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Worship Series: Because He Knew
Worship Theme: He Put His House in Order
- Remember Your Love
- Grade 2: Have No Fear Little Flock
- CW 406 This Is the Threefold Truth
- CW 320 On My Heart Imprint Your Image
Message: Because He Knew... He Put His House in Order
Pastor Jake Schram
His eyes must have been like two tiny unquenchable fires, raging infernos, just daring someone to step in his path. This was different from what people were used to seeing in Jesus. He always seemed so meek and mild. Yet in our text for today he is anything but those things. Have you ever known someone like that? Someone who is usually calm and when they get angry it’s actually quite frightening because you’ve never seen it before. Usually, when someone like that does get angry, it’s for good reason. In our text for today, Jesus certainly has a good reason for what he is doing. He’s putting his house in order.
The time had come for the annual Jewish Passover celebration. The Passover celebration was put in place so that people could remember and commemorate the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. There was good company and even a feast involved. There were also many reminders. The most prominent Passover reminder involved killing a year old lamb without any sort of marks or impurities. This was done to recall the blood of the lamb at the first Passover, which had saved firstborn Israelites from the angel of death. This and other sacrifices reminded the people that because of their sin something would have to die in their place. These things pointed forward to a Messiah. Someone who would die for the sins of the world. And here comes Jesus into the text, the very lamb of God, without blemish, ready to be a sacrifice for all the world.
And what better place to be, than surrounded by like-minded individuals in a temple dedicated to his Father? Every Jewish male 12 years and older made the yearly trek to Jerusalem for this event. But Jesus did not find what he should have there. Instead of people focusing on worship and the coming Messiah whom God had promised from days of old, they were distracted. People were selling cattle, sheep, and doves. Money Changers were sitting at tables. Oh. That’s it? That doesn’t sound so bad. Since people were traveling from all over the place to come to Jerusalem, it made sense that not all of them could bring sacrifices with them from so far away. They would need to buy animals when they arrived in Jerusalem to give their offerings to God. That wasn’t a bad thing. Plus, people would need to exchange their foreign currency so they could pay the temple tax. This way the temple could be kept up and God’s Word preserved and proclaimed. That’s certainly not a bad thing either. So what’s the problem here? I’ll give you a chance to reread verse 14. See if you can find one mentioned there (give a couple seconds). The problem isn’t that these things are being sold. It’s about where this is all happening. “In the temple courts.” There were actually a couple sections to the temple. There was a section where the Jews would worship and then a section for the Gentiles (non-Jews) to worship. They were doing all this stuff right where the Gentiles would approach God. I can’t imagine the selling of animals and exchanging of money among so many people being a quiet affair. I can’t imagine there being no squabbles about money breaking out. This was not the place to do these things. They were distracting people from God.
I always want people to picture these things as vividly as possible to make it as real to you as it was back then. So I want you to imagine what a county fair looks like. How many of you have been to a county fair? Now imagine everything going on there, happening right in the middle of our church while we are having a church service. You starting to see why this might be a bad thing? Even if it wasn’t loud and distracting (and for the record, loud isn’t always a bad thing), mixing God’s Word and selling stuff may not be the best idea. Imagine if my sermons went like this: So Jesus went to the Passover. But speaking of Passover, there is no way you can pass over this deal. Now buy this towel, I mean, prayer shawl for only 3 easy payments of 24.99 right now on the spot. Anyways, Jesus went on into the temple where people were focusing on the deliverance of…but wait. If you buy this towel right now, I’ll deliver it right to your door. You’re interested? Anyone got change. Let’s exchange some money so we make this deal right in the middle of church. Wouldn’t that be terrible if church happened like that? We’d lose sight of the whole point of being in Church, to see what Christ has done for us. I don’t want to sell you anything during this time, because what Jesus did for us was a free gift to you and me. The people making business had lost sight of temple worship. On top of that, the other Gospels hint that these people were being unfair in their dealings as well, taking advantage of people instead of encouraging them to focus on God.
They were in it for the business of themselves, but Jesus was all about his Father’s business and so he grabbed some cords. There were probably a bunch of cords lying around because of the animals. He then makes a whip, driving out the animals, scattering the coins, flipping tables, and getting these distractions out of the temple. It’s interesting to me that no protests are recorded for us while this is happening. It gives the impression that the people know they shouldn’t be doing this in the first place. And it also seems to indicate this is a scary Jesus they are messing with. And Jesus is pretty new to the scene so a lot of people don’t even know him very well yet. But just imagine how scary God himself could be especially if he wasn’t on our side. I would not want to get in the way of someone like that.
So why would Jesus do something like this? Isn’t it mean? Well, hold on. Think of the people being distracted. Jesus wanted them to have a closer relationship with him. Think of what is really best for even the people doing business. Jesus wanted to have a closer relationship with them too. Some of you probably force your kids to go to the church with you. Is that mean? What if you saw random people in your parent’s house misusing everything in it, wouldn’t you want to protect it? How much more when God is the Father!? That’s not mean. That’s simply doing the right thing. Despite his great anger, Jesus does not lose control here. He is still very much in control and thinking of others. The disciples didn’t get it then, but they would later. Jesus’ zeal for the kingdom and for it’s Word was on display here. He is putting his house back in order for everyone’s benefit.
