and so forth, then it mentions the doves. He wouldn’t permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. May I tell you, by the way, that’s pretty powerful stuff because there were thousands of people there. What time of the year was this? This was, in fact, the Passover. This is big time. It’s a crowded place and there are thousands of people there. What manner of man was this that He had the authority to prevent them from doing this? It says in Mark, in this context here, and I take it that there’s a parallel between them- He has an authority to keep them from actually carrying merchandise and that’s when He said, “Is it not written,’ My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den.” The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him.” (Mark 11:17-18a)
Some people ask why did God require animal sacrifice and really why doesn’t He require it now? The answer would be in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews tells us that the blood of bulls and goats never made propitiation or satisfaction for sin. All it did was the point beyond to the One who would ultimately bear our sins. This One, when He offered Himself actually sat down at the right hand of God has made a complete sacrifice so that there would no longer be a need for any more animal sacrifices. The Old Testament sacrificial system always pointed to the life of the One who would come. The idea was this- the life is in the blood. Leviticus 16 focuses on this. So that life being in the blood becomes a key symbol then when the new covenant, in My blood, is established so that the blood becomes the life. The life is the Zoë, the life of Christ that He’s offering to us. My point then is that the old covenant sacrifices could only anticipate and put off the debt but they could never actually pay for the debt. Hebrews stresses this- the animals could not actually pay for the sacrifice. They would only cover it up. So once a year in Yon Kipper, the Day of Atonement, the high priest would go into the Most Holy Place and there he would actually take the blood of a goat and he would sprinkle it on the Mercy Seat. What was inside the Mercy Seat? The law of God was in there. You have the blood of the animal covering between them and the law so in effect God sees that and it’s an anticipation of Christ who would not just cover but ultimately atone- so His life for our life- the life in the blood- so now we have His life in us. I’d particularly recommend Hebrew chapter 8, 9 and 10. It would be good to read about that. So what are the shadow and the substance? Once we have the substance, this One, after He’s offered Himself as a sacrifice, one time for sin, sat down, which means the work was now satisfied or complete and no further sacrifice was required after that. That would certainly relate to this.
Jesus’ Zeal
Now in John 2:17, “His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.” You have this recall of His zeal for the house. It was bound to lead to His destruction and ultimately to His own death. That’s why Jesus answered to them after they said “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?”(v.18) He said, “ Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”(v. 19) Again we have His answers, prophetic of His death and resurrection. The implication is this; He’s challenging their whole system of sacrifice. The whole system of worship has to be destroyed so the new one can take its place. That’s really in part what is going on, His death and destruction, so it’s more than just the sacrilegious although that’s a part of it because they’ve made it a den of thieves and robbers. You don’t want to minimize that idea but there’s more to it than that. He’s actually going so radical in His claim that you’ve got to destroy the old so the new could come in. There must be a new covenant.
What does a new covenant imply in Hebrews 8, 9 and 10? If there’s a new covenant there’s got to be a new priesthood. There has to be a new sacrifice, a new temple, a new earth and all that is seen. So the new of these is consistently called better than the old. His own death and the destruction of the temple are now being linked together. He foretold this destruction on the eve of the Passion. What’s happening here is that Jesus is making possible a far more direct approach to God because it’s a pure offering, a sacrifice of worship- His own body.
His mission was not merely negative. The Resurrection would make possible the emergence of a new spiritual temple. First Corinthians 3:17 is one of those texts I have in mind, “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” That is radical in terms of its contrast to the physicality of the temple. Also 1 Peter 2:5 says something very similar, our understanding of the temple is changed now, “You also, as living stones, are being built as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We are now living stones in this new temple as part of the body of Christ. He would be taunted by the very words that He’s using when he says, “Destroy this temple and in three days, I’ll raise it up”(v, 19) as He hung upon the cross. They said why doesn’t He deliver Himself if He can do that?
John 2:20, “The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” What He is saying here is that you’re missing the spiritual truth here as so often happens. Herod the Great in 20 B.C. decided to rebuild the great temple to win or earn favor with the Jews because he was regarded as an outcast. He was a descendant of the Edomites and as such he decides to actually embellish the second temple, which was not really that impressive compared to Solomon’s temple but he wanted to make it so great it would actually rival Solomon’s temple. He consecrated a thousand priests to be trained to become stonecutters so that it would be ceremonially pure. Eighteen thousand people were working full-time for many years to rebuild this temple. It was an impressive piece of work. The consequence was it took many, many years to complete- beyond Herod’s life. In fact, they started it then but it wasn’t completed until 64 A.D.- over 80 years in the building of it. The Romans destroyed it six years later, sad isn’t it? In each of these cases with the temple worship, this becomes a very significant concept here- the centrality of this as a political, religious, spiritual and social centerpiece of Israel’s history. Thus when Judas Maccabeus (again those who only read the 66 books won’t know who this is) wanted to attempt to defeat the Greeks, which he succeeded in doing in the 2nd century B.C., he had to capture the temple first to win popular Jewish support, which he did. When the Romans occupied the land in 63 B.C., Pompeii wanted to be sure they were recognized so they created a fortress near that temple. They built a fortress called the Antonio Fortress in the northwest precinct of the temple. They would actually overlook the temple area. That’s exactly where Jesus, as you recall, was quote “prepared” for crucifixion under Pilate’s soldiers. The Jewish zealots when they stood against Rome in 66 A.D. again wanted to make the temple their fortress and rallying point. Finally, when Titus came in and saw this impressive temple, he wanted to preserve it. He was so impressed and dazzled by the beauty of the temple but his soldiers destroyed it partly because there was gold in there and when it caught fire, the gold was actually seeping down through the stones. Some of these stones were huge. They would weigh up to 70 tons. They actually would remove every stone to get the gold that had seeped out. Not one stone will stand upon another. They kind of inadvertently fulfilled His prophecy because when you go to Jerusalem, there are no stones in that temple. All you have is the outer courtyard wall, what we call the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall, but you don’t have the temple. You can see some of the stones that were actually used in it but they’re not actually in the temple itself- a very significant focus.
