March 4, 2018

Pastor Bernt P. Tweit



Old Testament Lesson; Exodus 20:1-17         

Epistle Lesson; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25

Sermon Text; John 2:13-22


Here is our sermon text, taken from John, chapter two, verses thirteen through twenty-two.


The Jewish Passover was near, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

In the temple courts He found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and money changers sitting at tables.  He made a whip of cords and drove everyone out of the temple courts, along with the sheep and oxen.  He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those selling doves He said, “Get these things out of here!  Stop turning my Father's house into a place of business!”

His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

So the Jews responded, “What sign are you going to show us to prove you can do these things?”
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.”

The Jews said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple!  And you are going to raise it in three days?”

But Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body.  When Jesus was raised from the dead, His disciples remember that He had said this.  Then they believed the Scripture and what Jesus had said.


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



Today we are going to be talking about zeal, specifically the zeal of Jesus.  It is good to identify, and know what the word 'zeal' means.  It means 'great energy in pursuit of a cause, or an objective'.  We are going to see the energy, and enthusiasm of Jesus in our text for today.  There were two times in scripture in which the Bible tells us Jesus “cleansed the temple”.  He did it the first time at the beginning of His ministry.  That is the text we are looking at for today.  He did it the second time near the end of His ministry, on the day after Palm Sunday, which was Holy Monday.

Our text for today tells us Jesus went to Jerusalem.  Jesus is now thirty years old.  He is a prophet.  He is able to get up, and proclaim God's Word to the people.  And, that is when He comes to Jerusalem for The Passover. 

Now, The Passover is that annual festival in which Jewish boys, and their families, were to come to celebrate what had happened thousands of years before this, with the tenth plague that had occurred in Egypt, the plague of the first born.  You remember what God had told His people.  Take a one year old lamb, without blemish or defect, and slaughter it.  Take its blood, and put it on the doorpost of your home.  Roast that lamb, and eat it in haste, because tonight I am going to deliver you from slavery in Egypt.

That night the Angel of Death came into Egypt.  Everyone's homes that had blood on the doorpost, their home was spared.  But, every home that did not have blood on the doorpost, the first born perished in each of those homes. 

So, as a remembrance, on a yearly basis, as they went to Jerusalem for The Passover Festival, they were remembering how God had delivered them, how they were saved, and how they were spared through the shedding of a lamb's blood.

When Jesus gets to Jerusalem, and gets to the temple, what does He see?  He saw abuses that were taking place in His Father's house.  He saw the selling of cattle, sheep, doves.  And He saw the exchange of money that was taking place. 

Here are some pictures to see this.

Turning over the money changers tables.  There you see the sheep in the bottom.  He is telling the people to get out of His Father's house. 

This is where this was all taking place.  So this is Herod's temple. 

It is a very large structure.  You see the outside walls of Herod's temple.  Then, in the very middle you see the actual temple itself.  This is where The Holy of Holies would be, where the holy place is.  This is where they would be for their immediate worship.  The outer courtyard was known as The Courtyard of the Gentiles.  That is where the animals were being sold.  That is where the money was being exchanged.

What kind of worship environment do you think it was?  Well, let's liken it to this.  Let's use this room as an example. (For the time being we are worshiping in our school gymnasium, until our sanctuary is built.) Let's say at the very same time we are gathering for worship on a Sunday morning, there is a basketball game taking place.  The horn on the scoreboard is going off.  The referee is blowing the whistle.  The canteen is selling popcorn in the aisle ways.  They are exchanging money for tickets at the door.  What kind of worship environment would it be?  You are right, it wouldn't be a very good one, at all.   

And, that is exactly what was happening at the temple in Jerusalem.  It was not a very good worship environment at all, because they had come into the temple courts to sell the animals.  They had come into the temple courts to exchange money.

It wasn't too long ago that I saw an example of this taking place.  I am going to use an example of a member here at Holy Cross.  There is a young family here at Holy Cross who has a daughter.  They brought their daughter to the waters of holy Baptism, and she was baptized.  They brought her to church on a weekly basis.  Now, remember she is just a young girl, who they brought to worship in God's House.  And, for the past year and a half, this has been God's House, for us, which is where we have been worshiping (Remember we are worshiping in the gym.) And so, this little girl associates this room as being a place for worship. 

Not too long ago, her parents enrolled her in our Kids' Crossing Early Learning Center.  She came for her very first day, and I just happened to be in this room on the very first day she arrived.  (Starting at 7:00 in the morning, the early learning center kids come into this room.  It is a play space to them.)  And so, I was here when this little girl came into the room, and she was 'frozen'.  She didn't know what she was to do, and how it was that she was to act, because she associated this room with a place of worship.  All of her friends were 'running around like their heads were cut off', and having a great time J, and she just couldn't understand how they could do that in a space she associated with as a worship space. 

This is a multipurpose room, and we understand that.  But, she understood that when she comes to this room, it is a place of worship. 

