Have you ever been troubled by the dogma of men – bothered by the scandals and the corruption of the Worldly church (not the True Body of Believers), repulsed by the brutality and greed of the crusades and inquisitions, the hunt for witches, or the incessant battles fought between so called “Christian” factions and denominations – the war of words that costs lives and repels those who see it go on – the anger that’s generated over sexual abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to be ministers of God. Unfortunately, the biggest atrocity is that many of those who were called by God for Salvation wind up falling by the wayside at the distraction and roadblocks built by evil hearts of men who claim to speak for Jesus. Have you ever had a problem with any of these? Yes? Then this message is for you, because Jesus is even more repulsed than you – at least the Jesus of the Bible is – perhaps not the fabricated Jesus of the churches that spawned this hypocritical discord, but the Jesus of the Bible is.
Let’s hear what the Word of God will say to us today.
Christ Cleanses the Temple
13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”
18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. - John 2:13-22
The Temple of God at the Time of Jesus
Remember that one of the main purposes of this series of messages is to dispel some of the inaccurate images of Jesus that we may have developed over the years? Well, let’s start with that false picture of Jesus being a doe-eyed, shiny-haired, effeminate, zin-seeking hippie with a halo around His head. My Friends, “pansy-Jesus” is not a Biblically-accurate representation of the Man who cleaned house in the Court of the Gentiles – driving out cattle – turning over tables of money – sending birds flying – whipping man and beast alike; therefore, let’s hit the mental <delete> key on the false image of “pansy-Jesus” and replace it with the Truth.
BIBLICAL TRUTH: Jesus was a man who boldly stood up to religious corruption, and He did it with such veracity that no one attempted to stop him – in His righteous anger He physically intimidated the merchants and priests alike.
So, Jess, what’s the big deal with all the cattle, birds, and moneychangers? (vv.13-17)
Well, the Jews at that time lived under the “sacrificial system,” meaning that in order to atone for sin or show appreciation for the all the LORD provides or just simple thankfulness, sacrifices were made on the altar, but one of the stipulations of these offerings was that the sacrifices were to be without blemish – the best of your flock or field. Unfortunately, religion, like government, is a perfect thing until you throw people into the mix. In this case, the priests over the years had become corrupt. They had the duty of inspecting the sacrificial animals for defects prior to sacrifice, and somewhere along the way, one of the priests came up with an idea – “Hey, if I reject a sacrifice for some sort of blemish then I could direct the Seeker of God to a vendor outside (one of my buddies) that would allow him to trade in his ‘defective’ animal for one that’s already been ‘pre-approved’ for sacrifice – for a small fee, of course. Then my merchant buddy and I could work it out so that the ‘defective’ one that just got traded in became the next pre-approved one.”
Another scam was the “moneychanger,” where the priests required that any money to be given to God had to be in the form of the Temple Shekel – no foreign currency was accepted, and this was a big deal, since Jews from all over the region came to the Temple for (at a minimum) the three major feasts: The Passover, the Feast of First Fruits, and the Feast of Tabernacles – plus the non-mandatory feasts that occurred throughout the year. Well, with all this foreign money coming in, the priests realized that they could collude with some moneychangers and charge these well-meaning Jews outrageous exchange fees, which in essence hijacked them from God, either line the pockets of priests and their merchant cronies or you cannot worship God – it was a sad shame – the wicked taking advantage of the weak in the name of religion – it’s still a shame today in America, but we can talk about that more later.
Another reason for Jesus to clear these guys out was that they had setup shop in the Court of the Gentiles – the place where foreign converts to Judaism were allowed to worship God – Jesus would later say, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’ ? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (Mark 11:17) – the very place of worship for those who converted to Judaism was turned into a crowded animal excrement-saturated mall for the hypocritical and greedy.
