Read John 2:13-25
Jesus was, furious, angry full of zeal, rage, fired up?
This is not the picture of the kind, loving, peaceful Jesus we often see. Pictures of Jesus often have him with long brown hair and a whimsical, soft, gentle look on his face.
Well not this day. Jesus made a whip and used it. “…he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle…”. Jesus was fired up! He wasn’t calm, he didn’t use reason to get them to leave what they were doing, he didn’t use a nice tone of voice. Jesus was fired up.
He didn’t act wrongly in a fit of rage as we know he was sinless. I think while he was fired up he was still calculating, choosing what he was doing, in control of his actions. He wasn’t a man blinded by a temper tantrum. He had reason and God-given purpose behind what he did. But it wasn’t nice or pretty.
We don’t exactly know, but the whip was probably only used on the sheep and cattle rather than people as well, but it could have been- we don’t really know. He had time to make a whip. I think if it was me – I can get worked up about something but if I had to them make a whip I would have some time to think and would probably come to the conclusion: no, I don’t need to react this way. It’s not that big a deal. This wasn’t just a fit of uncontrollable rage for Jesus. This was Jesus fired up for his Father, full of zeal.
This side of Jesus may scare us a little – bring into question the character of Jesus as he seems to lose it with these people. We may struggle to line this passage up with the image and personality we have assigned to Jesus in our minds and hearts. This zeal that makes us uncomfortable or scares us a bit reminds me of how God acts in the Old Testament with the Israelites and how God would get fed up with their inability to stay faithful to him.
We normally only want to look at the parts of God that we are comfortable with. The nice, loving parts and avoid the uncomfortable characteristics of God. In the Chronicles of Narnia ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’ by C.S. Lewis, Aslan is the lion, the king of Narnia. And the story is symbolic and draws lots of parallels with Jesus including being killed and rising again. But Aslan while loving and kind, generous, and gentle is also a lion who can be fierce, strong, so strong we cannot control him. Often we want to find the good side of the story of Jesus driving everyone out of the temple courts, to make Jesus more tame and easier for us to understand. So often we want to tame God, so he fits into our nice neat understanding of who God is and how God acts. But we cannot tame God. We can only dig deeper into who he is.
I stumbled across this picture (“God is not safe but he is good”) and it really made me think. There are verses in scripture that talk about God protecting us and keeping us safe from the evil one. But that does not mean life will be safe. Carrying a cross and following Jesus is not a safe life in worldly terms but it is good, and our God is good.
This passage shows me another aspect of Jesus’ strength. He wasn’t weak because he was also gentle, loving etc. He was strong.
There was a market in the temple
Selling animals for sacrifice and changing money wasn’t bad in itself. Many people came from far away to offer sacrifices and it wasn’t feasible to bring a dove with you or a sheep. From what I’ve gathered, the temple also required a yearly temple tax which could only be paid in the temple currency so that it did not have images of idols or people, being given to God. There were also different currencies so exchanging money would have been helpful. It made sense to have these facilities nearby.
In saying that they were doing something drastically wrong too for Jesus to get all fired up.
A market- a mall, a supermarket. It’s where you go to get things, good food for dinner, post a letter, some new socks, a birthday present for a family member. A market is where you go to get things. Jesus said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” Somewhere you go to get jobs done and buy things you need and want. A good market is convenient, serves you and your needs easily. You can find what you are after easily. Stop turning my Father’s house into a market.
I think it’s easy to compare the temple with church buildings. Temple like structures where worship, among other things, happen. So, do we need to ask ourselves the question, “Do we treat this place as a market- somewhere we come to get what we need and go home?”
John2:19, “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.
Our temple is not this building we call church as great as it is.
Jesus body is our temple.
When Jesus died the curtain in the temple that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple was torn. The Holy of holies was where God’s spirit was dwelling. Only the high priest went in there once a year to make sacrifices on behalf of the people. This is where God’s spirit dwelt and when Jesus died, and that curtain tore, the way people dwelt with God changed. The way was opened for God’s Spirit to dwell among us through Jesus.
