Jesus: The Death of the Party
Jesus: The Life & Death of the Party—Part 2
John 2: 12-25
May 27, 2012
Ever been to a party gone bad? How about the death of a party? If you’ve seen Batman Returns, you’ll recognize this scene from one of the lavish parties he throws at his mansion. Take a look.
[Show scene 1:42:43 to 1:45:37 of Batman Begins]
Now Bruce Wayne was actually being rude to his guests for a reason: he needed to get them out of his mansion as quickly as possible because his former mentor-turned-nemesis was about to destroy the city. So rather than be nice and run the risk of having people killed in his house, he preferred to let people think he was rude, get them out of the house, and buy some time to try and stop the release of the gas that would make people hallucinate their worst fears and kill each other.
Talk about putting a damper on a good party! J
Last week we saw in John 2 that Jesus truly knows how to not only join in a good party but make it the best one the guests ever attended, one they…and the whole world…would never forget. When Jesus showed up at the wedding party in Cana of Galilee, he truly was the life of the party. As we saw last week, what he did, how he did it and who he involved in the miraculous doing of it tells us an immense amount about God, about miracles, and about who he likes to impact most with his power.
But as I also mentioned last week, John arranges this and the second story in John 2 in such a way that makes us feel like we’re going from a comedy to a tragedy in 5 seconds flat! From being the life of the party at the wedding, Jesus becomes the death of the party in the Temple. And remember, the party is being held at “his house.” Only Jesus’ treatment of the “guests” makes Bruce Wayne in Batman look kind.
Let’s read beginning at vs. 12.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. 25 He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.
Someone once had a good word of advice for me when I was in college. I was trying to decide if I should enter into the next stage of a friendship with a certain young woman I was interested in. This wise person said, “For something to be “right” in terms of a serious friendships, it needs to be the right person in the right relationship at the right time.”
If any one or more of those three factors is wrong, it’s wrong!
That was good advice. And as it turned out, it was not only the wrong time; it was the wrong person. Which always made me glad I treated that young woman with respect and integrity.
So here’s my question about this event we just read: What was wrong with what was going on?
- Was it the wrong time to be selling animals for the prescribed Passover sacrifices?
- Was it the wrong thing—the selling of animals in Jerusalem at the Passover?
- Was it the wrong people—the Jews in the Temple courts?
- Or was it the wrong place—the Temple and more specifically the “court of the Gentiles” where the activity was taking place?
[See picture of the Court of the Gentiles…and explain.]
The entire Temple compound was considered holy, but it became increasingly more holy as one entered farther in, from east to west. King Herod had enclosed the outer court with colonnades and it was referred to as the Court of the Gentiles because the "gentiles" (non-Jews) were permitted to enter the Temple area. They could walk within in it but they were forbidden to go any further than the outer court. They were excluded from entering into any of the inner courts, and warning signs in Greek and Latin were placed that gave warning that the penalty for such trespass was death. The Romans permitted the Jewish authorities to carry out the death penalty for this offence, even if the offender were a Roman citizen. It was for this alleged crime that Paul was attacked and nearly beaten to death by an angry crowd during his last visit to Jerusalem (Acts 21:27-32). [http://www.bible-history.com/jewishtemple/JEWISH_TEMPLEThe_Court_of_the_Gentiles.htm]
So, what’s the problem Jesus goes after here?
- Wrong time? No, the Passover was the time animals were needed for sacrifices in the Temple.
- Wrong people? No, anyone, both Jews and Gentiles could be in the Court of the Gentiles on the Temple Mount.
- Wrong thing (animals)? No, everyone would have to bring them to the priests in the temple court in order for them to be offered as sacrifices in the Temple.
- Wrong place, the Court of the Gentiles? YES!
The answer to that depends on a couple of things?
1.) It depends on whose house it is.
2.) It depends on what the owner of the house wants to use the house for.
Whose house was the Temple? Vs. 16 gives the answer: Jesus said it was his “Father’s house.”
How are people supposed to treat a house that isn’t theirs? Like the owner of the house wants it to be treated, right.
ILL: Imagine that you decide to go away for the weekend. Let’s say you have little children, so you hire a baby sitter to come and watch over the kids, feed them, take care of them and get them to bed on time every night.
Imagine that you leave and go to, say, Coeur d’Alene for the night. You get to Coeur d’Alene about 6:30, have a nice leisurely dinner at your favorite restaurant and then catch a movie. Half way through the movie, your husband/wife says, “You know, I’m not feeling well. In fact, I’m feeling horrible. Let’s just go home and sleep in our own bed tonight.” So you do.