Corrupting and preventing Worship and taking advantage of the Children of God is something that Jesus showed zero tolerance for, and as we journey through His life we’ll see that the only times He becomes upset is with the legalistic and hypocritical religious authority of the day – those who would place unBiblical burdens on others, often not even attempting to keep the same standard for themselves – judging and shunning those that Jesus came to Save – Jesus hated this.
(v.18) Did you notice in the Text that these Religious Rulers didn’t say “Hey! Why are you doing this?” That’s because they knew what they were doing was wrong – the people knew that they were getting taken advantage of, but they probably became apathetic over time – I mean what can you do to a priest that’s taking advantage of you? No, they knew they were wrong – what they wanted to know was “By what authority Jesus did this?” Jews were big into authority for some reason, but they never really respected the authority of God’s Chosen: Moses, the Prophets, and lastly to Jesus and His followers – they turned away from Truth and Righteousness. They asked for a sign, but it was little more than a rhetorical and customary question – it didn’t really matter what Jesus’ reply would be, they would simply continue on in their rebellion against the very heart of God – seething in their anger, which will eventually culminate into murder of the Son of God – their Messiah.
A little side note on anger: When Jesus became angry it was Righteous Anger (not sin), meaning He was angry because of misrepresentations of His Father by men and hypocritical oppression of the Children of God by Religious Leaders. Usually, when we/I become angry it’s just plain sin because it’s almost always about me and my pride – not because of misrepresentation/blasphemy of our LORD, Savior, or Spirit or even religious injustice to our Brethren. He’s Good and Righteous all the time – me… well, not so much – I thank God for His Grace.
(v.19-22) When the Religious Rulers challenged His authority, demanding a sign, Jesus could have given them any sign they wanted, but they still wouldn’t have believed, so He simply prophesied about how they would destroy Him and the New Temple would rise three days later. There are a couple of simple things we should probably note from this exchange:
1. People Always Seek a Sign: We always want to see a demonstration of the Power of God – “If I could just see a Sign from God then I would Believe.” Well, my Friends, if history is any sort of indicator of what goes on in the present, then the response to this is “No we/you/I won’t.” Read the story of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. Man, they literally had the Power of God leading the way in a cloud by day and Pillar of Fire by night, giving them both direction and light – they had seen the plagues exacted on Egypt – they had seen the waters of the Red Sea parted and they walked across on dry ground, not in the mud – they had seen pharaoh and his army swallowed up by the Red Sea – they had seen water come from the Rock, manna come from the sky, quail came in the evening and were plucked up by hand – all these things and more they had seen, yet they still rebelled against their God – despite the miracles that they witnessed.
You know, my first (and maybe even second) time reading through the history of Israel after coming back to the LORD a few years ago I kept thinking to myself “How could these people be so stupid? I mean they had the Signs – the Power of God right there – He dwelt in their midst – These guys were morons.” But then I realized that I do the same thing – worse even, I/you/we are more like Sampson (Judges 13-16) than the Israelites. You know, we (Believers) have something that the average Jew didn’t and still doesn’t have – the Holy Spirit dwelling within us – literally God in us. Yes, the Jews had awesome demonstrations of the Power of God as a sign and witness, but relatively few of them ever received empowering by the Holy Spirit, but Sampson did – He was a Nazarite (a super-holy set apart group of men in the Old Testament) even from conception – God called him to that. I think it’s safe to say that the Spirit was upon him even in the womb as well, but despite the very presence of God within him (just like us), he rebelled – he sinned – he chased foreign women in sexual immorality – he violated all the rules that were in place to keep him set apart – sanctified as a Nazarite, and in later in his life we see probably the saddest verse in the Bible “…and he [Sampson] said ‘I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free [of the bonds of this world – the bonds that I put myself in – and I will continue the fight of the LORD, now that I have satisfied my Flesh and am ready to act the part of the man of God that He called me to be]! But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.” (Judges 16:20). Funny thing though – in God’s economy – despite how we may judge the life of Sampson, he is considered by the LORD to be one of the great men of Faith (Hebrews 11:32). No, that doesn’t make any sense to me either, but I’m thankful that that’s the way God’s Grace works – He sees only our Faith in Him (as evidentially sporadic as it may be) – you either have Faith or you don’t.
