Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 2:13-25
Zeal for My Father’s House
Vicar Alex Post

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

We know what Jesus meant when He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (Jn. 2:19) It is obvious to us that Jesus was referring to His death and resurrection – especially because John the Gospel writer tells us that Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body.

But the Jews in their zealous intentions had idolized the temple and forgotten what it pointed to. If the temple in Jerusalem is only a symbol of national pride and hard work, than it is blasphemy. “You shall have no other gods before me.” If the temple is the symbol of God’s presence but the very fleshly presence of God in Jesus Christ is rejected and put to death, then the temple has become a carved and constructed idol. You cannot rightly revere the temple if you reject the One the temple points to. And you cannot offer right sacrifices in the temple if you reject the perfect sacrifice, Jesus, the Lamb of God.

 

Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 2:13-25
Zeal for My Father’s House
Vicar Alex Post

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

We know what Jesus meant when He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (Jn. 2:19) It is obvious to us that Jesus was referring to His death and resurrection – especially because John the Gospel writer tells us that Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body.

But the Jews in their zealous intentions had idolized the temple and forgotten what it pointed to. If the temple in Jerusalem is only a symbol of national pride and hard work, than it is blasphemy. “You shall have no other gods before me.” If the temple is the symbol of God’s presence but the very fleshly presence of God in Jesus Christ is rejected and put to death, then the temple has become a carved and constructed idol. You cannot rightly revere the temple if you reject the One the temple points to. And you cannot offer right sacrifices in the temple if you reject the perfect sacrifice, Jesus, the Lamb of God.

The tabernacle and the temple in the Old Testament always pointed ahead to the Messiah. The Law of God, which included not only the perfect and holy moral code for daily living, but also instructions for sacrifices and temple building materials and priestly garments and purification rituals and worship practices – this Law also points to the Messiah. Malachi prophesied that the Messiah would “suddenly come to his temple…and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.” (Mal. 3:1,3)

When the Messiah came, He did not abolish God’s perfect Law – He fulfilled it. (Mt. 5:17) He fulfilled it in our place, because we have broken it, and He died so that we will live. That is the Gospel. Jesus did not pay for our sins by fighting and conquering, by force or with power, but in weakness and by dying.

Therefore it may have been surprising or even frightening for Jesus’ disciples to see the Messiah behave so forcefully, especially in the temple. Jesus, the meek and humble teacher who taught His followers to turn the other cheek, drove the money-changers, bankers, oxen, sheep and pigeons out of the temple with a righteous zeal and a passionate fervor. Jesus here applies the righteous Law of God to those who make the worship of God into a scheme of profit.

This purification of the temple in Jerusalem seems like a heavy-handed thing for the humble Son of God to do. Zeal is good; but driving people and animals out with a whip? “We must admit that by kicking up such a rumpus He is carrying things to extremes,” Martin Luther supposed that Jesus’ disciples were thinking. “But, after all, what alternative did He have? One who loves God and His house can never condone and tolerate such conduct. He must be activated by that passionate zeal of which this saying speaks.”

The problem in the outer courts of the temple was not that people were buying animals in order to sacrifice them. In fact, the Passover and the Feast and the sacrificed animals were commanded by God. The problem is that the house of God was turned into an emporium – a word that means “a place of trade or merchandise.”

The people who sold animals in the temple had not given first place to God’s saving grace during the Passover, when the angel of death spared the Israelites. They lost sight of God’s grace, grace that is free, grace that is for all people. They had zeal for the offerings of God’s house, but they had turned it into a work that they did and a sale that they made instead of God’s work for them.

We too often have a zeal for good things, but things that can get in the way of receiving God’s gifts in His house. “Take these things away,” Jesus said. Take away your thoughts today of things other than receiving Jesus in His house. “Take these things away!” Take away your thoughts of what’s for lunch or being bored or thoughts of worldly things. “Take these things away!” Take away thoughts that distract you from the prayers that are spoken to God today, from the hymns we sing to God, from the receiving of Jesus’ forgiveness that He gives you now.

