Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 7, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 2:13-25. John MacArthur wrote a book titled, “Jesus You Can’t Ignore.” There is a copy of that book on the back table, if someone has not already picked it up. On that back of the book it says this, “Our view of Jesus affects the way we view God, the world, ourselves, and every one of our decisions. These days, Jesus is often portrayed as a pacifist, a philanthropist, or a docile teacher. He strikes a plastic-and sometime pathetic – pose in the minds of many. Some prefer the meek and mild Jesus who heals the sick, calms fears, and speaks of peace and goodwill. These things do represent a portion of the Messiah. But tragically, too many have never been exposed to the rest of him. They have never seen a full 360-degree view of the Savior.”
Oh, how true that statement is today. We, as a culture, have transformed Jesus into a false idol. We have manipulated who he is to suit our own desires. Why does this happen? For several reasons, but one is because so many people refuse to read the Book that reveals the One True God. We instead write our own book and create the Jesus that best fits our needs. So with this in mind, let us set our eyes upon the true account of Jesus as it is laid out in John 2:13-25 and examine this Jesus we can’t ignore.
As we have mentioned before the Passover celebration for the Jews was the pinnacle of their festivities. This festival commemorated the birth of the nation of Israel out of the womb of sinful Egypt. The means by which God freed Israel from the chains of Egypt was through death. The firstborn son of every family would die upon the arrival of the Angel of Death, however, it you killed a Lamb without blemish and put the blood of that lamb on the doorposts of your home, then the Angel would see the blood as a sign that death had already come upon this house, and would passover the home. The lamb was the substitute for the Hebrews, and because of the Lamb death would enter into the homes of the Hebrews. 1500 years later, Israel was still celebrating this event.
The Passover could be viewed, in Geo-political sense, in the same way we view the Fourth of July. We celebrate the Fourth of July because it commemorates when we, America, officially declared our independence. The Passover was likewise the celebration when Israel became an independent nation. Having said this, the Passover celebration is also unlike the fourth of July in many, many ways. One way that it is different is location. The Passover was not celebrated in small towns throughout Israel, or in the backyards of quaint neighborhoods, it was celebrated in Jerusalem. The people were expected to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem so as to participate in the Passover festival, hence why we see Jesus, Mary, his half-brothers, and his disciples making their way to the City of David.
No one knows for sure, but Josephus, a Jewish historian claimed that there could have been upwards to 2.7 million people in Jerusalem at the time of a Passover. Because of this there would be people everywhere. Some even say that the city limits of Jerusalem were actually expanded so that people could claim to be in Jerusalem and fulfill the requirement to be in Jerusalem, yet still find a place to lay their head. Therefore, it would be an understatement to say that Jerusalem, at the time of the Passover, would have been a bustling city, the houses would be filled, the streets would be filled, and of course the Temple would be filled. For the Temple was ground zero for the celebration.
As many of you are aware, the Temple was the central location of all things Jewish, and as we can see in our text, it was a very impressive building. Verse 20, the Jews claimed that had taken forty-six years to build the temple. The temple of Jesus’ day is referred to as Herod’s Temple. The reason it is named this is that Herod is the one attributed to constructing such a marvelous building. The building of this temple by Herod was believed to have begun around 19 B.C. and continued through Herod’s death in 4 B.C., and was not actually completed until around 63 B.C. Seven years later it was destroyed by Titus, the Roman General. If you do the quick math, 46 years from 19 B.C. is 27 A.D., and this could be a decent estimate of what year it was when this took place.
The Temple was a marvelous building. If you want to get a feel for it, many of you will have a picture of it in your ESV Study Bible. The Temple itself would have consisted of the most Holy Place, which only the High Priest would enter once a year, the Holy Place, which only priests could enter. This would have been where John the Baptist’s dad, Zechariah, would have received the message from the angle about the conception of his son. Surrounding the actual Temple were different courtyards; first the courtyard of the Jewish men, then the courtyard of Jewish women, and then the courtyards of the Gentiles. When all of this was added together the Temple with all of its courtyards was something to behold.
Most likely, the events for today's text took place in the courtyard of the Gentiles. This is the one place that everyone was welcome. No one was excluded from this place, not even the animals. The reason for the animals and the money-changers being present in the courtyard of the Temple was that during the Passover sacrifices would be made at the Temple. For the thousands, hundred of thousands, and perhaps million people who came to Jerusalem, they did not bring an animal to sacrifice with them. Instead they would purchased these per-approved animals on site.
In order to do this, you had to have the right money. The only money that was accepted on the Temple grounds was the Jewish currency, the shekel. This currency was not the common currency in Rome, therefore many of the pilgrims, did not have shekels, but only coins with Ceaser's image upon it. Therefore, upon their arrival to the Temple, they first would go to the money changers and exchange their Romans coin for shekels. On top of this exchange was a handling fee. As you would guess, the fee was not cheap. It was estimated that the cost to exchange would be up to one man's average daily wage.