2. The Temple of God is not a Building – In the old days, the Temple of God was a building – an awesome building that existed twice:
- The Temple that Solomon Built – this was the first Temple, but it was destroyed in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians, when Jerusalem was ransacked and the Israelites were sent into exile for 70 years as punishment for their idolatrous ways. The last remnant of Israel that was in Jerusalem, Israel had started getting picked off hundreds of years before Jerusalem fell. The Second Temple – this was built after the exile, and the Temple as it was in Jesus’ day was actually built in two phases: the Temple that was built after the return of a remnant of Jews from the exile and the Temple expansion project that was started by Herod (the Roman-appointed half-Jewish ruler over Israel) – the expansion was massive, and it was still underway when Jesus was having this conversation with the Religious Rulers, which is why they said “This Temple has been being built for 46 years…” (v.20).
When Jesus replied “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” (v.19), He was establishing a new way – a New Temple – not a physical building, but a physical body – the Temple of God now exists in the physical body of man – we (each of us) are the Temple of God, and Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone and Foundation – He is our support and the point from which we build. Let’s return to the Word of God to better understand this.
Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation [Jesus], A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; - Isaiah 28:16
The stone which the builders [Israel] rejected has become the chief cornerstone. – Psalm 118:22
“My [the LORD’s] anger is kindled against the shepherds [Israel], And I will punish the goatherds. For the Lord of hosts will visit His flock [in the Person of Jesus], the house of Judah, and will make them as His royal horse in the battle. From Him [Jesus] comes the cornerstone, from Him the tent peg, from Him the battle bow, from him every ruler together. They shall be like mighty men [Believers], who tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle. They shall fight because the Lord is with them, And the riders on horses shall be put to shame. – Zechariah 10:3-5
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’ ?
43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you [Israel] and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet. – The Gospel of Matthew 21:42-45
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:8-12
19 Now, therefore, you [Believers] are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together [we are each individual stones] for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:19-22
16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. – 1st Corinthians 3:16
1Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 4 Coming to Him as to a living stone [that’s us], rejected indeed by men [the World thinks we’re crazy], but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood [we are all priests to the World – preachers of the Gospel of Salvation], to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
“Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he [we] who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,
“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” 8 and
“A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”
They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.
9 But you [we] are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. – 1st Peter 2:1-10
My Friends, there once was a time when the Temple of God was a physical building, but that time past when our Savior died on the Cross and was Resurrected on the third day. This should affect our decisions – our lives daily – it should cause us to live in the Spirit and strive to discipline ourselves with Holy living, so as not to defile ourselves in the World, but should/when we fail…
1My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation [the payment – the sacrifice] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. – 1st John 2:1-2
Internal Questions of the Day:
- For the Unbeliever: If the reason you haven’t given your life over to Jesus – our Savior – is because of what you have seen promulgated by “Christians” who have either chosen to develop their own set of rules apart from the Bible or they simply allowed themselves to become corrupted and evil, even though they fly the Banner of Christ – if this is the reason you’re still holding out, then won’t you realize today that much of that which you see today around you, especially the stuff you see and read about in the news – that’s not the Jesus of the Bible? Won’t you determine for yourself today to give your life over to Him who loves you – to Him who laid down His life for you – to Him who is calling you now unto Salvation?
- For the Believer: If you feel the Spirit convicting you now of being a stumbling block to those around you who may genuinely be seeking the God of the Bible, won’t you repent now – seek the Savior. Won’t you determine for yourself today to better know the God, Jesus, and Spirit of the Bible – to be a stone in the Temple of God so that you can be the welcoming and strengthening hands of Jesus to those who seek Him?
Father, we thank You for Your Word. We pray that Your Spirit will help us to see and be the Jesus of the Bible to those around us. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray – Amen.
Semper Fidelis †
2nd Timothy 4:1-5