Now, we are moving closer to spring time In Minnesota. Temperatures are starting to rise. How many of you do spring cleaning? How many of you do spring cleaning for your heart? This is the thing I have in my possession which needs the most cleaning every year. Somehow, it gets dirty with sin. Sometimes it gets greedy. Sometimes it wants to replace reading God’s Word and being at church with much more selfish things. Come now, you know what I mean. Very rarely do I see someone bust through the doors of church going, “Yes, it’s church time!! Hi everyone. We’re in church. Isn’t it fantastic.” People are sometimes excited, but not all the time because our hearts tell us we could be spending this time sleeping in bed. Or we could be out making money right now. We could be using the free time of this weekend to go for a walk, or to the movies, or fill in the blank. The sins grime up our hearts until we start turning our worship into business as usual. However, cleaning tools are available. Jesus has given us his words so that we can focus back on him. Through his Word he drives back sins, erasing each blemish until it is gone. With our hearts clean, we begin to see what Jesus has done is truly important. How he has died for the sins of the world means wonders to me and my family. I would travel a great distance just to hear the message one more time. Don’t put your selfish wants first. Let Jesus put your house in order with him as a priority for you and your family. He does this for your benefit.
Not everyone wants the grime cleared from their hearts. Back in our text, some of the Jews responded with an attitude that was wanting. Jesus had just shown great authority by telling everyone what to do. He was right and they knew it, but instead of showing remorse, they were wondering what authority did this Jesus have? Who did this guy think he was, the Son of God or something? (Yes. Indeed he was.) So they ask him a question and I really think they are trying to prove Jesus is some sort of false prophet. They ask for a sign to prove how he has the authority to do such things. Jesus looks at them, knowing they are not going to listen, pauses, and then says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.”
Jesus’ words were probably met with laughter. “Bahahahaha! Did you hear what he just said? Oh, that’s a good one!” You see, their idea of worship was skewed. A temple was meant to be a place focusing on worship. These people were thinking this could only be the Jewish temple, which, as we saw earlier, they were making less and less a place of worship with every passing day. They were thinking how impossible it would be for their temple to fall and be rebuilt. Their temple was an architectural masterpiece. It was mostly completed, but had been built up over 46 years and would actually continue to be worked on for almost another 40 years until the year 64 AD. Want to hear something ironic? This magnificent piece of work, which those Jews put their trust in, would be destroyed only 6 years after it was completed. 84 years of building up only to fall in a very short time 6 years later. Jesus knows true worship doesn’t happen because of a building. Where does the real worship happen? Wherever Jesus is present! He is the temple. He’s the only way to the Father. And this temple of Jesus’s life would be destroyed in crucifixion, but God in his almighty power would raise it again in three days. When we see Jesus in worship, that’s how we cling to the promises of God. That’s what faith is. It happens because he is the temple.
So what’s the lesson learned here? Earlier we talked about how we shouldn’t put ourselves and our business in front of God’s business. We want our focus to be on Jesus and what he has done for us instead of on ourselves. Now we talk about buildings. It is something I’ve seen happen to church after church after church. People view the building they worship in as holier than God himself. Now, don’t get me wrong. I look at our church and see the rich history that has occurred here. Baptisms and Confirmations that date back through the generations. It’s a wonderful tradition and I’m so happy we have it. But I want to remind you this church is just a building. Is God so small that he can only work inside this small space? Is he so weak that he only works where we let him? Jesus is the real temple. And his reign is ever reaching. I’m not advocating for us to switch locations or build a new building or anything. I’m happy whether we do that or not. I just want to make sure you know God is greater than the church building, whether here or elsewhere. Jesus is the temple and wherever two or three people gather in his name, he is there with them. God comes before architecture. Let Jesus put things in the correct order.
One last thing. I am fully convinced the disciples have absolutely no clue what is going on throughout this entire text. They are wondering what Jesus is doing and what he is saying. But the disciples would understand in time. It was a growing process for them. It’s the same for us. We need to continue spending time with Jesus to grow. As the disciples spent time in God’s Word, they understood what Jesus was doing and saying. They would tell other people how Jesus was the one thing people couldn’t afford to shove aside to continue on their usual business. He was the one thing needed wherever they went. They preached it by the temple, and the synagogues, and carried it to other nations, even to obscure families in obscure places. They wanted people to see Jesus over themselves regardless of location. They too, hearing God’s Word, were part of the reign of God. They were part of Jesus’ house. God wants this for you too. Hearing his Word and having faith put in our hearts, we’re a part of Jesus’ house too. He wants the most important things at the top of your life. He wants you to have the best things in the correct order. And Jesus puts his house in order. Amen.