God the Son Cleans House!

6a00d8341d171f53ef01156f3ca329970bHave you ever done any spring housecleaning? What about weeding your garden or doing some of those summer projects that you can only do when the sun is shining and before the rain begins again in the fall, like painting your house or fixing the roof? Why do we take time to do these things?

So Proverbs 24 doesn’t happen to us! Solomon warned, “I passed by the field of the sluggard and the vineyard of the man lacking sense, and behold, it was overgrown with thistles; its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. When I saw it…I received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, then your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man.”

An older Christian sister warned me years ago, “You can tell what a woman is like by the way she takes care of her home and her hands, and you can tell what a man is like by how he takes care of his car and his shoes.” So I washed my truck this week, bought new shoes, and started painting the trim around our house not just because they needed it, but to please the Lord who gave us these things to manage for Him, which brings me to tonight’s topic—“God’s Housekeeping Project” found in John 2:12-25.

1By way of review, we’ve been following Jesus along with His disciples, for a week and about 35 miles now—from the Jordan River where John was baptizing to Bethsaida, 25 miles north where He met Philip and Nathanael. Then we hiked 9 miles west to Cana where Jesus He performed the first sign of His Deity by turning water to wine. For those of you who are visual learners, you can see how it was laid out with Bethsaida to the east at the right of the screen, Capernaum in the center, and Cana of Galilee off the screen to the west in the foothills above the Sea of Galilee.

2But now John says in verse 12, “After this He went down to Capernaum with His mother and His brothers and His disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.” The Hebrew name is Kafer Nahum, meaning “the village of Nahum.” That’s where the minor prophet Nahum was from. Why stop there? Because from this point on, that’ll be the headquarters of Jesus’ ministry when He’s in Galilee! Because though it was small, Capernaum was located on the trade route connecting Africa and Europe and with all the traffic between the two passing through that village.

4Capernaum was also the village where Peter’s home was located and out of which Jesus conducted His ministry. That’s also where He healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever early in His ministry. Cheryl and I visited there on our trip to the Holy Land several years ago, not only seeing the stone house that belonged to Peter and was later the meeting place of the church in Capernaum; we also visited the first century synagogue there and stood on the very spot where Jesus preached on the Sabbath!

5But as verse 13 says, they only stayed there a few days at that time because “the Passover of the Jews was at hand.” So Jesus made Aliyah—He “went up to Jerusalem,” as the Law commanded every adult male to do at Passover. John records four times He did that with His disciples, which is how we know His ministry lasted just over 3 years.

78366017But there was also a second reason He went up to Jerusalem. For the first 30 years of His life, Jesus was always busy about His mother’s business, working in the carpentry shop to provide for her and His younger siblings after Joseph, His stepfather, died. But now that they’re old enough to provide for themselves, it’s time to be about His Father’s business, presenting Himself as Messiah to the religious rulers in Judea and cleaning up the mess they’ve made of His Father’s House. In fact, He’ll spend the entire first year of ministry in or about Jerusalem proving His Deity by the miracles He performs.

But the first task at hand is spring cleaning in the House of God. In doing so, we’ll witness 3 things about Him we haven’t yet seen—His anger, His authority, and His omniscience—each one a clear sign of His Deity. But as John warned us in chapter 1, verse 11: “He came unto His own, and His own did not receive Him.” So He knows He won’t receive a warm welcome. And yet, He’s absolutely fearless about it, letting the chips fall where they may, His Deity evidenced in His anger towards sin.6

  1. The Anger of Jesus

Did you know that Jesus gets angry? That may be difficult to believe in this day and age when we’re told we have to tolerate every kind of sin and abomination, or we are guilty of hate speech. You know what a crock of baloney that is! We take our lead from Jesus who gets very angry and uncompromising when it comes to sin! Oh, He’s good and kind and forgiving towards those who repent. But even then, what does He always add? “Your sins are forgiven you. Now go and sin no more!”

