Easter praise - John 2:12-22

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the evening service on 12th April 2009.

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The coverage of the G20. All the world leaders from the 20 most influential economies in the world meeting in London to see if they could agree on how to sort out this financial mess. Lots of TV coverage of the summit. But not only did we see the world leaders we also saw footage of Mrs Obama meeting various people. Her motivational speech at the Girl’s School and also the breaking of protocol when she met the Queen- she put her arm round her waist and apparently the Queen responded in kind. And there was the coverage of the thousands in the heart of London’s financial district, raising their voices and in some cases even throwing objects through windows.

Before I read from John 2:12-22 where would you have never placed Jesus? Suppose he was in town where do you think he would have been most at home? With the world leaders in the Excel Centre? With the Queen at Buckingham Palace? Or with the protestors, raising his voice and throwing obstacles around?

Most of us would not put Jesus in a crowd of protestors getting angry. We can see him in the other places. Something doesn’t seem to fit with the popular view of Jesus. The popular view does not present a Jesus who gets angry and starts throwing things around. And yet this is exactly what he does in John chapter 2.

We need to be careful. We can’t simply say Jesus did this and so we can do this. We need to work out why Jesus did what he did before we can make any parallels with what we are thinking of doing today. But hopefully the sheer fact that Jesus actually did this (in fact he did it twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of his three year public ministry) has woken you up tonight and made you listen even more intently.

Let’s see if we can work out why Jesus did this.

Verse 12. After his miracle at the wedding in Cana where he turned water into wine he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. Not the major part of the text but it’s interesting to note in passing that as well as having a mother and disciples he also had brothers. Which implies that after the virgin birth much to the joy of Joseph, Jesus’ mum and dad had normal sexual relations. Mary did not stay a perpetual virgin. And they all go down with Jesus and his followers to Capernaum.

After a few days Jesus decided to go up to Jerusalem for the annual festival of the Passover. The big one to go to. Large crowds of worshippers flocked into Jerusalem from the countryside and also from other countries. They remembered the time when God had rescued their ancestors from captivity in Egypt in a very special way. He would pass through in judgement. All the eldest sons would be killed. They could be spared if a Lamb was killed and the door spread on the door posts. As God passed through he would pass over the houses where the Lamb had died. The Lamb had died as a substitute.

This festival was repeated every year and this is what Jesus went up to Jerusalem to experience. But look at what he found when he got there. Verse 14, “In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 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 moneychangers 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!’”

I’m sure they thought it was a wise business practice. People travelling from all over. Were they expected to bring their animals with them? Much more convenient to have a choice when you got there.

There was the temple tax. It was only allowed to be paid in the local currency. How convenient to have your money exchanged just before you handed over your sacrifice to be slaughtered!

I’m sure many wise sages walked past thinking what a sensible set up. Then Jesus comes along and goes absolutely ballistic. He makes a whip, raises his voice and turns over the table. The question is why?

•    Don’t speculate
•    Don’t turn to the other accounts too soon

What does it say it verse 16? How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!

He doesn’t address the rights and wrongs of selling cattle. He may or may not have had a viewpoint on easy worship. He doesn’t address the rights and wrongs of the temple tax. Instead he focuses on the atmosphere of the temple with these things going on in the very building.

Have you ever been to a market? Shouting, wanting your business, catching up with old friends. Not the atmosphere Jews should have had when approaching the temple for this feast. They should have been reminded of God’s holiness and their sin and the great cost required to reconcile God and man. It was trivial and fun.  As a result Jesus got angry and decided to act.

Sometimes we 21st century Brits find this difficult to understand. It almost seems a virtue in this country to be able to glide through life without any passions or strong feelings. Occasionally the person might get upset if someone undertakes them on the motorway or jumps in front of them in a queue but generally the measured life is for them. No peaks or troughs on their heart monitor. It’s the horizontal life that is best. And yet that’s not Jesus. There is such a ting as righteous anger. Jesus had such a passion for his Father’s glory that he got enraged when he encountered situations that mocked it.

It would be very tempting at this point to apply this to us and see what our lack of passion reveals about our concern for the Father’s glory. But to be honest the focus of John chapter 2 is not on what we do but on who Jesus was.

