In His Steps – Angry Steps to The Temple – Sermon – Alex Moir – 14 March 2021

WELCOME

Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)

Call to Worship

“When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does.  Outsiders, on observing this, conclude that there is nothing to the religion business except, perhaps, business – and dishonest business at that.  Insiders see it differently.  Just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners.  Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised.  It’s similar with sinners outside the church.” 

— Eugene Peterson

Prayer

Our forgiving God, we are fully aware that we are only “on the inside” due to Your gracious and unexpected love.  As we enter this hour of worship we do so praising You for Your provision for our spiritual needs.  For we pray in Jesus’ name … amen.

Song

Today's Message: In His Steps … Angry Steps To The Temple

Scripture Reading: John 2:12-22

12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

Jesus Clears the Temple Courts

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”[a]

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Welcome to this message series entitled “In His Steps”, taking us into our Easter celebration!  Though this episode is placed early in the gospel of John, it comes later in the other three gospels which likely means it happened during the last week or so of Jesus’ life.  We are told that Jesus and His disciples decided to attend the Passover celebration in Jerusalem, which is where you’d like to be during this Jewish festival … a little like being in London for Christmas or Ottawa on Canada Day.  But as significant as this was for all of them, it brought a certain degree of unexpected challenge as well …

“What Jesus found” (v.14) – The first part is as expected, the usual animals for sale that could be used as part of the sacrifices to properly celebrate Passover.  But it’s the second part of that verse that caused concern for Jesus, the “others sitting at tables exchanging money.”  It was commonly known that animals were sold at exorbitant rates during Passover … a little bit like the problem we had at the early part of the Covid outbreak when the price of some protective gear skyrocketed.  It was profiteering at its worst … and it predictably drew the ire of Jesus.

“What Jesus did … Part I” – The story indicates what must have been a shocking sight to the disciples.  Jesus had busied himself with making “a whip out of cords” (v. 15).  He had often acted unpredictably with His teaching and the people He agreed to associate with.  Now He is about to exhibit some truly shocking behaviour …

“What Jesus did … Part II” – Indeed, as the disciples feared, Jesus used the whip He had fashioned in the way they might have expected.  The words used described the wild scene … He “drove” both people and animals away from the Temple area, no doubt producing a cacophony of sound from man and beast.  Next, He turned his attention to the tills and “scattered” the legal tender noisily (no bills in those days!).  If this was not enough, He did the unthinkable and “overturned” the tables upon which they conducted business.  If we had been at the scene, we might call this in our language a “hot mess” … to some viewing the scene on that day it might have represented shocking violence. 

“What Jesus said … Part I” – We need to listen closely to Jesus’ carefully chosen words used during this incident.  Particularly to “those who sold doves” (v. 16a), the animals purchased by the very poorest of the worshippers He said, “Remove these” (“Get these out of here”, NIV).  Whenever we ask for something to be removed it usually means that this particular article is in the way and in an inappropriate place.  Not only was the price of such basic sacrificial animals prohibitive, but the buying and selling was being done in the “temple area”, a place that was usually reserved for the gentiles who had been attracted to Judaism (i.e. potential converts).  While this business was being conducted no gentiles could be present, meaning that some very important work, work that was given to the Jewish nation from the very beginning (see Genesis 12) could not be conducted.  And since Jesus was “all about” sharing His good news with non-Jewish folks (see “sheep not of this fold”, John 10:16), this would be a concern to Him as well.  So, it is with us in our context of church.  We, too, should want nothing to stand in the way of those considering a new life in Christ, as Argentinian evangelist Juan Carlos Ortiz stated a generation ago;

If people have to accept Christ plus the pipe organ, the praise team, the donated piano, the church program, and the television ministry, millions will reject Christ.  The more things we add to Christ, the more things people have to accept with Christ, the more difficult it is for them to respond.

“What Jesus said … Part II” – The second part of Jesus’ address (v. 16b) to those “working the temple area” is as worthy of our consideration as the first … How dare you turn my Father’s house into a house of business!”  Though the NIV translation renders this word “market” the actual translation above is the first choice of the Brown, Driver and Briggs Hebrew lexicon, for many years the standard for understanding the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament.  Their translation more closely fits the sound of the word itself, which is the word from which we derive the term “emporium.”  As much as we must give attention to the “practical concerns” of our church, we know at its essence the church is not about profit but people.  And we have a feeling that if we pay attention to the “people” part of our work that the practical matters will take care of themselves.  Church consultant Ben Harder who assisted so many churches in the development area during his long career was fond of saying that “the money follows the mission.”   My guess is that even the best businesses operate under the same principle.

Though they were taken aback by the developments of the day, the disciples would eventually understand the significance of his acts and words …

“Disciples’ Reflection … Part I” – After the cleansing of the Temple episode the disciples applied some scripture to the occasion … Zeal for you house will consume me, taken from Psalm 69:9.  Of course, this prophecy eventually took place.  It was Jesus’ strongly held beliefs about a few traditional concepts in Judaism, most notably about Temple and Sabbath, which got Him into difficulty and cost Him His life.  And if our views over the usage of our houses of worship reflect those of our Master, we will pay the price as well.  To many folks the church building is really more of a community centre.  True, there are some things we allow to be done in our buildings that we must approve because of our connection with our communities.  But we must always insist that the prime use of our building is for the spiritual growth of men and women, boys and girls.  After all, it is our Father’s house, not ours.

“Disciples’ Reflections … Part II” – After an exchange between the religious leaders and Jesus about the destruction of the Temple (v. 18-20), another scripture and some words of Jesus himself remind the disciples of another important truth.  The “Temple” Jesus is referring to during the conversation with the Jewish leaders is His own body.  As much as the Temple is the Father’s house, it is never to draw the type of devotion that would be classified as worship … only the Father and Jesus Himself are worthy of that.  Jesus’ own words to the Samaritan woman, recorded in John 4:24, draw us back to the essence of true worship …

God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.

Reflect

As we ourselves, the 21st century version of his followers, grapple with the everlasting truth of His vision may we be so led to ponder anew His will for our lives.

Prayer

Our gracious Father we pause to give thanks on this day for the effort You have made to remove all obstacles to Your presence.  Such presence is really the essence of true life for us … and we are so grateful for the courage of Jesus who gave His very life to provide access to Your fellowship and care.

We ourselves confess to the problem explained in this passage when the trappings of worship are given more homage than the One for whom the buildings and elements of worship are designed.  At these times we are reminded, our Father, that true worship is indeed simple … a few of us together, the Bible in the midst, giving thanks in Jesus’ name for Your care in our lives.

Finally, Lord of Hosts as we mark the arrival of a treatment to arrest this terrible virus, we are grateful for the brilliant minds that have aided in making these discoveries.  We note that these minds are part of the package we are all equipped with from birth … and so we marvel again at the complexity of a life that could not have just happened.  In the midst of our hope, we continue to bring before You the cases of family members and friends infected with this disease … and pray a peace that passes understanding as some face this sickness with only medical personnel present.  We pray in the name of the One who promised He would neither leave us nor forsake us … even Jesus.  Amen.

Song

Benediction

“Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusts in thee.” 

— Isaiah 26:3