That’s the tough love we see in verses 14 to 16. It says, “He found in the Temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money-changers seated, and made a scourge of cords and drove them all out of the Temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise.” Why did Jesus become so angry about this? 3 reasons:

jesusclearstemple31) Their defilement of the Temple with their buying and selling. You see that phrase “house of merchandise” in verse 16? That’s the Greek word emporium!” They had turned God’s House into a livestock exhibit like you’d see at the State Fair. It was noisy; it was dirty; it was smelly! Not that it was wrong to sell animals or exchange money for use in the Temple. But that was to be done outside in the streets leading up to the Temple. For what was the Temple’s purpose? Jesus said in Mark 11:17: “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!” The Temple was to be a quiet retreat away from the world where a person could get alone with God and pray. Can you think of anyone who did that? What about Anna the prophetess who met Mary and Joseph when they dedicated Jesus in the Temple? Luke says, “She never left the Temple serving night and day with fasting and prayer.” But how do you do that with a carnival going on around you?

2) It wasn’t the Jews only who were hindered by it. Jesus said His house was to be house of prayer for all “nations.” The word “nations” means “Gentiles,” and there was only one place in the Temple where a Gentile was allowed to worship, and that was right here in the Court of the Gentiles where all this hawking of wares was going on, making it impossible for a repentant Gentile to meet God. Is it any wonder then the Lord Jesus was angry about it!

73) The third reason for His anger was the way the poor were being cheated when they came to worship. First, there was a cover charge to worship in the Temple. So the pilgrim would save up his pennies for the trip only to be told when he got there that his money was no good. “That’s Caesar’s image on your coins! You can’t use those in the Temple! That’s idolatrous!” But to buy the special coins used in the Temple, He had to pay an exorbitant exchange rate. And that lamb he raised and brought to the Temple to sacrifice? “That’s no good either! Just look at those scars and blemishes!” Forcing him to sell his perfectly good lamb at a discount, buy a more expensive one, and then watch as the buyer turned right around and sold it to another worshiper for a big fat profit.

But did Jesus have the right to get angry? Let me say two things about that before we move on. First, it was a holy anger. No one was hurt with His whip, nor did He spark a riot that endangered anyone. For if He had, the Roman cohort stationed at the Antonio Fortress overlooking the Temple would have taken action right away. But they didn’t need to, for Jesus was in perfect control of every aspect of the situation. He was simply driving trespassers off His property and claiming what was rightfully His! I know you’d do the same thing yourself if you could. Imagine, for example, going on vacation and returning home two weeks later to find someone holding a garage sale in your yard. How polite would you be in asking them to leave? Not at all! You’d order them to get off your property immediately, and if they didn’t, you’d call the sheriff to remove them. But Jesus couldn’t do that because the authorities were in on it.

8Nor did He need any help removing them. Why not? Because His anger is also infinitely powerful! It’s amazing when you think about it. Josephus the Roman historian says the attendance at Passover exceeded two million pilgrims at this time, which means there would have been tens of thousands crowded into Temple square. Think Safeco Field when Felix is pitching and one person trying to clear the stands and concourse with a homemade whip! You think you could you do it? No way! Someone would wrestle you to the ground before you got started! That’s the herculean feat Jesus took on, faced, and yet, He had no problem doing it. Why not? Because He is God!

safeco-fieldWe’ll see the same thing again in chapter 7 when guards are sent to arrest Him. They return empty-handed saying, “No man ever spoke like this man?” Then again in the Garden when they come to arrest Him, He asks, “Whom do you seek?” And when they answer, “Jesus of Nazareth,” He says, “I AM!” and it says they all drew back and “fell to the ground.” No one could arrest Him if He hadn’t wanted to be arrested.

