Zeal For His House
Footsteps of Jesus • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 50:06
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Today’s world is overrun with advertisements and sponsorship. I understand why they exist, but I can’t stand seeing them anymore. But this is the consequence for getting free or next to free stuff. We love free. We love free games on our devices. We love free streaming services. We love being able to go to websites or watch YouTube. But all of these things cost money and that money has to come from somewhere. That’s where advertisements come in. They are everywhere and they are not going away any time soon.
Surfing the internet today is like walking down a street market with every vendor yelling for your attention, trying to sell their products. When we were in Israel, this was everywhere, especially in and around Jerusalem. Street vendors were all over the place, doing whatever they could to make a sale. There is one place where you can still escape all that and it’s right here. But could you imagine if you had to get through a bunch of street vendors to get to where you were sitting this morning?
After Jesus turned water into wine, he stayed in Capernaum for a few days. John fast-forwards to the time of Passover and Jesus and his companions make their way to Jerusalem. Remember, Passover is one of the most important religious feast days in Israel. They will spend about a week preparing for this event. Any able-bodied Israelites would make their way to Jerusalem at this time to present offerings and sacrifices at the temple and share in Passover meals. The purpose of this time was to remember the exodus, when God delivered the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and brought them into the promised land. This was a big deal. It would be like everyone flocking to Washington D.C. to celebrate Independence Day.
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and 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; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 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. Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing.
The temple in the time of Christ must have been something significant. It is described as having extraordinary beauty. It was a massive structure. The temple mount was separated into different courtyards. There was a massive courtyard outside the main temple area called the court of the Gentiles. If you were not Jewish, this was as far as you go. That area is indicated by the large flat paved area outside the temple in this photo.
When Jesus arrived, he found people had set up businesses selling oxen, sheep, and doves. You also had people exchanging currency. He finds this practice abhorrent, makes a whip of cords, and drives them out. This is a very different picture from the always kind, tolerant, meek and mild Jesus people seem to want to portray today. Jesus got hot. He’s accused of overreacting. What are we to understand of this? What are we to understand of our Savior?
First, we need to remember to put things into perspective. Old Testament Judaism is not the same as New Testament Christianity. What was prescribed to them is not necessarily what is prescribed for us today, though there is overlap. Let me show you what I mean.
The temple in Jerusalem was the most holy place in all of Israel. It was thought that the very presence of God was there, resting above the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, the most inner room in the temple. This was the most sacred place on earth for any Jew. The animals being sold and the money being exchanged were used for worship in the temple. When people arrived for Passover, Jewish law stated they were to bring a sacrifice and a monetary offering known as a tribute (also known as a tax).
Imagine the difficulty of traveling with a live animal a long distance to get to the temple. What did the condition of the animal have to be for it to be a proper sacrifice? It had to be unblemished. What would happen if your ox, sheep, dove, or pigeon was damaged in transit? The priest would inspect it upon arrival and tell you to come back with a proper sacrifice. What if that were you in that day and time? What if you just traveled 100 miles on foot only to be told your sacrifice wasn’t acceptable? Was there a legitimate need for this kind of business? Sure. But this is not what Jesus was mad about.
In that time period, the marketplace currency was Roman coinage. The Jews hated Rome so much that they refused to accept Roman coins for any offerings at the temple. They still used the Jewish shekel. This was the only currency they would accept. What happened if you conducted your business in Roman coins and came to the temple without Jewish coinage? There were money changers there to assist you in exchanging currency. Was there a legitimate need for such a service? Sure. But this is not what Jesus was mad about.
When you and I go to an amusement park, a sporting event, or a concert, how much does food cost versus the same food found in the open market? It’s crazy high! Once you go to one of these places, you are in a closed environment where the owner of the establishment sets the terms. They can charge way beyond what is fair because they control the situation? What are you going to do? Order pizza to the ball park? They won’t let that happen.
