Monday, March 9, 2015

“Zeal For THIS House” (John 2:15-17)

S-1482 3SIL/3B 3/08/2015 Hymns: (O) #139; (S) #175; L.S. #20; #500; #307; (C) #416

Texts: Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; 4:1-6; John 2:13-22

Theme: “Zeal For THIS House” (John 2:15-17)

Question: “What is it that upsets you in Church?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text is from the Gospel lesson: “And making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And He told those who sold the pigeons, Take these things away; do not make My Father’s house a house of trade.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me” (John 2:15-17).

Saints in Christ, today’s text rattles us and catches us off-guard, with what Jesus says and does. It must have been quite a scene the way John describe it. It is not the gentle, meek and mild Jesus of greeting cards and figurines. Jesus has a temper. Jesus is cracking a homemade whip. Jesus is chasing out people and animals, as coins roll around and tables are flipped over. We must understand what is taking place here and why is Jesus angry that even the disciples state: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Come along with me and get a better picture of what is taking place to understand the actions of the faithful Good Shepherd—Jesus. The text reveals Jesus attending the Passover Festival with His disciples. This was the custom of all Jewish men over the age of twelve, to attended the annual seven-day festival –in remembrance of the mighty deliverance of God’s people from the hands of the Egyptians through the Red Sea miracle of long ago. Something happens, though, as the very Paschal Lamb—Jesus, the heaven sent Savior enters into the Holy Temple. It is what He sees with His eyes, hears with His ears and enters His nose that gets His blood pressure up. In the temple Jesus found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. (14)

As the Lord Jesus enters the Temple, it is important for us to remember what the Temple was all about. The Temple was where God’s forgiveness and mercy was located, and where grace was supposed to be dished out. But what Jesus is greeted with is not the sound of the prayers and praise of the repentant faithful. Instead the sounds of bartering and bickering over animals for sacrifice, exchange of coins, and the bleating of sheep assaults His ears. It is not the pleasant smell of the burnt offerings that fills His nostrils. Rather the smell of manure and the sweat of crowds of people that enter Jesus nostrils. It is not the congregation of the faithful in worship rather the teeming crowds of bystanders and traders all shouting for attention that enters Jesus ears. Jesus burns with anger. He is downright mad. His house supposed to be a house of worship—A Grace Place. His house is supposed to be for all people. But these merchants are bickering and bartering between the sanctuary and the courts of Gentiles. They are hindering the Gentiles from hearing the message and receiving the treasures from the loving hands of the God of Israel.

The Zeal for His house consumes Him. He is angry. He is mad. He is upset and drives these people out—because they have taken His house—A Grace Place and blocked this grace from being dished out and served to broken hearts that need to hear the message of 70 times 7—forgiveness and mercy He offers. PAUSE.

Jesus has had it. He comes to this place because it is a Grace Place—but there is no grace being dished out, no mercy is extended and no hope given. Instead, He sees and hears and smells the spiritual noise and stink – idolatry, stealing and taking advantage of pilgrims who have come to worship from thousands of miles away. Thus, Jesus with Zeal for THIS house comes to the defense of the Temple and the treasures God gives out freely. He comes to the defense of the faithful who are being kept from the gifts of God and their worship and praise. He comes in order to awaken those mislead and lost in Sin.

John gives us a picture of Jesus responding to what has been allowed to happen in the Temple. He could not stand back and watch – Jesus, in compassion had to act and act He does. Those who have blocked the treasures of God—forgiveness, grace and mercy had to be removed. Jesus literally cleanses the temple of anything that would come between God’s people and God’s merciful free gifts.

This was not without consequences either. When Jesus acted, those who were destroying the Temple with their greed then sought to destroy Jesus. From this point on they would seek to rid the world of this Man who would steal from them. But to cleanse the Temple is why Jesus came. He came to allow the Temple of His body to be destroyed so that we would no longer need sheep and goats and bulls and pigeons. He shed His blood once and for all to be that ultimate act of grace! Jesus cleansed the Temple truly and finally at the cross and empty tomb!

Seeing Jesus in action through the images of overturned tables and loosed animals in this text, God’s Word forces us today to ask the question, Are there things that we expect, things that we say and things that we do that, like those merchants in the Temple, get in the way of the Lord’s house being a place of Grace? Is it our quest for a message that scratches our itching ears? The longing for a particular sound? What are we doing TODAY that destroys this Temple?

The fact is we don’t tell God what should take place here. This is God’s Temple. This is holy ground—a very sacred place. The Church is not a coffee shop. The Church is not an entertainment venue. No, the Church is where God dwells – where He meets personally with His people in His Preached and taught Word and Faithfully given Sacraments. The Church is where our prayers rise to Him as pleasant offerings. The Church is where we in repentant faith confess our sins and acknowledge our dependence on Him and in mercy received the gift of forgiveness offered through the Paschal Lamb slain on the altar of the cross. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, this house of God—this holy Temple—this sacred place is not about what we think the church should be or should allow – it is all about what God has declared His church to be – A Grace Place; where His treasures are given freely, where mercy is dished out and where compassion is offered. Here in this house of worship through Word and Sacraments sinners receive forgiveness, broken hearts are mended, guilty consciences are lifted, hope is given, and souls are healed.

If a person deeply loves the Lord, they will say with the Psalmist, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord.” If we remember what it is that the Lord is doing here in this place week in and week out, we would beat down the doors every week to get in this place. We need the grace that is freely given here EVERY week! How could any trip, any tournament, any task outweigh what the Lord is doing in this place? It is never a good sign when a person does not want to go to God’s house. Something is not right. They are not listening to the voice of Jesus. They, and far too often WE ourselves, lose sight of how God’s House and regular worship is to be a staple of a life of rich fellowship in Christ. You and I have been called in the waters of Holy baptism to the same kind of zeal for the Lord’s house that Jesus has. Zeal for God’s house marked the life of Jesus. It is to be the mark our lives also.

The good news this place offers is this: Nothing can destroy this place of Grace! Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantees that it will stand forever! Wherever Jesus and His Word is there you will find the Temple of God’s grace!

When you wake up tomorrow morning, grace will be there for you. When you are in your worst moment this week, grace will meet you there. When you are at your highest peak, grace will meet you there. When you are running as fast as you can, grace will pace your every step. When you are resting, grace will rest by your side. This is the zeal Jesus has for His house—the Grace Place. Here Jesus removes your burdens. Here in His house, your sins are forgiven. Here, Jesus touches you on your lips with a morsel of bread and cup of wine—His body and blood. And Here He sends you out forgiven, redeemed and restored.

His Zeal is for THIS house, because His Zeal is for YOU Amen.

Now the peace…


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