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JOHN 2:13-22| ON SECOND THOUGHT

 

 

 

ON SECOND THOUGHT

JOHN 2:13-22

MARCH 4, 2018

 

I SAW THE OTHER DAY WHERE ACTOR BRUCE WILLIS IS GOING TO REPRISE THE ROLE OF THE LEAD CHARACTER IN A NEW VERSION OF THE DEATH WISH MOVIES.

 

THOSE OF YOU WHO WERE AROUND IN THE 1970’S WILL REMEMBER THE DEATH WISH MOVIES WITH CHARLES BRONSON; I THINK THERE WERE AT LEAST TWO OR THREE OF THEM.

 

THEY WERE VIGILANTE MOVIES – METING OUT REVENGE – FIRST ON THOSE WHO KILLED HIS WIFE AND DAUGHTER, THEN ON ANY OTHER “BAD GUYS” HE COULD FIND.

 

THIS SORT OF “AN EYE FOR AN EYE” VENGEANCE IS THE STUFF OF NEARLY EVERY CLINT EASTWOOD, DIE HARD, AND RAMBO FILM.

 

THESE KINDS OF MOVIES APPEAL TO THAT PART OF US THAT WANTS TO EXACT JUSTICE ON THE SPOT.  PAYBACK.  GOOD GUYS VS. BAD GUYS.

 

IT’S ALSO WHAT MAKES THE STORY OF JESUS CLEARING THE TEMPLE SO APPEALING TO SOME PEOPLE.

 

FOR THOSE WHO’VE HAD ENOUGH OF JESUS, MEEK AND MILD; JESUS, THE PEACEMAKER; THE “TURN-THE-OTHER-CHEEK, GO-THE-EXTRA-MILE” JESUS…

 

JESUS CLEARING THE TEMPLE IS A JESUS THEY CAN GET ON BOARD WITH!

AN ANGRY JESUS.  A VENGEFUL JESUS.  THE JESUS OF RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION.  THE SIN-PUNISHING JESUS.

 

WITH A WHIP OF CORDS IN ONE HAND, HE DRIVES OUT THE ANIMALS AND THEIR SELLERS; AND WITH THE OTHER, JESUS FLIPS A TABLE, SCATTERING THE MONEYCHANGERS AND THEIR COINS!

 

AND WE, GLEEFULLY MUNCHING AWAY ON OUR POPCORN, WATCH IT ALL PLAY OUT THINKING, “YOU GO GET ‘EM JESUS!  YOU SHOW ‘EM WHAT’S WHAT!”

 

IT’S LIKE A DIRTY HARRY MOVIE… DIRTY JESUSRAMBO CHRIST!

 

BUT THERE’S JUST ONE THING… (YOU JUST KNEW THERE WAS GOING TO BE A THING, DIDN’T YOU?)  ACTUALLY, THERE ARE A COUPLE OF THINGS…

 

THE PEOPLE, THE WORSHIPPERS, THE BUYERS OF ANIMALS FOR THE SACRIFICES, AND THOSE EXCHANGING WHAT WAS CONSIDERED TAINTED MONEY, ROMAN MONEY, FOR TEMPLE MONEY, HOLY MONEY… THEY ARE DOING EXACTLY WHAT WAS EXPECTED OF THEM.

 

THEY WERE DOING WHAT THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF TRADITION HAD TOLD THEM TO DO.

 

THEY WERE DOING WHAT THE LAW OF GOD REQUIRED; WHAT THE BIBLE HAD TOLD THEM TO DO; WHAT THE PRIESTS HAD TAUGHT THEM TO DO.

 

THEY WERE REQUIRED TO COME TO THE TEMPLE, TO OFFER SACRIFICES FOR THEIR SINS, AND PUT MONEY IN THE OFFERING BOX.  THEY WERE DOING CHURCH!

 

THEY WERE DOING WHAT THEIR PARENTS HAD DONE, AND WHAT THEIR PARENTS HAD DONE, AND WHAT THEIR PARENTS HAD DONE.

 

THEY WERE WORSHIPPING GOD AS INSTRUCTED AND FULFILLING THEIR RELIGIOUS DUTIES.

 

AND, AS I SAID, THEY WERE DOING EXACTLY AS THE PRIESTS HAD TAUGHT; THE LAW REQUIRED; AND THE SCRIPTURES INSTRUCTED.

 

IN OTHER WORDS, THEY WEREN’T DOING ANYTHING WRONG; IN FACT, THEY WERE DOING WHAT WAS RIGHT, WHAT WAS EXPECTED, WHAT WAS PRESCRIBED, AS AUTHENTIC WORSHIP.  SO, WHAT’S GOT JESUS SO UPSET?