God is zealous for your body and for your soul. He is zealous for you because He loves you. He does not want you to chase after things that pass away, or after your own good efforts.  For this purpose, God did not fashion a whip out of cords, but He made two hard stone tablets of His holy Law to expose your sin and to drive it out.

Jesus is zealous for your eternal life.
Nothing is more important to Him. He is zealous for you in the same way that He said to the Israelites: “I the LORD your God am a jealous God…” (Ex. 20:5) Jesus is not jealous in a bad way. He is jealous in a good way – the way a husband is jealous for the attention and love of his wife, and a wife of her husband.

Jesus is zealous – not that He is overzealous, as He seemed to be when He whipped the animals and money-changers right on out of the temple, but He is zealous to do the will of His
Father and to keep the Law perfectly for you. Furthermore, Jesus is not content with just an outward cleansing of the temple courts, but His zeal is for the inner court of your heart as well.

God gives you His Word and His preaching to help you see your sin and to repent. Although God the Father is zealous for His Son, His only Son, in whom He is well pleased, He is so zealous to save you that He gave His Son to be the sacrifice for your sin. Jesus was driven out of the temple and sacrificed on the cross outside of Jerusalem to give you eternal life.
Jesus was flogged with a whip made of lashes (Jn. 19:1). He was handed over to be crucified. Psalm 69, the Scripture remembered by the disciples, describes the suffering of Jesus so vividly: “For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me…Save me, O God…I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched…More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause…They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink…I am afflicted and in pain…Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress; make haste to answer me” (vv. 9, 1, 3, 4, 21, 29, 17).

Jesus’ zeal for His Father’s house consumed Him;
it ate Him up completely. Jesus’ zeal for your salvation consumed Him to the point of dying for you. “Destroy this temple…” This temple was Jesus’ body. He was destroyed for you and for me. He was consumed completely. And in three days, Jesus was raised again so that you too will be raised.

Jesus is still zealous for His Father’s house, because the Father’s house is wherever the Word of God is. In the Old Testament, God located His saving presence in the temple in Jerusalem. All who could not be present in Jerusalem turned and faced it, because God promised to be there. But now Jesus’ body is the new temple, the great and mighty building of flesh that is the very presence of God among His people. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory…” (Jn. 1:14).

God’s dwelling place is still with us – it is wherever Jesus Christ is preached faithfully. God is present wherever Jesus’ true Body and true Blood are received for the forgiveness of sins. God is present wherever two or three are gathered in His name. In fact, Jesus Christ Himself is the foundation for the temples of our bodies. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Cor. 3:16-17).

Jesus’ zeal is for you to receive His Word and His forgiveness throughout your life. He wants your temple, your body and your soul, to be fed with His Word and purified by His forgiveness. He now says: “Take these things away.” All of your sins – and they are taken away.  His Word does exactly as it says.  In the pardon and peace of His forgiveness He also desires for your doubts and distractions to be taken away as well.  “Take these away – all of your thoughts of unworthiness or uncertainty over my complete sacrifice for you!”  “Take these away – anything that distracts you from prayer in My house today.”  “Take these away – any of Satan’s nagging accusations that My body given you to eat and My blood given you to drink are not sufficient to present you holy and without blemish in my presence.”

So, what kind of temples are you, who are gathered together in the house of our Father? You are temples of God the Holy Spirit. You are members of the Body of Christ, people who have been purified by the sacrifice of Jesus’ bodily temple. You are clean and holy and precious and loved by God, because you are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

The Jews were astonished when Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple. They said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” Well, that temple would not even be completed for another 36 years or so. And even then, it would be destroyed completely by the Romans just 6 years after that.

But the true temple, the temple of Jesus’ body, was raised up in three days by the saving power of God, and it will never be destroyed again. It was raised up from death so that you, too, will be raised up from death; first, in your Baptism (Rev. 20:5), and finally, on the Last Day. On that day, you will see no temple in Jerusalem or here or anywhere else, because the temple of the New Jerusalem is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb (Rev. 21:22).

The temples of our bodies are members of Jesus’ body, and we will be perfectly united with Him in the heavenly Jerusalem when He comes again. God grant that we “be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:10-11)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a