Third Sunday in Lent
Passage: John 2:13–2:22
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: John 2:13-22
Date: March 4th, 2018; Lent 3; Series B
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
As we read the Bible, we see Jesus behaving and responding to people in two very different ways.
At times, Jesus can seem quite harsh.
He doesn’t hold anything back. He says exactly what’s on his mind and doesn’t seem concerned with whether or not he will offend anyone.
In last week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus certainly did not hold back when he rebuked Peter. He said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33).
At another time, he went on a rant against the scribes and Pharisees.
Among other things, he called them children of hell, blind fools, white-washed tombs full of dead men's bones, serpents, vipers, and murderers.
Now, in the Gospel reading this morning, we hear of Jesus braiding a whip and driving the merchants out of the temple.
And in contrast to this seeming harshness from Jesus, is the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount.
The Jesus who taught, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:38-39).
On the one hand, today's Gospel lesson seems to show us a Jesus who wants to cause chaos in the temple. He almost seems violent as he has his whip in hand and turns over tables.
But then, on the other hand, the teachings from the Sermon on the Mount show us a peaceful and calm Jesus who just wants everyone to get along.
This can be a bit confusing, but as is the case for all of Scripture - context is everything.
A little background information will help us understand the reason that Jesus reacted as he did when he visited the temple.
There was a special place on the temple grounds called the "Court of the Gentiles."
All other areas in the temple were off-limits to the Gentiles - but in this court they were allowed to gather.
Anyone who loved and feared God, regardless of origin, could come to the Court of the Gentiles and worship God.
At the dedication of the first temple, King Solomon prayed these words: "When a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house, hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name” (2 Chronicles 6:32).
The Court of the Gentiles was a place where anyone could come and find solitude and peace in the presence of God.
As we heard in our text, when Jesus stepped into the temple it seemed like it was more of a shopping mall than a place of solitude and peace. “In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there” (John 2:14).
Jesus responded strongly to what he found there, “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables” (John 2:15).
Jesus harshness was due to the fact that he found God’s house desecrated.
The temple, a place where God promised to dwell with his people, a place where God cleansed people of their sin and gave them eternal life – had been turned into a place where people made money by taking advantage of others.
It had been turned into a place where greedy people sold things for their personal gain.
Jesus took strong measures to make it clear that this complete lack of reverence and abuse of his Father’s house, the temple, was abhorrent.
But even more, Jesus responded as he did because all of this nonsense that was going on in the temple was preventing people from receiving God’s gifts.
It was causing separation between God and his people.
And this is true of all sin. All sin causes separation between God and his people.
Your sin causes separation between you and God.
And because sin is not something that is to be taken lightly, because sin is something that hurts you and those around you, because sin is something that can separate you from God for all of eternity – God acts harshly.
God applies his Law to you in full force in order to make you crystal clear of your sin and of the punishment that it deserves.
He hammers you with his Law so that you turn back to him in repentance - seeking and receiving his mercy. Desiring to go and sin no more.
Because of our engrained sinfulness, this is not something that God can do softly. It is not something that he can tip-toe around.
Our sin needs to be brought out and exposed from those places that we try to deny it, rationalize, and hide it.
Our sin needs to be driven out with Jesus’ whip, overturned like the tables in the temple, so that it can be dealt with properly.
If it is not dealt with properly then we continue down a destructive path. A destructive path that can end up being eternal.
When Jesus acts harshly, it’s not a sinful expression of anger.
No, it’s an expression of his love shown in his desire to lead us to repentance.
He wants us to turn from our sin and receive his forgiveness and restoration and life.
Full of mercy and grace, God calls us back to himself that we may receive the salvation he won for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
Because of what Christ accomplished for you, God no longer applies the full severity of the Law on you.
Instead, he applies the power of the Gospel.
As we look back to the grace and gifts we received in our Baptism, as we hear this Gospel read, preached, proclaimed in the Bible, as we receive his true body and true blood – the Holy Spirit works in us to create, sustain, and strengthen our faith.
It is through our faith that we receive God’s forgiveness and promise of eternal life.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, examine your life in the light of God’s Law.
Our Old Testament lesson for this morning lays it out plainly for you in the Ten Commandments.
Look into the mirror of God’s Law and recognize the seriousness of your sin and all of the ways you have allowed yourself to be separated from God - and repent.
Repent and believe.
Jesus took drastic action to cleanse the temple of the sin that was taking place inside of it.
Jesus has also taken drastic action to cleanse you (his living temple!) of all of your sin.
In Christ, you are cleansed, holy, and righteous. Your temple has been restored to be what God always intended when he created you in his image!
Referring to his body, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).
On that Easter morning, Jesus made good on this promise.
And just as his temple was brought back from the dead, so too will our temples be raised from death to life. On that day, he will give eternal life in both body and soul to all who repent and believe.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.