 

WE COULD ARGUE THAT IT WAS THE SELLERS AND THE MONEY CHANGERS JESUS WAS AFTER.  PERHAPS THEY WERE SELLING INFERIOR ANIMALS; OR CHARGING EXORBITANT PRICES.

 

MAYBE THE MONEY CHANGERS WERE GRAFTING OFF A FEW COINS IN THE EXCHANGE, OR THE GRAIN/FRUIT SELLERS HAD THEIR THUMB ON THE SCALE WHILE WEIGHING OUT THE PEOPLE’S SACRIFICE, OVERCHARGING THEM.

 

PERHAPS IT WAS THE GRAFT, THE CHEATING, THE GREED, JESUS WAS PUNISHING; “TAKE THESE THINGS OUT OF HERE!  STOP MAKING MY FATHER’S HOUSE A MARKETPLACE!” JESUS YELLS.

 

OR, IT COULD BE THAT JESUS JUST LOST HIS TEMPER, BECAUSE HIS KIND WORDS AND GENTLE TEACHINGS WEREN’T GETTING THROUGH TO THEM.  DID HE HAVE TO YELL TO GET THEM TO LISTEN TO HIM?  TO TAKE HIM SERIOUSLY?

 

OR IS IT IS SOMETHING OTHER THAN THAT, THAT JESUS HAD IN MIND?

 

JESUS IS USHERING IN A WHOLE NEW IDEA OF HOW GOD’S HOUSE IS TO BE TREATED – NOT AS A DEN OF THIEVES, BUT AS A HOUSE OF WORSHIP;

JESUS IS CHALLENGING THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF HISTORY AND TRADITION, OF THE LAW, OF HOW PEOPLE WORSHIPPED, AND THAT’S WHAT HAS THE PRIESTS, AND SCRIBES, AND PHARISEES SO UPSET.

 

LOOK AT THE EXCHANGE BETWEEN JESUS AND THEM.

 

“WHAT SIGN CAN YOU SHOW US FOR DOING THIS?”  AND ELSEWHERE, “BY WHOSE AUTHORITY ARE YOU DOING THESE THINGS, SAYING THESE THINGS.”

 

AND IT’S HERE THAT OUR STORY TAKES A MAJOR TURN.  THERE IS A TECTONIC SHIFT IN WHAT HAPPENS IN THIS STORY NEXT; IN HOW JESUS ANSWERS.

 

IT’S NO LONGER ABOUT THE TEMPLE BUILDING IN JERUSALEM; NOT ABOUT THE SELLERS AND MONEYCHANGERS; NOT EVEN ABOUT SACRIFICE AND WORSHIP;

 

NOW, IT IS ABOUT JESUS, AND ABOUT A DIFFERENT KIND OF TEMPLE; THE TEMPLE OF HIS BODY; AND MORE TO THE POINT, ABOUT HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION.

 

“DESTROY THIS TEMPLE, AND IN THREE DAYS I WILL RAISE IT UP.”  JESUS SAYS.

 

NOW THE LEADERS OF THE TEMPLE THINK JESUS IS STILL TALKING ABOUT THE TEMPLE, AND THEY HEAR HIS WORDS LITERALLY.

 

“THIS TEMPLE HAS BEEN UNDER CONSTRUCTION FOR FORTY-SIX YEARS, AND YOU WILL RAISE IT UP IN THREE DAYS?”

 

WE KNOW, AND AFTER HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION, JESUS’ FOLLOWERS KNEW, HE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE TEMPLE OF HIS BODY; ABOUT HIS RESURRECTION.

 

AND WE ARE TOLD, “AND THEY BELIEVED THE SCRIPTURE AND THE WORD THAT JESUS HAD SPOKEN.”  THEY BELIEVED.

 

AND THIS IS ANOTHER THING THIS PASSAGE IS ABOUT – ABOUT OUR BELIEVING, AND WHAT THAT DOES TO OUR WORSHIP, OUR LIVES OF FAITH, OUR LIVING.

 

AND ALL OF THIS IS WHAT WE SYMBOLIZE AND REMEMBER IN THE SACRAMENT OF COMMUNION THIS MORNING.  WHAT CHRIST DID; WHAT WE ARE TO DO.

 

THIS STORY, THE STORY OF JESUS CLEARING THE TEMPLE, APPEARS IN ALL FOUR OF THE GOSPELS.  MATTHEW, MARK, AND LUKE PLACE THIS EVENT AT THE END OF JESUS’ MINISTRY, IN THE LAST WEEK OF JESUS’ LIFE.