Let me show you this. What’s just happened? If it was about us then what should we read in verse 17? “His disciples saw his example and from that day tried to copy his enthusiasm.” But that isn’t what we read at all. Instead we’re told that, “His disciples remembered that it is written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”

This is a quote from a part of the Bible written about a 1000 years before Jesus and it was originally written by one of Jesus’ distant relatives, King David. He describes how he has a zeal for the honour and purity of God’s house. By the time of Jesus it was thought that when the promised Messiah arrived he would relive all the godly parts of King David’s life. Therefore, when he arrived he would be consumed with zeal for God’s temple.

Do you see what’s happening? The disciples have knowledge of what kind of things the Messiah should be doing and they see Jesus doing them. They wonder, ‘Could this be the guy?’

Crime Watch. The photofit. Is this person this one?

The Jewish leaders want to know what authority he has to do this. How do we know you are not some young upstart with too many alchopops in your system? How do we know you are the real deal, the genuine article?

Jesus tells them in verse 19. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

They misunderstand him. They think he is crazy. 46 years to build this latest phase of the temple and you’ll raise it in three days. But they had misunderstood. Jesus wasn’t talking about the physical building. He was talking about himself.

They want proof that he has the authority to do these things. What does Jesus give them? He points them to his resurrection from the dead and says that when this happen this will be evidence that he is the Messiah.

Why is this proof of Jesus’ identity? So many predictions. Where he would be born, what he would do and what he would say, even how he would die. If you were a sceptic you could say that he was deliberately acting it out. After a lucky start with his birth he then starting to live out what was written. How about the resurrection? The Messiah was set to rise again. Unless Jesus really was the Messiah then he would not be raised. There is the sign.

It all hinges on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If this didn’t happen then Jesus could not have been the Jewish Messiah and we should all go home. This place should be gutted and sold as a carpet warehouse.

How can we know 2000 years later if Jesus rose from the dead? Is it all by faith or can we have any evidence that should convince us?

Wedding in Oxford. You cannot learn it. There are reasons.

Why do I believe Jesus rose from the dead? One of the reasons. It is the best explanation for the following facts of history that everyone needs to deal with.

•    The empty tomb

How do we know the tomb was empty? They were preaching that Jesus was raised from the dead. What is the easiest way to stop the movement in it’s tracks? Bring out the body. They couldn’t do this. Where was it?

Did someone steal it? Grave robbers? Disciples? How do you explain the guard at the tomb and the huge rock in front of it?

•    The behaviour of Jesus’ disciples

Turned from cowards into preachers. Prepared to die for what they said. They knew if it was true or not. Christians have always prided themselves on telling the truth.

Maybe they hallucinated or perhaps a group delusion.

But remember you have to combine this with an explanation for why the tomb was empty.

The explanation must deal with all the facts together.

The best explanation is the one provided in the Bible. That Jesus was killed but after three days he rose again and appeared physically to his disciples who then realised that the resurrection was the proof that Jesus really was God’s promised Messiah.

That’s why we read what we do in verse 22. “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.”

Two things here. They believed  the Scripture, which is a way of speaking about the OT and they also believed what Jesus had said.

What does it mean that they believed the Scripture? Surely they did trust that it was God’s word because they were faithful Jews. They believed that what it said about the promised Messiah was now fulfilled in Jesus. The resurrection was the final proof.

They also believed the words that Jesus had spoken. They now believed that he was the temple but life changing when we get hold of it.

This is radical. Not simply did he come to reform the temple. That was a temporary action. He actually came to replace the temple. What the temple was Jesus was going to be from now on.

What was the temple? Ultimately the place where sinful people could have their sins dealt with/atoned for. This was not easy. They couldn’t just come in for a chat. Couldn’t just come in a say sorry. Blood had to be shed.

Jesus is saying that he is the true temple. The true place where sins can be atoned for. He is the true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. To have your sins dealt with you don’t have to go to a special building or wash in a certain river. You simply have to come as you are to Jesus. Follow him as King and benefit from his once and for all sacrifice on the cross.

Have you done this? If you have then be encouraged. The resurrection took place. There is evidence for your faith. Understand what it means. It shows without doubt that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

If not, then what is stopping you?

More evidence? Come to Identity.

Peer pressure? What matters most? What your family or friends think of you or where you will be in 100 years time? If this is true then act.

Act tonight. Hand over your life. Booklet.

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