We follow Jesus and Jesus welcomes us into his life, the Holy of holies is now opening relationship up for us to live life through Jesus, and Jesus in us, through the Holy Spirit. This seems a bit technical sorry but it’s really important. We are not living in temple times. Church isn’t our temple that we come to worship God in. It is a building we meet in to do worship among other things and is it sacred ground. Maybe, but it is not our temple. Jesus is clear that the new temple is in him, in his body. We are united with Christ.
He is the vine; we are the branches. We are connected into Jesus, into relationship with God through Jesus.
There is a picture by Andrei Rublev’s called Icon of the Trinity. It is symbolic in all sorts of ways. Who has seen this before? It is symbolic in showing the Father, Son and Spirit in relationship with each other, each included in the circle of pure love. What I find most awesome is the little square near the bottom. It is thought to have had a mirror at about eyesight height. So, as you looked at the painting you were seeing yourself at the table as well. Brought into relationship with God. This is beyond any temple, any building as God has brought us into fellowship with HIM directly. Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension made it possible for us to worship in Spirit and in truth.
Communion reminds us that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Communion also talks of the bread as Jesus’ body. Symbolically Jesus body into our body
1 Cor 11:23-25 The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
We began with talking of Jesus being fired up and how that can make us a little uncomfortable with Jesus and now here we are talking about being intimately connected to Jesus and therefore God, as Jesus, through the Spirit, brings us into the Holy of holies, into the presence of God. This is our true place of worship now. It is not a building or temple but God and his people (the church) united to God. And in this communion with God, in this relationship with God, in the place that is the Holy of holies there is no place for a market. There is no place for getting what you want and leaving again. This is God’s home and we have been brought into that love as children to participate in this relationship of the Trinity. It is not about our needs being met although there will be some of that. It’s also about living in relationship with God. And a healthy relationship is where one lays down his life for another. It’s what we do for the other because we are concerned for their good, their wellbeing. Are we concerned with what God wants? Are we following out his commands because we love him in return? Or are we solely trying to get our needs met before we go on our way again? Do we treat God a bit like a market? A shopping list of prayers- please God, please God, and nothing else? Asking God for things is totally ok,. We are brought to the table to participate not keep silent. But if all we are doing is “God give me, God give me”, are we doing the very thing Jesus makes a whip about?
Maybe we need to slow down and sit at the table with God, sit in his Holy presence and listen, do as he commanded because of the love and reverence we have for God.
Sometimes Cecil my husband asks if I can get him his favourite juice at the supermarket. Sometimes I know he wants one but hasn’t asked in a while, so I get him one because I know he likes it and will appreciate it. While I have been asked I also enjoy getting it for him because I love him.
Another thing I don’t enjoy so much, would be going to every possible museum that has anything to do with Roman times. Not something I really enjoy after the 5th one but I did it happily because I know he loves it. What about for God? What do we do for God because we know it brings God pleasure? Some suggestions as starters;
- Treating each other as we would want to be treated (Luke 6:31), not always enjoyable but we do it because it pleases God.
- whatever you do for the least of these you do for me (Matt 25:40).
This Christian faith is not about what we get in return from God, but it is a two-way relationship. And this two-way relationship means we cannot sit and receive and get our needs met alone but if we love God in return we will also do what pleases God; do what he wants of us. How do we know what God desires? The Bible is full of ideas and a good place to start. Or ask God to show you; ask other Christians.
This passage is one of the best passages to encourage self-reflection. We need to check our motives, check our hearts, be open to God’s leading and open to the transformation of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Because we don’t want to be the self-serving money-changers or the ones selling Christianity in a way that profits us. We don’t want to make a building a temple when Jesus has brought us into the holy of holies, into relationship with God through his body. Our true place of worship is in Spirit and in truth and that is not a market, not serving our needs alone but a two-way relationship.