 

IN FACT, IT IS – IF NOT THE STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK, IN THEIR WANTING TO ARREST JESUS, PRETTY CLOSE TO BEING THE LAST STRAW.

BUT THE GOSPEL OF JOHN IS DIFFERENT.  IT IS A DIFFERENT KIND OF GOSPEL FROM BEGINNING TO END.  IT IS LESS A CHRONOLOGICAL TELLING OF JESUS’ STORY, LIKE THE OTHER THREE GOSPELS;

 

AND MORE, A THEOLOGICAL TELLING OF JESUS’ STORY.  JOHN IS VERY CLEAR, FROM THE MOMENT HE BEGINS HIS GOSPEL, THAT JESUS IS THE MESSIAH; THE SAVIOR; THE SON OF GOD.

 

IT IS JOHN’S INTENTION FROM HIS FIRST WORDS AND SENTENCES TO SHOW THAT JESUS IS THE LONG-AWAITED MESSIAH.

 

“”IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD.  HE WAS IN THE BEGINNING WITH GOD.  AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US, AND WE HAVE SEEN HIS GLORY, THE GLORY AS OF A FATHER’S SON, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH.”

 

THAT’S HOW JOHN’S GOSPEL BEGINS.  SOUND FAMILIAR?  IT SHOULD – IT IS HOW GENESIS BEGINS – HOW IT ALL BEGAN:

 

“IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH…”

 

FOR THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, JESUS IS THE NEW GENESIS; THE NEW BEGINNING;

 

A NEW START FOR ALL THE WORLD TO SEE, AND BE; SOMETHING TOTALLY DIFFERENT THAN WHAT’S GONE ON BEFORE.

 

AND THIS IS WHY JOHN PLACES THE STORY OF JESUS’ CLEARING THE TEMPLE AT THE BEGINNING OF JESUS’ MINISTRY; IN CHAPTER 2; RIGHT AT THE OUTSET OF HIS MINISTRY, WITHIN THE FIRST FEW WEEKS OR MONTHS;

 

SO THAT THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT THAT SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING DIFFERENT, SOMETHING SPECIAL WAS HAPPENING.

 

JOHN IS SENDING A MESSAGE – EARLY – JESUS IS HERE! – AND NOTHING WILL EVER BE QUITE THE SAME AGAIN!

 

JOHN, I BELIEVE, ALSO USES THE STORY OF JESUS CLEARING THE TEMPLE AS A BENCHMARK, A LINE OF DEMARCATION, ONE OF THOSE HISTORICAL MARKERS YOU SEE, THAT SAYS THIS IS WHERE SUCH AND SUCH HAPPENED.

 

WITH THE CLEARING OF THE TEMPLE, AND JESUS’ ANGER AND RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION, WITH THE ANGER OF AN OLD TESTAMENT PROPHET, JESUS CLEARS THE TEMPLE, AND SETS UP A NEW WAY OF DOING THINGS:

 

A NEW WAY OF BELIEVING; A NEW WAY OF WORSHIPPING; A NEW WAY OF LIVING A GODLY LIFE; A NEW PATH;

A NEW TEMPLE, IN FACT, – AND NOT JUST THAT OF JESUS’ BODY, BUT OF OUR OWN, AS TEMPLES FOR GOD; OUR HEARTS AS GOD’S THRONE.

 

AND, FOR THE MOST PART, THIS IS THE END OF ANGRY JESUS; OF DIRTY JESUS; OF RAMBO CHRIST.  THERE’S NO SEQUEL; NO TEMPLE CLEARING 2, 3, OR 4.

 

JESUS WILL NOT REPEAT THIS KIND OF RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION AGAIN;

 

FROM HERE ON OUT, JESUS HAS A DIFFERENT KIND OF MESSAGE; HE IS A DIFFERENT KIND OF LORD AND SAVIOR.

 

HE IS THE JESUS OF THE BEATITUDES – “BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT, BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN, BLESSED ARE THE MEEK, BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS…”

 

HE IS “THE GOLDEN RULE” JESUS: “DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU…”

 

HE IS THE “TURN-THE-OTHER-CHEEK AND GO-THE-EXTRA-MILE” JESUS.

 

HE’S THE JESUS OF MATTHEW 25: “I WAS HUNGRY, AND YOU FED ME, THIRSTY, AND YOU GAVE ME DRINK, NAKED, AND YOU CLOTHED ME, SICK, AND YOU VISITED ME, A STRANGER, AND YOU WELCOMED ME…”

 

HE’S JESUS THE PEACEMAKER…

 

HOW DO I KNOW THIS?

