Sunday, September 10, 2023

“This Temple” [Matt's Messages]

“This Temple”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
September 10, 2023 :: John 2:12-25 

Jesus is anything but mild.

There is a myth going around that Jesus Christ is mild. That He is harmless. That He is weak. That Jesus is non-threatening. A wimp. Easy to kick around.

Jesus has no bark or bite. Jesus is not spicy, or hot, or tangy. Jesus is mild.

But that could not be further from the truth.

I love the hymns of Charles Wesley. He’s one of the most amazing writers of deep theological hymnody that ever lived. 

But there’s one line in one of his hymns I really don’t like. He calls Him, “Gentle Jesus, meek, and mild.”

Jesus can be gentle. He’s fundamentally gentle with those who need Him to be. He is so tender, gentle at heart (Matthew 11:28).

Jesus can be meek, understood biblically. In the Bible, meekness is strength under control. Jesus never used His power in any wrong way.

But Jesus is anything but mild.

Jesus is no passionless, weak-sauce, no wimp.

And this eye-opening story in God’s Holy Word shatters that myth.

He did the miracle of turning water into wine, but only a very few people even knew about it. Even people who drank the new wine!

But in this next story, Jesus is very public. He doesn’t do a miracle, but He definitely steps out of the shadows and into the spotlight. 

And this, too, reveals His glory. This, too, reveals His identity. This, too, makes Him and His Father known. It gives us a new view to a whole other side to His personality. 

Last week was about joy. This week is about anger.
The first part of the chapter was quiet. This last part is very loud.
In the last story, Jesus was content to be a guest. But in this story, He’s cleaning house in His own home.
The last story was about wine, but this story is about a whip.

Which of those is the “real Jesus?”

The answer is “both,” right? These are both right next to each other in God’s Holy Word, so they need to both be right next to each other in our own minds and our own theology of Who Jesus really is.

We have to make room in our minds for the Jesus Who will clean out the temple with a whip.

Yes, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But when John writes his Apocalypse, he predicts a day when unrepentant unbelievers are trying hide from “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16).

This Lamb may be meek, but He is anything but mild.

Let’s look at it more closely. Look at verse 12. This is what happened after the joy of the wedding in Cana. Verse 12.

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

Jesus leaves Cana for Capernaum which was also small town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was kind of a home-base for Jesus during this period of His ministry. He’s there with his mother who figured into the story last week and won’t show up again in this gospel until His hour has come upon Him. He’s there with His mother and His brothers. Probably the other, later, sons of Joseph and Mary. They will show up a few times in the next few chapters. And He’s there with His disciples. So far we’ve met John, Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathanael.

And then after some period of time, Jesus gets ready and heads south for the Passover celebration. Verse 13.

“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.”

The Passover is the annual Jewish celebration of the Exodus from Egypt. It was a big deal for the nation at this time (and still is!) and everyone went up to Jerusalem to celebrate it. This Passover is one of three Passovers that are mentioned in the Gospel of John.

Jesus goes up to Jerusalem, up to the temple, to observe the Passover, and what He sees there leads Him to take shocking action. 

And what He found was shameless commerce in the place of worship. Verse 14.

“In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.”

That was not how it was supposed to be.

The title of this message is “This Temple” because this story is all about what Jesus did and said at the temple on this day. (Though we are going to find out that it’s not as much about this particular temple as it is about Jesus.)

The temple was supposed to be the meeting place between God and His people. It was an earthly headquarters of heaven on earth. God’s House here on earth. 

Of course, God was not contained in that building or even in its outer courts.  God is uncontainable! But this building symbolized in one central location the very presence of God.

And it was a place where God’s people could go to pray and go to offer their sacrifices and go to meet with God.

It was supposed to be filled with God and with the worship of God.

And even in the outermost courts there was a place for the Gentiles to approach God–people who weren’t even yet God’s people were invited to come and to get to know Him, to come to pray, to come to worship.

And at this moment that outer court had been crowded with commerce. Instead of quiet contemplation Jesus found what amounted to a barn and a bank. V.14 again. “In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.”