Of course, that’s only a tiny foretaste of the unrelenting anger He’s going to pour out on His enemies at His return. His anger is so powerful that those on earth in the time of Tribulation will hide themselves in the caves and rocks of the mountains begging them, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.” For though He’s forgiving toward those who repent, His anger is unrelenting toward those who persist in their rebellion! So Psalm 2 warns, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way. For His wrath is quickly kindled.” But then it graciously adds, “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”

13But you pay a price when you stand up for what’s right in this world, even if you do it with the right type of anger. Our Lord knew that and refused to be cowed by His enemies. We see that more clearly as we look at the second sign of His Deity. We’ve witnessed the anger of Jesus. Now let”s consider the authority of Jesus.

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  1. The Authority of Jesus

Notice what comes to His disciples’ minds when they see His anger. They may not have been book smart, but they knew their Bibles. That’s how they spent almost all their time in synagogue school—memorizing the Old Testament Scriptures. And what immediately comes to mind as they watch Jesus, the Son of David, cleanse the Temple are David’s words in Psalm 69:9—“Zeal for Thy house will consume me.” In other words, they thought, “This could destroy our Master if He’s not careful.” And they were right to think that, because notice what John adds in verse 18! He says, “The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?”

farisei-caifaThere was no question in their minds. This was a direct challenge to their authority as the religious rulers of Israel. By the way, critics of the Bible have a heyday with this passage because Matthew, Mark, and Luke put His cleansing of the Temple at the end of Jesus’ ministry, whereas John has it at the beginning. “So try to explain that if you can! See! This is just one more example of all the contradictions in the Bible!” OK. Here’s the explanation, and it’s very simple. Jesus cleansed the Temple two times—once at the outset of His ministry and again just days before His death. In fact, His second cleansing of the Temple is what confirmed His rejection by the high priest and his cronies and brought on Jesus’ promised death for our sins. For they weren’t about to tolerate any more disrespect for their authority by this young preacher from Galilee. Why such a sudden dismissal of His claims as Messiah? They had four reasons for doing so:

Questioned1) He was a “nobody” who lived in humble obscurity the first 30 years of His life, and He had no credentials to speak of. He wasn’t a priest, He never tried to join in any of their “reindeer games,” and He didn’t look special. No Superman cape or logo under His shirt. Of course, they could have asked John the Baptist about Him or checked their Temple records to see where He was born and what His lineage was. Born in Bethlehem of the House of David and the Tribe of Judah, just as the prophets predicted! “But don’t confuse me with the facts! I already know what I believe!” Besides, credentials didn’t matter to them. John the Baptist was the son of a priest, and they never listened to him!

3-elders-judging-church-discipline2) They were sure when Messiah came that He’d attack their enemies. But He attacked them instead! Of course, if they’d read their Bibles, they would have known to expect that. For Malachi 3:1 warned them, “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple…and who can stand when He appears!”

3) He hit them where it hurts. I heard another preacher say that there’s a major nerve running from the pocketbook to the pain center in the brain, which is why people start to squirm when you talk about money in church. But Jesus didn’t hesitate to do so. He talked more about money than any other topic, for what we do with money is the #1 indicator of what’s important to us. And money was of utmost importance to the high priest and his cronies. For they didn’t just tolerate what went on in the Temple; they were the ones behind it—rich Jewish thugs who got a kickback from everything that bought or sold in the Temple, and ready to break legs if they didn’t get their cut.

jesus-christ-with-pharisees-1138108-print4) But the most infuriating thing Jesus did was call the Temple “My Father’s house.” Don’t be confused about this! Jesus didn’t come to set an example or teach us a new way of relating to God. He came to assert the truth about Himself, and He did so from the outset of His ministry. What truth was that? “I am God manifest in human flesh!” And they knew that’s what He was claiming. That’s why they wanted to kill Him, because He a mere man (they thought) claimed to be God. That will become even clearer in John 10:33 where Jesus says to these same religious thugs, “I and My Father are One.” To which they’ll respond by picking up stones to stone Him. Jesus will say to them, “I showed you many good works from My Father, for which of them are you stoning Me?” And they will answer Him (John 10:33), “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy because You, a mere man, make Yourself out to be God.” They knew what He was claiming, and they were right! He was claiming to be God.