From there, you would then go and purchase a pre-approved animal that was a substantially higher price than its true value. As you can also expect, because of the monopoly that existed within the Courtyard, the prices were fixed so to speak. So the whole ordeal would have cost an average person a great deal of money. Which leads us to the question, who was behind this whole thing. The answer to this is the High Priest. He was the one in charge of the entire event. The buck, or the shekel, stopped with him. IN fact, I found this interesting as I was reading a commentary by Kent Hughes, that the Temple was sarcastically nicknamed the “Bazaars of Annas.” Annas was the high co-high priest during Jesus' time. And for Annas the Passover was like the Superbowl. It provided a great opportunity to fill the coffers that paid for his bread.
So hopefully, with this picture you get a sense of what Jesus was walking into when he stepped foot onto the Temple grounds. People everywhere, money flying, grumbling, perhaps bartering, the bleating of sheep the the bellowing of oxen. It could, perhaps, best be described as a combination between a sale-barn and a casino.
Which leads us to another question, is this what God intended when he first established the tabernacle, which was later followed by the Temple? The answer to this is clearly no. Jesus tells us himself in verse 16, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” The intent of the Temple was not about filling the coffers of the Sanhedrin. It was not about fund-raising for temple construction, comfortable lifestyles for the priests. No, the Temple was about worship.
After God brought Israel out of Egypt, he commanded Moses to construct a tabernacle, which was a pre-cursor to the Temple. This tabernacles was to be the center of the Israeli culture. When they moved from place to place, the tabernacle was to be in the center of the camp. The purpose of the tabernacle was so that God could have a relationship with sinful Israel. The tabernacle provided the means by which God and man could have a relationship. Later, during the life of King Solomon, the tabernacle was replaced with the Temple. The ascetics were different, but the function was the same. The temple was the means by which a Holy God could have an ongoing relationship with His sinful people. As Jesus stepped onto the scene that day, what he saw was a far cry from worship.
Now, it should be noted that when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for this specific Passover, it was not his first time there. He would have first seen the Temple 30 years early when he was brought to the Temple to be presented to the Lord shortly after his birth. Following his first experience with the Passover, he would have participated in many more. In Luke 2:41 it says, “Every year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.” Therefore, most likely Jesus had been observing the Passover and the Bazaar of Annas for a number of years. So that question is, why now? Why does he wait until he is around the age of 30 to unleash.
I believe the answer is found in last week's text with Jesus' semi-rebuking statement to his mother. John 2:4 - “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” We can't be for sure, but I believe that the hour Jesus was referring to was the hour of this Passover. This, in my opinion, was Jesus' coming out party. This is how Jesus would burst upon the public scene. Up to this point, John had been announcing his coming and to those who were within earshot declared him to be the Lamb of God, but as Jesus arrives in Jerusalem we see the teeth of this Lamb as he shows his colors as the Lion of Judah.
And this Lion was not happy with what he saw being done in His Kingdom, and he was consumed by his righteous zeal for his Father's house, so what he do? He was going to clean house. As his disciples ponder this roaring Lion, driving out animals and flipping tables, the Spirit of God reminds them of Psalm 69. In our text today, only verse 9 is quoted, but the entire Psalm drips with prophetic utterances of Christ.
This calculated action by Jesus drew the attention of those who were in charge of the Temple grounds that day and they asked Jesus in verse 18, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” This question is quite telling. Notice what they didn't do. They didn't arrest Jesus. They did not accuse Jesus as being crazy. They didn't even throw him out, they asked for a sign. Why? Because the Spirit of God was upon him. They may not have recognized him as who he was, but in a sense they knew. Perhaps they could not put their spiritual finger on it, but the presence of God was not something that could be ignored. From children, to fisherman, to tax collectors, to prostitutes, to rulers, and Kings, every knew that this man was more than a Man.
Credentials of Christ
So what was Jesus' response to their request for credentials? Verse 19, “Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” What does Jesus mean by this? Verse 21 tells us, “ he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”
Jesus in this statement speaks to two great truths, the purpose of the temple and the power of his resurrection. First, the purpose of the Temple. As we stated earlier, the purpose of the tabernacle and later the Temple was to allow a Holy God to have a relationship with a sinful people. Having said that, the tabernacle and the Temple had no power to permanently remove sins. These things were merely a shadow of something greater than the Temple, Jesus Christ.
The Author of Hebrews speaks to this in Hebrews 8:5, “They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.”
It is no coincidence that just a few pages before John 2, it tells us in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” That word dwelt is actually best translated as tabernacled. Jesus has pitched his tent amongst his people. He is the true tabernacle. The tent and the temple are just copies of Him. They were merely foreshadows of the better covenant and the better promises of the unbreakable love of God found in Christ. Jesus was and is the only way that a Holy God can have a relationship with a sinful people. Therefore, if anyone had authority over that Holy Ground it was the Holy One of God.
The second credential that Jesus flashes is his resurrection. The Jews asked for a sign. The greatest sign of the authority of Christ in this world is the empty tomb. Why? Because in the resurrection of Christ is the power of God to overcome sin and therefore overcome death. The root cause of all problems is sin. If sin is removed then the Garden of Eden is restored. The Lamb who was slain, has defeated sin and death on the cross and the resurrection is the manifestation of that power. As Paul so rights says in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19.
Why should this world repent and believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, because the temple of Christ body was destroyed and three days later it was raised in glory. Cornerstone, that is the truth in which we stand and that is the sign in which we proclaim. The Lamb of God has authority over all things because the Lamb has the power to lay down his life and the Lamb has the power to raise it up again.