Now, doubtless, these folks thought they were providing a wonderful service to the people coming to the Passover. Jesus, coming all the way from Capernaum, may not have brought cattle or sheep for the Passover sacrifice. It would be convenient to buy those things in Jerusalem. And even more convenient to buy them in the temple!

And every Jewish man had to pay a tax, and they couldn’t pay it with the Roman coins that had Caesar’s image on them. That would be considered blasphemous.

So they had to get their various coins turned into Tyrian coins (for a small fee, of course). And everybody needed it, so how helpful it was for there to be guys at tables doing that exchange right there in that temple for you!

The key words here in verse 14 that so bothered Jesus were “in the temple courts.”

They had brought the animal store and the currency exchange into the temple courts.

They turned the place of worship into a cross between the county fair and the shopping mall. Do you see the bustling marketplace where they were supposed to be praying? Cows moo-ing. Sheep baa-ing. Dove coo-ing. Men haggling over the rate of exchange? What a Babel!

Well, Jesus is no longer quiet or elusive. And He sure isn’t mild. Look at verse 15.

“So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!’”

Do you see the fire in His eyes?

Jesus reaches down and picks up some cords and weaves them together into a whip and then he raises that whip and starts to drive all of these people and beasts out of the temple.

He’s not being mean.
He’s not being violent.
He’s being forceful.

He’s not out of control. He’s is totally in control, and He’s taking control of the temple. 

I doubt that he used the whip on people. The whip was there for the cattle to get them moving. Though if the people had pushed back, they might have felt it, too.

You can see the people, wide-eyed, backing out of His way. “What’s going on?”

And then Jesus takes His arm, and He slides it down the table scattering the money to the ground. And then to press the point, He put His arm under the table and flips it over!

“That doesn’t belong here!”

“Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!”

Do you have room in your theology for an angry Jesus?

There is such a thing as righteous anger, and Jesus is righteously angry.

“Stop it, right now.”

I have two points to summarize the message of this story, and they are both about the identity of Jesus and this temple. Here’s the first one:


Do you see what Jesus is saying about Himself in verse 16? “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!”

“My Father’s house.” That’s a bold claim. Whose house is this temple? This is God’s house! And Jesus is here yelling that it is His Father’s house. That Jesus Himself is the Son of this house. He’s not just some random person. He’s not even just a loyal Jew. Jesus has gotten so angry because this bad thing is happening in His Father’s house! So that it personally affects Him. He is Lord over this temple.

He has a right and a responsibility to get angry about it.

Imagine if you’d grown up and moved out and then went back to visit your childhood home, and found intruders had broken in and set up a pet store in the front room.

And your parents’ guests are crowded out. There is no room for them. And the room where they should be visiting and enjoying themselves smells of animals and is filled with the sound of cash registers. 

How would you feel? What would you do?

Jesus is filled with righteous indignation and empties the room of the intruders. He has every right and responsibility to do this. Because He is the Lord of this temple.

As His disciples contemplated this in the days that followed, they realized that this was only right and a fulfillment of what the Messiah was always supposed to be. Look at verse 17.

“His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”

That’s a quotation from Psalm 69, verse 9. One of the most quoted Psalms in all the New Testament. It was clearly about the Messiah. He was going to be zealous, full of zeal, full of passion, full of deep care about what is right for God’s house. 

This zeal would “consume” Him. That word means to be eaten up as by a flame! He would be on fire for the glory of God.

And, of course, that will also consume Him in the sense of leading to His death. A few years later, Jesus will clear this temple again early in the week and by the end of the week, He will be crucified for doing it. “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

What is the application of this truth?

The first and most important is to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and God the Son!

I don’t know about you, but I’m always trying to think about how I’m supposed to relate to Jesus’ anger here. Am I supposed to be angry like He is? Is Jesus angry about me?

But the first and foremost thing we’re supposed to see about Jesus here is that He is rightfully angry because He is the zealous Son over this house.

John the Evangelist says that he put these things in his gospel so that we “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing [we] may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

In John 2, we are supposed to see Who Jesus is and put our faith in Him.

Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and God the Son? Do you believe, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory [here His angry glory], the glory of the One and Only [the Unique Son], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth...No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known” (Jn. 1:14&18).