As you pull up to the house, there are lots of cars lining the street. “The neighbors must be having a party,” your wife says. You pull in the garage, close the garage door and enter the house.
And guess what? The party is at YOUR house! You enter the living room that is crowded with people, almost all of whom you have never met. They’re drinking. The music is blaring. There’s a mosh-pit in the family room. There are plates and glasses of half-eaten food everywhere…and a whole lot of it on the floor.
So tell me, how are you feeling right about now?
But if the party had been at your neighbor’s house, would you be feeling different? Sure. But this is YOUR HOUSE! That makes all the difference in the world. Because at your house, you set the rules. You determine who gets invited in and who has to stay out. You determine what goes on there, whether it’s going to be a beer bash or a family night. You set the rule…because it’s “YOUR place.”
I’m guessing that’s pretty much how Jesus felt. This was His Father’s House. He knew what mattered to his Father. He knew what kind of activities His Father wanted going on there and which ones he didn’t. And a Farmer’s & Rancher’s Market & Livestock Auction was not what he or his Father had in mind for that place.
It wasn’t that God the Father didn’t want lots of people in his House. He did! It wasn’t even that he just wanted Jewish people in that House. That’s why the Court of the Gentiles was SO big.
The place where only the Jews could go was far smaller than where everyone was invited to go. In fact, while God had prescribed certain limits around the holiest places in the Temple, specifically the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place just outside it, he had not made the kind of distinctions the Jews had between places in the Temple area like the “Court of the Gentiles” and “the Court of Women,” (beyond which even Jewish women could not pass). Where God wanted to be inclusive, His people managed to set up rigidly exclusive areas.
APP: Funny how we still tend to do that, don’t we. Oh, we may not be so “territorial” as to say, “Hey you. You’re not one of us, so you’ll have to sit over there!” Fact is, there are no “holy places” anymore as far as God is concerned. There is no place in this world where God has said, “That’s where my presence will be so don’t get too close.” But there are millions of people he’s called to be holy people where his glory will dwell.
Today, as the New Testament makes abundantly clear, God dwells IN his people by his Holy Spirit. The physical Temple in Jerusalem has been replaced by two different yet overlapping types of “temples” today.
1.) The temple of our bodies, at least everyone who has the Holy Spirit abiding in you through personal acceptance of and belief in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.
2.) The temple of God’s church—the people of God today gathered as His church, whether in groups of 2 or 3 or 20 or 30 thousand.
Jesus clearly alerted us to that change first in this very passage when he spoke of his own body (vs. 19) as “this temple” that would be destroyed (killed) and then “raised again in three days,” meaning his resurrection.
If there were any doubt, Paul clarifies that in I Cor. 6:19 when he is calling on every Christian to “flee from sexual immorality” (vs. 18). “All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body,” Paul says. Sexual sins, while not less or more evil than other sins, do damage to the very residing place of God himself—YOU! Paul goes on to say, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.”
When we misuse our bodies through sexual immorality, we are not only doing damage to our life; we are abusing THE TEMPLE OF GOD HIMSELF…bought at THE highest price anyone has paid for anything—the life of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, crucified for you and for me.
How would you feel coming home to find that people not your family, people with totally different moral values (or no moral values at all), had moved into your home, were using and abusing everything in it, were trashing the place and had no desire or obligation to keep it up, clean it up, fix it up or buy it?
Sex isn’t the only way we abuse our bodies. But it is certainly one of the more damaging ways in which we defile and misuse the “Father’s house”.
Why are we so shocked by what we see the money changers and livestock traders doing in the Temple in Jesus day but so unmoved by what we do with our own bodies, just as much The Father’s “House” today as the temple was then?
The same can be asked of the second type of “temple” God the Father inhabits today: His CHURCH wherever we gather in more than 2 or 3 people. Back in I Corinthians 3 where you’ll remember Paul tackled the divisions in the church at Corinth, he said this:
“Don’t you (pl.) know that you yourselves are God’s temple (sing.) and that God’s Spirit lives in you (pl)? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you (plural) are that temple (singular).”
This naturally leads to the question, “How can we destroy God’s temple, the church?” Well, pretty much the same way the nation of Israel destroyed it. They did it in a thousand different ways. They did it by letting a host of other things crowd out God in the Temple. They did it by exchanging true worship for false worship, prayer for making money, spiritually hungry people for religiously-oriented rules made up by people. They did it by keeping the form while losing the heart of worship. They did it by saying they loved and worshipped God while ignoring the orphans and widows, taking advantage of foreigners, giving homage to false gods, looking to things and people in this world to protect and provide for them rather than God.