 

BECAUSE IN EVERY VICIOUS ENCOUNTER, EVERY TIME THEY COME AT JESUS, EVERY TIME THEY COME AFTER HIM, JESUS REFUSES TO FIGHT; AND HE REFUSES TO ALLOW THOSE WITH HIM, TO FIGHT FOR HIM.

 

WHEN THEY COME TO ARREST JESUS, AND ONE OF HIS DISCIPLES DRAWS A SWORD AND LOPS OFF THE EAR OF ONE OF THE ATTACKERS, JESUS TELLS HIS DISCIPLE TO PUT AWAY HIS SWORD; HEALS THE MAN’S EAR;

 

TELLS HIS FOLLOWERS, “DO YOU NOT THINK I COULD CALL DOWN A LEGION OF ANGELS IN HEAVEN TO DESTROY THEM, IF I CHOOSE?”

 

AND SAYS: “THOSE WHO LIVE BY THE SWORD, WILL DIE BY THE SWORD.”

 

EVEN WHEN THEY PUT JESUS ON TRIAL; AND BEAT HIM; AND STICK A CROWN OF THORNS ON HIS HEAD, PIERCING HIS BROW; EVEN AS THEY NAIL HIM ON A CROSS TO DIE; JESUS DOES NOT FIGHT BACK;

 

INSTEAD, FORGIVING THOSE CRUCIFYING HIM, FOR NOT KNOWING WHAT THEY’RE DOING.

 

IT IS A NEW WAY.  A DIFFERENT WAY.  GOD’S WAY.

 

IT IS PEACE IN THE FACE OF VIOLENCE;

IT IS LOVE IN THE FACE OF HATRED;

IT IS FORGIVENESS IN THE FACE OF REVENGE;

IT IS GRACE IN THE FACE OF VENGEANCE;

 

IT IS CHRIST JESUS IN THE FACE OF THE WORLD.

 

JESUS USHERS IN A NEW WAY OF LIVING; HE USHERS IN THE KINGDOM WAY OF LIVING; AND HE CALLS FOR THOSE OF US WHO FOLLOW HIM TO DO THE SAME.

 

“THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE…” JESUS PRAYS.

“NOT MY WILL, BUT THY WILL BE DONE…” JESUS PRAYS AGAIN.

 

IT’S WHAT I’D LIKE TO CALL: ON SECOND THOUGHT.

 

UNDENIABLY, IN THE FACE OF SO MANY THINGS, WHEN TREATED UNJUSTLY, WHEN SEEING OTHERS TREATED UNJUSTLY, WHEN WE ARE THREATENED…

WHEN WE ARE ATTACKED, OR OTHERS ARE…

 

OUR FIRST REACTION, OUR BASIC IMPULSE, IS TO GO ALL RAMBO ON THEM; WE WANT TO BE DIRTY HARRY, DIRTY LARRY, FILL IN YOUR NAME HERE…

 

WE WANT REVENGE; WE WANT VENGEANCE; WE WANT PAYBACK; WE WANT “AN EYE FOR AND EYE…!”

 

BUT CONSIDER WHAT JESUS SAYS ABOUT THIS; AND WHAT HE DOES.

 

“YOU HAVE HEARD IT SAID: ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’  BUT I SAY TO YOU, ‘DO NOT RESIST AN EVILDOER.  BUT IF ANYONE STRIKES YOU ON THE RIGHT CHEEK, TURN TO HIM THE LEFT…”

 

IT’S THE SAME WITH CLOAKS AND COATS, AND GOING THE EXTRA MILE, AND ALL THE OTHER THINGS JESUS SAYS IN THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT.

 

IT’S THE BEATITUDES, AND THE GOLDEN RULE, AND MATTHEW 25; AND THE CROSS, AND “FORGIVE THEM FATHER FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO;”

 

IT IS THE GRAVE, AND THE RESURRECTION, AND THE EMPTY TOMB…

 

“YOU HAVE HEARD IT SAID,” JESUS SAYS, “BUT I SAY TO YOU…”  ON SECOND THOUGHT

THEN JESUS GIVES US A NEW TEACHING, THE LIKES OF WHICH WAS NEVER HEARD BEFORE, AND IN SOME WAYS, NEVER HEARD SINCE.

 

IT AIN’T EASY; AND IT AIN’T DIE HARD, DEATH WISH, OR DIRTY HARRY;

 

BUT IT IS, JESUS CHRIST, OUR LORD AND SAVIOR.  AMEN.

 

 

 

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Pastor Daniel writes and posts a weekly newsletter that keeps members and friends of the congregation up-to-date. His earlier newsletters are also online, so if you missed something, check those past editions.

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