“How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”

It’s only after we see Who Jesus is revealed to be that we can think about applying the theology of His anger into our lives, as well.

Believe that Jesus is the zealous Lord of this temple.

But it is good to think some more about His anger here and how it relates to us. It’s good to ask ourselves the question, “Who are we most like in this story?” Whose shoes do we put ourselves in?

I think that often we like to think of ourselves as Jesus in this story, especially when we get angry about something. We like to think of our anger as righteous. We should be turning the tables on our enemies!

But the Bible says that so often our anger does not trend towards righteousness (James 1:20). We get angry about the wrong things and for the wrong reasons and to the wrong degree. And you and I are not the zealous Lord of the temple, so we should be careful about what we allow to make us angry.

I would hope that we’re like the disciples in this story. Reflecting on who Jesus is and relating Scripture to it.

And I would hope that we are like the common worshipers who probably would have been so relieved that worship had been restored at the temple and the temple returned to how it was supposed to be.

I think what we really are most like in this story at this point is the temple itself.

The Bible says that we are temple of God. The church is the temple of God. Christians are the temple of God. Not this building. This is not a temple. It’s a wonderful tool. It’s a great meeting house. But this building is not a temple. This is not the House of God.

These people gathered here are (see Ephesians 2:19-22!).

And every true Christian is a temple (see 1 Corinthians 6:19).

So the better question we might ask is, “Are we crowding out the true worship of God in our own hearts and in our own lives together and replacing it with whatever does not belong there?”

Have we replaced the worship of Almighty God with the worship of Almighty Dollar? Is money more important to us than prayer? Is convenience more important to us than gathered worship? Is there something we have let crowd out the place of God in our heart of hearts?

It’s not too hard to think of what that might be. Especially for someone else. It’s easy to see how other Christians and other churches have gotten their priorities out of whack. The real question is, how have I? How have we?

And are we ready to allow Jesus change us? 

Because Jesus is not mild. If you have Jesus in your life, He’s going to change it.  And that change may be kind of violent!

Sometimes we want a mild Jesus that won’t create a fuss. We want a mild Jesus who won’t make a mess of what we’ve been building in our own lives. But the real Jesus is zealous for God’s glory in this temple. And we need to be ready for Him to be passionate about changing our lives so that they are the way they were intended to be.

And that might be really messy. Jesus cares. He really cares, and that might mean tables tossed all over the place.

Are you open to that? He’s probably going to toss a table that you’re fond of. Something convenient.

It’s so easy to replace true worship with convenience. True following with something that’s just a little bit easier. I’m sure that these folks didn’t decide all at once to open up the temple courts to commerce. At this time, the temple complex was 36 acres. They probably just gave a little corner of the court of Gentiles over to the money changers and the sacrifice sellers. What could it hurt? But then it just grew and grew and grew. 

What little corner of your life have you given over because it was easier than what you knew God wanted? Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s good. And Jesus is not mild.

You and I need to be open to hearing Jesus say, “Get these out of here! How dare you?”

“How dare you?”

“How dare you crowd God out of your heart so that you don’t bother to pray?”
“How dare you crowd God out of your heart and fill it with politics, with the flag, with America instead?”
“How dare you crowd God out of your heart and fill it with your family instead?”
“How dare you crowd God out of your heart and fill it with money and greed, with possessions, with stuff?”
“How dare you crowd God out of your heart and fill it with {whatever} instead?”
“How dare you give pride of place to anything other than God Himself?”

“How dare you push worship off into a corner so that it gets lost?”

If your Jesus never says to you, “How dare you...Get these out of here!” then you probably aren’t following the true Jesus.

Because Jesus is the zealous Lord of this temple.

The Jewish Religious Leaders were not so convinced.

They sent a delegation to ask Jesus the same kind of thing they asked John the Baptist. “Who do you think you are?” Look at verse 18.

“Then the Jews demanded of him, ‘What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’”

Notice that they didn’t say, “Hey, what you did there was wrong.” No, they didn’t argue with His actions. They just wanted to know His authorization. They knew that these were not the actions of a madman but the actions of a messiah! “Can you give us a sign (same word as last week, “saymeion”) to prove that you are allowed to do this sort of thing?”