The same is true of these businesses set up in the temple courtyard. The difference here is that at the ball park you don’t have to buy any concessions at all. In the temple, sacrifices and offerings are required. So these business owners realized that once people were there, they were stuck, so they could charge whatever they want. Where else were you going to get an unblemished sacrifice?
Jesus is ticked off because people were taking advantage of their own people and hindering authentic worship. There was no other place to go! They could charge whatever they wanted because they couldn’t just go to the temple down the street.
There’s a quotation here from Psalm 69:9, where John is saying this zeal for God’s house consuming him. In the original context of the Psalm, David is expressing how his suffering is due to his desire for righteousness and living for God. The closer David gets to God, the more it seems he is hated. John is saying that verse nine alludes to the suffering Jesus would experience because of his passion for righteousness. Jesus was so zealous for authentic worship that he could not stand for what these people were doing in God’s house. The objection here is not to the existence of these businesses themselves. It was the abuse of them Jesus could not tolerate.
What would this look like in the modern church? What would have to take place here for Jesus to walk in the door and overturn the tables? What Jesus was chasing off might look something like this today. Let’s imagine that I took my knowledge of Hebrew and Greek and translated the Bible into English. I bound it, massed produced it, and insisted that everybody have a copy of it when they came to church, and they had to pay for it. Forget about the English Bible you brought. It’s not good enough. Only this Bible can be used.
What if we had wardrobe requirements for coming to church? We sort of do, but it’s more common sense sort of stuff (please don’t come to church in your underwear). Once upon a time, a suit and tie for men and long modest dresses for women were the standard. But what if we had complete outfits for sale at the door for anyone who did not meet our standard for dress code?
We don’t do these things, but if we did, we would be rightly criticized for doing so. But even if we don’t do them, are there other attitudes that demonstrate that is still true today? Are there any obstacles we have erected that need to be torn down?
The difference between what was taking place in the temple that day and what takes place in the church today is that we have much greater freedom of expression when it comes to worship. The sacrificial system is no longer a requirement because Jesus is our final sacrifice. But we now present sacrifices of a different kind. Romans 12:1 says,
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
We offer sacrifices of tithes and offerings, but now we do so not as a requirement prescribed to us like the law of Moses did, but voluntary as God leads us to do. Coming to church doesn’t cost you any money. We don’t charge admission at the door. Your giving should come out of love for Christ and a desire to see his mission succeed.
There may be a number of things that separate us or divide us outside these walls. Some of those things are things we have to overcome as a society. But once you walk through the doors of this church, you and I are the same. If the best you have is a ratty T-shirt, basketball shorts, and sandals that are barely being held together, then you are welcome to stand beside me and worship the king together. If you got name brands on and could single-handedly finance my next higher education degree, then we should be able to stand next to one another and praise Jesus for the salvation he has provided us both. If you and I don’t share the same skin color or speak the same language, that should not be a hindrance for us to come together and praise the one who crated us both in his image.
The crux of the message is this:
Our passion for the integrity of worship should lead us to root out sinful behaviors in the church.
Our passion for the integrity of worship should lead us to root out sinful behaviors in the church.
It is not a sin to have preferences. You and I are going to be attracted to different things. We might have different tastes in music, different tastes, when it comes to the version of the Bible we use, different tastes or ideas when it comes to wardrobe, or what we think church is supposed to “look” like. Those things are not wrong. It becomes a problem when we let those things detract us from the things that are truly important. Worship is to be accessible to everyone.
The closer we get to God, the less like the world we should be. Our worship is hindered when we come with unconfessed sin. Is there anything you have been holding onto that is offensive to the Lord? One of the things we should be doing during our prayer time at the beginning of the service is laying ourselves at the mercies of God, acknowledging our sinfulness and seeking forgiveness.
Do you know for sure you are a child of God? Do you know what it means to be saved? Believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior is step number one to being in a right relationship with God. Have you made that decision yet? Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God? Do you believe he died for you to buy your pardon from sin and death to give you eternal life? Have you made that choice? Believe and be reborn today.