This blog series studies the words and actions of Jesus throughout the four gospels and applies them to us today. If you would like to start at the beginning, go here.
“The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
The first thing Jesus does in His public ministry is not teaching, preaching or healing. First He Purges and Reforms the Temple. Jesus is incensed here. This is the first time we see Jesus really angry, and really only one of the few times in Scripture. Why is He so angry? Well, two reasons.
First, men were selling sacrificial animals in the temple. They were profiting off of the needs of others. Men typically brought their own animals for their own sins, but these guys created a market to sell animals at the Temple in case they forgot or didn’t want to use their own animals. They are profiting off of the spiritual needs of others – they are catching people moments of great need and capitalizing off of their need. Sound familiar?
Second, there were men who were exchanging money for “convenience” of those who had to pay the half-shekel for the service of the tabernacle. Jesus responds to this by driving them out. No one should have to pay to get their sins forgive or to meet with God. No one should ever “Sell God” to the people. Jesus did not approve of this, and the idea of making the Temple into an exchange of goods and services angered Him.
So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When 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.
The Jews demand that Jesus justify His actions. Jesus had just disrupted a VERY lucrative business by throwing out the lenders and money changers. What “right” did He have to do this? The Jews were being bothered by their consciences somewhat. They knew what they were doing was wrong, but they were making a lot of money from this, providing services for the people and they had been doing this for so long, no one ever thought of it as “wrong” anymore. This makes me wonder – are there things in my life that I do all the time, that are so ingrained, that are consistent habits, that are not righteous? Have I ceased to evaluate my habits and traits? Are there offenses I commit every day without knowing it? This is a matter for prayer, accountability, honesty, and transparency. This is a question that requires reflection.
With His statement “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” Jesus knowingly condemns Himself to death. This is the statement that the Jews used to get Him crucified in Matthew 26:61-62. This was the accusation that stuck, led the High Priest to press Him, and led Jesus to His crucifixion. Jesus isn’t being tricked, either. He knowingly, willingly lays His life down. Back to this text, Jesus is saying that He can cast them out of the temple because He is the Son of God, victorious over death, Savior of the world. And, by the way, it is His Temple.
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.”
Jesus did not entrust Himself to any man, because He knew men were deceitful and fickle. Notice that their faith in Him is tied to the signs and wonders He performs. The praise of men when times are good are empty praise. What about when times are bad? What about when He doesn’t perform miracles? Where is the praise of men then? Where is their faith?
Think of it this way – You have a lot of money. You meet someone and eventually get engaged. You are happy. There is a marriage, and for a brief time, loads of happiness. But eventually your spouse finds out that they cannot get their hands on your money. They can’t get to it because it is locked away in an airtight retirement fund. All of the sudden, your spouse gets distant, surly, angry, and mean. Your spouse divorces you and leaves you. How would you feel? Morally outraged, deeply wounded … you would believe that they only married you for your money. You would feel like they never truly loved you. You would feel used and abused.
Well, this is eerily similar to how we treat God – we are “in love” with Him when everything is good and fair. But when we pray and don’t get our way, when hardship comes, when disaster strikes, when pain and suffering and discomfort and despair show up, and God doesn’t do what we ask Him to do … we leave Him. God is only useful and good if He does what I want Him to do. I hate to break it to you, but if this is you, you don’t really know God. This is difficult, I know, but you have a “god” of your own making. God changes you, you don’t change God. You serve God; God doesn’t serve you. If the God of the Universe, Who holds the stars in place, sustains every life on Earth, makes the galaxies and Sun to shine is your “assistant,” you have made yourself your god and have not truly submitted to the true God of the Universe.
Man, this hits home. How often do I praise Jesus for His goodness and grace when I am comfortable, when my wife and I aren’t fighting, when we have enough money to make it through the month, when nothing breaks, explodes, stops working or needs repair? All the time. When times are good, I’m good. When times get tough, all of the sudden my praise stops, or at least slows to a trickle. This attitude reveals something about my heart, my character, my nature … and I hate what it says about me. I want to be the kind of man who clings to Jesus no matter what my circumstances are, no matter how difficult life is. I want to be faithful. I want to be a good steward. I want to praise Him in the midst of the ashes and the pain and the sorrow.
Oh God, please make us into a people like this. Make me faithful.