+ Lent 3 – March 8th, 2015 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Tables flipping. Coins rolling. Oxen grunting, sheep bleating; doves and feathers flying everywhere.
Sounds like quite the chaotic scene. Though not nearly as chaotic as the emporium of money-changers and livestock traders which resembled the OC fairgrounds more than the holy temple.
The problem wasn’t exchanging currency for the temple tax, or buying and selling animals for the sacrifice. Those were good things. The problem was where they were doing it, in the court of the Gentiles, the very place where God promised to be present for all people, for prayer, praise, and thanks. My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7). Imagine a herd of oxen or sheep trotting by as you’re trying to confess your sins and hear the absolution, or pigeons squawking as you try to listen to the Gospel reading or prayer of the church. The problem was, they were buying and selling in the place of God’s self-giving.
This isn’t Jesus staging a one-man occupy Jerusalem protest to fight the man. But neither is he like your grandma’s precious moments Jesus. He’s no girly-man, as the Governator used to say. Though we can forget all about making Jesus action figures with Kung Fu grip.
Psalm 69 tells us why Jesus cleansed the temple. Zeal for Your house has consumed me. Jesus is doing things the Messiah was prophesied to do.
Jesus cleanses the temple to show that he is the new temple for you.
The temple was the place of God’s presence. The dwelling place of God is with man. God provided a place for sacrifice for sins. Atonement was made there. Forgiveness and holiness were given there. Prayer and praise rose before the Lord as incense, filling the courts with the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
But over time, the temple became less about God serving man and more about man serving himself. Profits and margins replaced prayer and meditation. God’s holy house had become a den of thieves.
See how the devil has no new tricks in assaulting the Church. In Luther’s day the money-changers were selling indulgences. “When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.” Today the money-changers and livestock sellers offer new golden calves: business practices for ministry, pastors as hirelings or CEOs, entertainment and emotionalism instead of Divine Service.
Jesus saw what the temple had become. Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of trade!
The uncleanness of the temple had become a mirror image of the people’s hearts: impure, unclean, and self-serving.
Like the temple, we too need cleansing. Our spiritual stench is far worse than all the animals in the temple that day. All we like sheep have gone astray, each after our own way. For what has zeal consumed you? We need not search far, only look in the mirror. Consider your place in life according to the 10 commandments. Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything or done any harm? Do I fear God’s wrath and avoid every sin? Am I diligent in my prayers and study of God’s Word? Am I faithful in attending church’s worship and bible study faithfully or do I come sporadically because I prefer to be elsewhere?
Repent. For the 10 commandments reveal that we are unclean. Our sinful flesh is a den of thieves.
Sins demand sacrifice, sacrifice demands a temple. The commandments reveal our need for a temple.
Jesus cleanses the temple to show that he is the new temple for y0u.
All the oxen and sheep and doves are driven out. Only one remains: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world for you. Create in me a clean heart, Oh God and renew a right spirit within me. Jesus is your temple and the sacrifice for your sins. I lay my sins on Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God.
Don't skip over St. John’s time stamp: the Passover was at hand. Just as Israel of old was delivered from slavery by the exodus, Jesus rescues us from captivity to sin by the exodus of his death. Just as the angel of death passed over the homes with bloody doorposts, death passes over you who are covered in the blood of the Lamb. Just as Israel ate the Passover meal in expectation of their deliverance, Jesus feeds us with the true Passover of his own flesh and blood for our redemption.
As Jesus cleanses the temple he turns the tables on the religious system of Israel. God’s Lamb had come to His temple. The old has gone; the new has come.
Jesus cleanses the temple to show that he is the temple.
And in this temple of Jesus’ body you are cleansed. Everything that was true about the OT temple is true about Jesus, only greater. Where Jesus is present, God himself is present in our humanity. The dwelling place of God is with man. The Word became flesh. Emmanuel. God with us. Jesus is the sacrifice for our sin. Your sin is driven out. Atonement is made by his death on the cross for you. Jesus forgives you; His holiness is now yours. Prayer and praise rise before him as incense, our lives a living sacrifice. Jesus has taken the record of our offenses – all those 10 commandments we’ve failed, our uncleanness and sin – and nailed it to the tree.
Jesus became unclean to cleanse you. Jesus is defiled and blasphemed to purify and bless you. Jesus becomes the curse of our sin to free us from the curse. Jesus died on the cross surrounded by thieves to drive the thieves from our hearts. Jesus is pierced in hands, feet, head, and heart to cleanse our hearts, minds, hands and feet by his cleansing, purifying blood.
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
This is the point of Jesus’ cleansing the temple. The sign the Jews were demanding, the authority Jesus had – it’s all found in his dying and rising. Jesus is the temple. Jesus is the sacrifice. For you.
The temple of Christ’s body, the Church, is where God’s Word calls us to repentance and faith. This temple of Jesus’ body “is the place of God’s gracious presence, where the Holy Spirit is not bought or sold but instead comes by grace and promise. It is where God gives himself away and where people can come and be cleansed in order to pray and praise God (Peterson).”
You don’t need to go to the temple, in the Lord’s Supper the temple of Jesus’ body comes to you. Jesus locates his body and blood in a sanctuary of bread and wine. You don’t need to make a pilgrimage for Passover, in the Lord’s Supper God’s true Passover comes to you in the body and blood of the Lamb of God who takes away your sin. His atonement is here in his body and blood. God’s holiness is here, hidden in bread and wine. The dwelling place of God is still with man. Jesus gives us the temple of his body to feed and sustain you who are the temple of the Holy Spirit, whose courts ring out with prayer, praise and thanksgiving.
Jesus cleanses the temple to show that he is the temple. And also that by his sacrifice you are cleansed. You are made a temple of the Holy Spirit, members of Christ’s body, His Church. His temple. Holy Baptism washes, and cleanses us from sin. Holy Baptism removes our heart of thievery and sin and replaces it with a new and right spirit within us. Baptism makes us God’s house of living stones, built for his own habitation.
That’s why the Church isn’t a building, but a gathering. Not four walls, but a living, breathing body, a spiritual temple fashioned out of reborn living stones, knit together by the Spirit in Holy Baptism.
It is zeal for his Father’s house, and zeal for this house – you, the church, Jesus’ own body – that consumes Jesus. And the zeal that consumes Jesus saves you.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.