John 2:21-22, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.”
These last three verses in chapter 2 are intriguing to me. John 2:23, “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing.” Again they saw the signs and believed in Him but this was not necessarily the kind of belief that led to salvation but at the least, they believed that He had some authority.
But if it was just that they were impressed by miracles and power and so forth because of these signs, it would be one thing but Jesus on His part says in verses 24 and 25, “But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” He had a unique insight into human nature. He understood then that all belief in Him was superficial if it didn’t have the idea of the need for forgiveness and the conviction of Him as the mediator of that forgiveness. You could believe about Him but entrusting one’s self to Him as the One who provides great forgiveness and newness of life is the key issue.
The point here is this. I see Jesus who knows us very, very well and there are many who straddle the fence. They want His works but not His word. The issue is always going to be one of the entrusting of one’s self to Him rather than merely being impressed by what He has done. In that sense, we have to approach Him on His terms and not on our own. He does not come just to meet our idea of our needs but He comes to meet our desperate need before God.
We see One who knows us through and through. To be perfectly frank with you, He has a knowledge that is divine. None of us can look and understand the motivational structure of others. We think we can. That’s the danger. Look at 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 where Paul speaks about this concept, “But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself.” For I’m conscious of nothing against myself, yet I’m not by this acquitted; the one who examines me is the Lord. (Note- In other words, I might have a clear conscience but that doesn’t mean before God all is well.) Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” He’s been talking about the judgment seat of Christ. It’s not a judgment of condemnation but one of reward.
To be perfectly frank with you there is this tension. I had heard about a particular minister who made a statement that troubled me. I wrestled with this concept but then, on the other hand, I wrestled with it because one does want to have an impact in this world. If you’ve been given great gifts wouldn’t you want to make an impact in this world? One struggles with this. How do we separate that desire to have an impact in the world with ambition? Here’s where it gets very tricky. We don’t even fully know our own motives. Is it possible for example for us to so assume that our zeal is for God’s house? That our zeal is to build something that will be honoring and pleasing to God but after a while, if we’re not careful, is it possible that our own identity gets so wrapped up in that thing that it becomes a projection of ourselves and yet we sacrifice supposing it’s other-centered? It’s totally self-denying and yet at the very core of it, could it possibly be something that is just an extension of one’s ego? I ask myself these questions. These are questions all of us must ask. I heard of a minister who said, “I don’t want to play second fiddle.” I thought about that and who wants to be second fiddle? But then I got to thinking a bit more about that. Is it possible because God’s economy is so radically different from our own that many who become, from the world’s point of view, second fiddle may have a greater reward in the kingdom of heaven than many who aspire to be the first violin? God’s not impressed with how many people we have an impact on, how many people we touch but rather the fidelity we have with what we have been given. I wrestle with this issue of motives because God knows my heart. I don’t even know myself let alone can I judge the motives of another. I’m here to tell you I sometimes do though I know I live in a glass house. That’s the problem. I often assume I know what their motives are. That scares me because I am not Jesus and I don’t know. He knows.
The amazing part about this text is He knows us through and through and still loves us. That’s the thing that stuns me, I mean really it does stun me, I ask Who am I, that the lord of all the earth Would care to know my name Would care to feel my hurt? Who am I, that the bright and morning star Would choose to light the way For my ever wandering heart?? Remember that phrase I told you before- the One who knows you best loves you most. Now I can’t put that together but He knows all our imaginations, all our foolishness, silliness, our foolish pride and all that, the coveting, our greed, our ambition, our envy, our secret pleasure when competitors or people in our industry stumble and at their downfall, our grieving at their successes when we thought we should’ve attained that success and yet He loves us and invites us to take what we do know of ourselves and to recommit that to what we know of Him.
Ok I’ve gone on for long enough for now!
Let me close in prayer. Father, we thank You that You have loved us even to the end and manifested this love. And this is love, not that we loved You but that You loved us and sent Your Son to be the satisfaction for our sins. May we, therefore, be a people knowing that we are beloved of You. Give us now the power, give us the security give us the sense of satisfaction in this life in Christ so that we can become people who love others as You have loved us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Now on to part 4

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