Hello and welcome to Monday’s Foundations podcast. A huge thank you to Tom for last week’s reflections. My name is James and we will be continuing to look at the Gospel of John together this week.
For me it has been fantastic to be preparing these short thoughts in the lead up to this week. Most helpfully because on Sunday (which would have been yesterday) I got to share about John 4 with the evening gathering. So I’m chuffed really knowing this hard work has dovetailed nicely with that opportunity.
I just hope these podcasts are helpful to us all listening throughout the week as we look to grow and develop as learners of Jesus.
So today we have the story of Jesus clearing the temple courts. This story is a funny one. By that I mean it’s so strange how many people know about this particular story but so little of the rest of the Bible. In a day and age where people have access to so much information about God… but very little Bible literacy. This story, this one, has planted itself firmly in the minds of the majority of people. Certainly in the conversations that I have with my friends.
So, what is it about this story that is SO memorable?
Do we truly understand what is going on?
What does it tell us about Jesus?
Well, I think people remember this story not just because of the dramatic language (and it will be read in full at the end of this podcast). Not just because of the vivid picture it creates but because it challenges some presumptions we may have made about Jesus – it leaves us with a contradiction – I thought Jesus was about kindness and yet he scolds these businessmen.
It’s true, Jesus’ ministry is majorly marked by mercy and kindness. Christians, you and I, are called to show mercy and kindness AND YET this incident just stands out against the grain. Almost as if Jesus had slipped up and ‘accidentally’ got angry. Almost like behind the scenes footage. This story becomes so memorable partly because we are very good at remembering each other’s flaws, well at least I certainly find myself doing that, and so this goes ‘in the back pocket’ as a counter claim to Jesus being perfect. That has certainly been my experience of talking about this story when I’ve been talking with friends about Jesus.
So what is going on here? Is it a mistake?
Let me read the first 4 verses.
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people 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 courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Other gospels put this story at the end of Jesus’ ministry… as he enters Jerusalem for the last time. Here in John we have it at the start. The reason that is important is a symbolic one. At the start of this book, it is being communicated to us that Jesus is bringing change. The way of the Old Covenant is done once and for all… the new thing has started.
Back in the olden days, in the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant – we can read all about it towards the end of the book of Deuteronomy and the first half of Leviticus in the Old Testament – cattle, sheep and doves are necessary for people to make themselves right with God. People profiting off people’s sin is an issue; but a bigger thing is going on here than bad business alone.
Jesus is driving out all of the animals and all of the lenders to show us the old way has been displaced. Replaced. By the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
This Bible story acts as a framework as to what is going to happen next in the account of John. That Jesus will bring change. Jesus will fulfil the requirements needed to make us right with God. The one who cleared away the temple courts will clear away our sin. Sheep are needed no more. For that we are all thankful.
So that leaves us with the question: what does this tell us about Jesus? Other than this beautiful picture of grace. Why did he do it this way? I don’t think it was a mistake or an accident. I think it’s part of the package about being all-in for God.
Some people have called this righteous anger. But I want to leave us thinking about the last few words from the Bible passage today for us to think about: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
What is zeal? Great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective.
Zeal does not give us a blank cheque to get angry at whoever we want whenever we want. We can’t go and shout at our kids and turn over the tables of their toys. We don’t get in the faces of our colleagues when they let us down or have righteous road rage when another driver is discourteous. But when systems oppress people or keep them isolated from a relationship with God, we pick our fight and we take our stand.
As we look to grow as disciples through the GROW project etc… Zeal for God will be part of the package. Great energy and enthusiasm for this cause of the Kingdom will begin to grow. You might not feel it today… but as we commit ourselves to this objective… it will grow!
For example, we might find ourselves seeing situations that are not right and hearing that God wants us to do something about it. We might find ourselves sticking our necks out for friends, family or even strangers when oppressive systems are trying to hold them down. We might speak up for those being mistreated in the workplace. It might even look like more than an online petition for change (which is a very popular choice these days) or firing off an email but it might even look like rolling up our sleeves and getting really enthusiastic in pursuit of a cause we believe is Godly and of the Kingdom.
I don’t know fully what that is for you or for me… But I trust as we draw close to Jesus, he will be speaking to each of us about what actions we may need to take.
This story is not a mistake made by Jesus.
It’s an intentional declaration that we are all sinners saved by Him and his sacrifice on the cross.
As we model ourselves on Him… there may be moments also where Zeal for God takes over.
Jesus thank you for dying for me that I might be right for God. Would I become more like Jesus each day. Would I become more familiar with your Kingdom and play my part in bringing it here on earth. Give us enthusiasm and energy to follow you to day. Amen.
READING: John 2:12-25
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people 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 courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!’ His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’
The Jews then responded to him, ‘What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’
Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’
They replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 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.
Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.