If Jesus was upset because the Jews had turned the most outer courts of the Temple in Jerusalem into a meat-market, what might He be upset about what we have done or are doing with “the church” today? I’m not talking about church buildings… unless the very existence of them may actually be negatively shaping and impacting how God wants us to connect with him. I’m thinking more of what we have done or are doing that is crowding out encounters with Him.
You know, John specifically refers to the “temple courts” and what Jesus was doing there 7 times. Two of them are here in John 2. Twice in John 7 he speaks of Jesus “teaching” in the temple courts, once in John 8 and once in John 10.
Luke tells us in Luke 2:46 that at about age 13, when Jesus went with his parents up to Jerusalem for the Passover and got separated from them for three days, they found him “in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” The temple courts were clearly for God the Son a place where people were to encounter Him, be free to ask questions, hear him teach and hear the gospel.
On what I think is a different occasion of cleansing the temple in Mark 11, Jesus further elaborated on what a temple was supposed to be about. After he had driven out “those who were buying and selling” in the temple area and overturned the tables of the money changers and “would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts,” this is what Mark says he did (vs. 17).
And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ ”
So let’s clarify a few things about God and his temple (now US!). There were very few times in the life and ministry of Jesus that he became angry and only these experiences in the temple where he actually used force or violence to make his point.
What was it that actually made Jesus angry about the use of His Father’s House?
- Treating it like any other market place…like any other day or place for doing business.
- Filling it with things and activities that normally fill our lives.
- Destroying a place where ALL people could seek God and seek to connect with him in prayer.
A “temple” is supposed to be a place where people meet with God, right? Different people may have different degrees of contact with God, but connecting with God is the one thing temples are to be all about.
That’s why we have this saying at Mosaic, “Experiencing the heart of God in the heart of the city.” There is nothing special about this building. But there should be something very special about the experience we have together as God’s people when we come together. We do church down here because we want people in this part of our city, whether loft-dwellers or street-dwellers, to experience us as a connecting point with God.
So naturally, we must ask ourselves,
- “Since we are God’s ‘temple’ in downtown Spokane, what might we be doing that is turning God’s chosen meeting place with people into something He doesn’t want it to be?
- “What might we be doing that is making it difficult for people to connect with and experience God in the heart of this city?”
Can we talk about that for a moment?
Can I be non-threatening enough, non-defensive enough, for you to voice what you really think would help us BE God’s place and experience of his presence as often as we gather together as the church?
This must be Spirit-led. If not, we could easily simply be stating our own preferences about what we “like” or “dislike” about church today.
When I think of what the money-changers and livestock traders might have been thinking, I’m not sure they were all a bunch of money-grubbing merchants. I’m thinking they had probably rationalized very reasonably that what they were doing was actually helping other people worship. It was “conveniencing” them, not inconveniencing people. It was providing a service that was supposedly making worshipping God easier, not harder. In fact, I’m guessing that was the very reasoning behind how this practice may have gotten started. The intentions may have been wonderful, but over time, it had drifted to such a degree that God himself was now pretty irate about what had become standard practice in the Temple area.
So can we agree that we’re not judging motives; we’re looking at practices…or lack of practices…that may be inhibiting our genuine connection with God.
Let’s put it into two categories: Since we are the current temple of God or “house of the Father,” what….
1.) Things we could we or do we need to STOP doing in order to connect better with God?
2.) What things could or do we need to DO in order to help everyone here experience us as “the Father’s House” he wants us to be.
Remember, we’re talking about God’s temple/house while at the same time our church. Most importantly it is about what God desires to happen in and among us when we form “his temple.” Secondarily, however, it is about what genuinely helps you connect with God—what builds you up in Christ and allows you, as Peter said in I Pt. 2:5 to be “built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
[Challenge to make every gathering of the church, God’s House, a gathering where we meet with God in PRAYER.]
Blessed is he
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man
whose sin the Lord does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer. Selah
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord”—
and you forgave
the guilt of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you
while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise,
they will not reach him.
7 You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the man who trusts in him.
11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt. 22:37-39)
Congregational Prayer of Confession
Most merciful God,
We confess that we have sinned against you
In thought, word, and deed,
By what we have done,
And by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
Have mercy on us and forgive us;
That we may delight in your will,
And walk in your ways,
To the glory of your Name, Amen.
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