How should Jesus respond to that?

Well, He could have done a miracle right there and said, “I am the Son of God and God the Son and you should all now bow and worship Me. How’s that for a sign?”

But He doesn’t. Jesus never gives in to someone else’s demands. He never provides a sign when they require one. He’s too smart to do that. He knows what they would do with that, and it would never be the right thing. It would always give people the wrong idea, and if their hearts weren’t right would always lead to the wrong conclusions and make these worse.

If you jump down to verses 23, 24, and 25, you can see that there were many people who were watching Jesus at this time and came to the conclusion that He was the Messiah, but Jesus knew that they didn’t have the right idea about what the Messiah was and their hearts weren’t ready to truly change and follow Him. Look at verse 23.

“Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name [or at least they thought they did]. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man” (vv.23-25).

At this point, Jesus turns elusive again. He doesn’t want to lead a revolt against Rome. He knew that they didn’t “get Him” yet and knew where their hearts really were. So He doesn’t give Himself to them fully, and He doesn’t answer their demands for a sign. He doesn’t fall for that.

Instead, He tells them about the ultimate sign that was still to come. Look back up at verse 19.

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

That’s dramatic, isn’t it?! “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” It’s like a dare. Go ahead, make my day. “Destroy this temple. I will raise it again in three days.”

Now, they’re going to have a big problem with that. It sounds ludicrous to them. Way too much of a miracle. Verse 20. “The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’”

“I really don’t think so. King Herod started this rebuilt temple project 46 years before this. It’s taking forever. And it won’t be done for a few more decades, and it will be destroyed. And you are going to rebuild it in three days? If we destroy it? You’re the one tossing tables around in it.”

They don’t get it. And it took His disciples a long time to get it, but eventually they understood that Jesus wasn’t talking about this temple, but This Temple. His body. Look at verse 21.

“But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 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.”

Here’s point number two of two:

Jesus is not just the zealous Lord of this temple.


In my mind, He actually points to Himself when He says verses 19. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

And they just don’t have the categories yet to follow what He’s saying. It was like a time-bomb parable, meant to go off in their minds after the resurrection. 

Jesus is saying that He is the true and better temple. He is what the temple was always supposed to be.

We’ve seen this idea already in chapter 1.

Verse 14 says (again): “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

Remember, the Word is God and now the Word has come to dwell with His people. The Greek word there for “dwell with” is actually the same root word for the tabernacle in the Old Testament, the tent version of the temple!

Jesus is the temple, the meeting place with God.

Or remember what Jesus told Nathanael at the end of chapter 1?

“You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (Jn. 1:50-51 NIVO).

Jesus is the stairway to the Father. The connecting point. The juncture between God and His people. That’s what the temple was supposed to be!

Jesus is the true fulfillment of the temple.

The temple was to be full of God. And what does Paul say about Jesus in Colossians 2:9? “[I]n Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form...” (Col. 2:9 NIVO).

Jesus is the true fulfillment of the temple. And if they tore Him down, He would rise again.

And guess what? They tore Him down, and He rose again.

Of course, this is a much greater miracle than simple re-building a stone temple really fast. This is a Person coming back from the dead! And this is a much greater sign than what the Jews were asking for.

He refused to do a miracle for them, but He promised the greatest miracle ever done!

Years, later at His trial, His accusers will report that He threatened to destroy the temple. Though they couldn’t get their stories to match up.

And Jesus will later predict the destruction of the temple that did then happen in 70AD.

But here He wasn’t threatening to destroy it. He was promising to fulfill it.

To not just make it what it always should be.

But to be what it always was meant to be.

So that you and I can meet with God because God has come to meet with us.

Jesus is the true fulfillment of all of the sacrifices that were done in the temple.

One commentator I read this week said that when Jesus cleared out the cattle, doves, and sheep, there was only one Lamb left in the building. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus is anything but mild!

Do you believe that? Do you believe that Jesus is the true fulfillment of this temple? Because of what He did on the Cross and at the Empty Tomb? 

If you believe it, then you will have life in His name. 

Now and forever. Amen.