35_jesus-cleanses-the-temple_900x600_72dpi_1So they ask for a sign. John 2:19—The Jews said to Him, “What sign do You give us, seeing that You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews therefore said, “It took forty six years to build this Temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” Herod’s Temple had taken 46 years to build at this point and, in fact, when it was finally destroyed by the Romans 40 years later, it still wasn’t finished. But as John explains, that isn’t what He was talking about. What Jesus was referring to was the Temple of His body. The Jews misunderstood that and misquoted Him and the gossip, as it usually does, went viral, so that three years later at His kangaroo trial, false witnesses were still accusing of saying, “I will destroy this Temple and raise it up in three days.” But that isn’t what He said or meant. He was referring to His body, and He never said He would destroy it. He said they would destroy it—another evidence of His Deity in that He knows they’re going to kill Him even before they know they want to kill Him.

At the same time, He also claimed to be omnipotent. For He adds, “Destroy this Body, and I” (Not the Father, though you can never separate Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.) But “I will raise it up!” How does a dead man raise himself from the dead? Not a problem if you’re God, and that’s who He is! Jesus is God! That’s even more obvious to His disciples, and I hope to you too, as they witness the third mark of His Deity. We’ve seen His anger and His authority. Now let’s take a closer look at His omniscience!11

  1. The Omniscience of Jesus

When we come to the final chapter of John’s Gospel, John will say: “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book.” For he adds that if all the miracles of Jesus were written down, “I suppose even the world itself could not contain all the books that would be written.” I mention that because many of those unwritten miracles take place here in verse 23 where John closes the chapter like this. “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs that He was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because He knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”

43_i-am-the-bread-of-life_1800x1200_300dpi_1Jesus performed countless miracles in Jerusalem before, during, and after the Passover with countless people coming up to Him and saying, “I believe in you, Jesus. I believe that you are the Messiah.” Do you know what today’s preachers would do if they got a response like that? “Quick! Count how many hands were raised, take an offering, and add their names to my email list!” But Jesus didn’t do that.

Instead notice John’s play on words in verse 23. I’ve underlined the key words: “believed” and “entrusting”—because they’re the same word in the Greek—pisteuo meaning to believe or trust in someone. In other words, what John is saying is that the people were believing in Jesus, but He wasn’t believing in them! Why not? Because He knows what’s in each one of us, and what’s in us is not good. As Paul admitted in Romans 7:18, “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing.” Have you recognized that about yourself, that apart from Jesus, there isn’t one good thing in you, for within in your flesh are the seeds of every evil thing under the sun!

12In fact, John says even your faith in Jesus may not be a faith of the right kind. Over and over again he’ll warn us of that in this book—that there is a belief which is not a belief, a belief that is superficial, self-serving, and certain to sell out our Savior just as Judas the traitor did. And Jesus knows the difference between the two. That’s why Peter, who denied Him 3 times and was later asked by Him 3 times, “Do you love Me?” finally blurted out, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you!” We need Him to test our faith as well, because the sad fact is there are millions of souls in hell today who thought they were believers and weren’t and will say to Him, “Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, cast out devils in Your name, and do good works in Your name?” And He will say to them, “I never knew you. Depart from Me, you evildoers!” How do we make sure that doesn’t happen to us? By cleaning out our temples now before His anger flares up and He does it Himself!

Most of you have heard the story of my little sister’s party when I was in college and she was still in high school living at home. My parents were gone for the weekend, but I stopped by on Friday night to pick something up on to find 50 to 100 teenagers in their house drinking beer, smoking dope, and doing others things they shouldn’t have. So what did I immediately do? I drove them out and then helped my sister clean up the mess before the neighbors called the cops and my parents found out about it.

9Jesus is also coming back very soon! When He does, will He find your heart ready to be His home? As you may know, John the Apostle also wrote a letter with this warning. Let me finish with that. In it he begged use, “Little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming. For if you know that He is righteous, you know it’s only those who practice righteousness who are born of Him.” So let’s stay close to Him and keep ourselves righteous, for He is coming soon—much sooner than any of us think.

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