Now, she understands that during the week it is a place to play.  But, think of the confusion that could go on, and certainly the confusion Jesus is talking about with the people of His day. The temple was to be a place of worship and not a place to sell animals or exchange money.

Back in January, you might remember the sermon I had on Samuel, and how we talked about how the Word of the Lord was rare in Samuel's day.  Part of it was because of the abuses of Eli, and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas.  They were doing things in the temple, and tabernacle that they should not have been doing. 

Here, Jesus is talking about the abuses that were taking place in the temple that should not have been going on.

That also reminds me of Martin Luther, too.  This last fall we celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.  Seven years before the Lutheran Reformation began, Luther took his first visit to Rome.  This was in 1510.  For Roman Catholic monks, a trip to Rome was to be a highlight.  Luther was looking forward to his visit to Rome.  When he got there, he saw the abuses that were taking place.  There was one stairway in particular where you were told to climb up, on your knees, from the bottom to the top.  Supposedly, these were stairs that came from Jerusalem.  And, supposedly Jesus had climbed these stairs going up to Pontius Pilate.  People were told, “If you climb these stairs on your knees, and say your 'Hail Mary's, and if you pay your money to buy indulgences, your family members will get out of Purgatory.” 

Martin Luther saw all of this happening, with other people going up these stairways, and legend has it Luther stood up on his feet in the middle of those stairs, and said, “The just shall live by faith”.  That is what scripture says.  His trip to Rome was supposed to be this highlight, but it didn't end up being the case, because he saw the abuses that were taking place.

As Jesus had those who were selling animals, and those who were exchanging money out of the temple courts, it was the disciples who remembered what The Old Testament Psalm said,

“Zeal for your house will consume me.”

They saw the zeal of Jesus. 

That is when the religious leaders looked at Jesus, and basically said, “Who do you think you are?” 

Remember, Jesus was at the beginning of His ministry. 

“Who do you think you are?  By whose authority are you doing these things?”

(Hang on to that question for a moment, as I am going to answer it in just a little bit.)

This past week, after the bulletin was done, there were a number of people who were walking through the office corridor helping to assemble our bulletin.  More than one person commented to me, “I am not used to seeing an angry Jesus.”

We are not, are we?  We usually are used to seeing a loving Jesus.  We are used to seeing The Lamb of God, the Jesus of love, the Jesus of compassion who came down to lay His life down for us, who are sinners.  And yet today, what do we see?  We see a zealous Jesus.  We see a Jesus who is showing His righteous anger, because of the abuses that were taking place in His temple. 

Now, for as easy as it is for us to come down hard on the religious leaders of Jesus' day, there is good application for us here.  Here is what happens to me, and I know this happens to you, as well.  We let things come into 'the temple of our heart' that should not be there.  We allow abuses to come into 'the temple of our hearts', that Jesus doesn't want to be there.  It may be the abuse of pride.  It may be the abuse of greed, but we let those sins infiltrate our heart.  If gone unchecked, if gone uncleansed, they will take over our heart completely.  Our Old Testament Lesson for today is a good one to be reminded of.  We heard them all at once, it is The Ten Commandments.  The Ten Commandments simply tell us what to do, and what not to do.  It pricks our heart.  It points out the abuses that happen in each, and every one of our hearts.  And, it prepares our heart to hear what Jesus shared with the people of His day.  He said,

“Destroy this temple

and in three days I will raise it up again.”

Now, they didn't understand what Jesus was talking about.  They thought He was talking about the temple.  They said, “It took forty six years to build this temple.  What are you talking about?  To destroy it, and raise it in three days?”  

Jesus was talking about His body.  He was saying,

“Destroy this temple...” 

He was pointing forward to Good Friday, that would happen three days from now. 

“ three days I will raise it up again.” 

He was talking about His resurrection.  That is exactly what the Apostle Paul wrote, later on in the book of Romans, when he wrote that Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins, and raised to life for our justification.  Jesus came to cleanse our hearts so that we would have everlasting life with Him in Heaven.  The death and resurrection of Jesus brings so much comfort to us, because

-it reminds us Jesus is God. 

-It reminds us our sins are forgiven. 

-It reminds us we will rise again on the last day. 

With His help, we will forsake sin, and live a new life.

You know what Jesus is zealous for today?  I should really change that question.  Who is Jesus zealous for? 

He is zealous for you. 

He wants you to be with Him in His Kingdom

for all eternity. 

Do you know what it is that makes this building a church?  Do you know what it is that makes this room a church?  (Remember we are worshiping in a gym.) It is not the white chair you are sitting in.  It is not the score board.  It is not the bleachers. It is not the wood floor.  What makes this building a church is The Word and Sacrament that is proclaimed here - God's Word being shared with you, and you receiving Baptism and The Lord's Supper for the forgiveness of sin.  Jesus wants to drive out all distractions, so that through His zeal, He can be the Savior of your heart, and mine!