Worship Service for March 7, 2021 — Why Is Jesus so Angry Here?
Old Testament Lesson: Exodus 20:1-17:
1And God spoke all these words:
2“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3“You shall have no other gods before me.
4“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
13“You shall not murder.
14“You shall not commit adultery.
15“You shall not steal.
16“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Psalm 69 in Christian Worship Supplement
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me.
May those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me, O Lord Almighty;
may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me, O God of Israel.
For zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
in your great mercy turn to me.
They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
The Lord hears the needy
and does not despise his captive people.
Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and all that move in them,
for God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
I will praise God’s name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Epistle Lesson: Romans 8:1-10:
1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
9You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.
13When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22After 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.
My brother in law Keith is a retired army Colonel. He is a fascinating man to be around. Besides the fact that he is a more handsome man than I could ever hope to be, he always makes being around him interesting. I have seen him absolutely destroy people in debates about all sorts of matters , political, cultural, etc. One thing that I have witnessed a number of times when I’ve been around him is the way that he will upbraid someone if they do something that doesn’t fit in the etiquette of flag handling. For example, when he sees someone display a flag as a part of a declaration, he has no problem with telling them that they are doing it wrong. The people to whom he tells this look puzzled . They wonder why he should take this also seriously. He then informs them what the flag means to him as someone who fought under the flag. When you fought under the flag, he tells them, you don’t treat it with disrespect. Today, we look at the actions of Jesus when he entered into the temple during the first Passover of his ministry. The people who watched him wondered why in the world it was that Jesus was so intent on what he did. In his explanation to them, he let them know how seriously he took all of this.
Why Was Jesus So Upset by All This?
I. Because of what it did to the people
II. Because of what it did to the message
You have to imagine the scene. The law required The Jewish people to get to Jerusalem, if they were able to, to observe the Passover. That meant that there were thousands of people who did not live in Jerusalem who were in the city at that time. When they came for the Passover, they were required to pay the temple tax. The law was very specific, they had to pay it with the right coinage. They could not pay it with the coinage of the Romans or the Greeks or the Egyptians. They had to pay it with the proper Jewish shekel. The people who are coming to Jerusalem from all over the world did not have access to the proper coinage in their hometowns. That meant that they would have to get their money exchanged. They were supposed to do this before they actually got to the temple gates. However, since Herod had redesigned the whole temple area, there was ample space within the temple to do this task. Soon those who were in charge of the temple area not only allowed it, they also promoted it. So now what do you have? You have little booths set up all over the place where people are arguing about the exchange rate, cheating those who maybe have a limited knowledge of what our shackle of silver is worth. You have overcharging. You have arguments. It is making the temple and area that is more concerned with profiteering than it is with worship.
And then there were the animals for sale. If someone is going to come to Jerusalem, it was imperative on their part to bring a sacrifice to the temple. Think of it, if you were traveling from some distance , would you lug along some unwilling animal? The answer is that the people who came from far flung areas probably won’t bring their own animals. They would expect that they would be able to buy animals as they got close to Jerusalem. One of the reasons why there were shepherds in the vicinity of Bethlehem was that these shepherds provided animals that were that were fit for sacrifice in the temple at Jerusalem. Now what was going on with the money changing was also going on with the sale of animals when they got into the temple area.
It was something that did not benefit those who came there. Think of it this way. Have you ever gone to see a professional football or baseball game? I would imagine that many of you who are sitting here today have. What do you pay 4 food and drink in the stadium? My guess is that if you do buy something there, it costs you a lot more than you would spend for the same items at a store or a restaurant. I actually looked it up since I don’t go to Packer games. The website I found said that it would cost $15 for you to get a beer and a hot dog at Lambeau Field. That’s just the way it goes. You pay a little extra for convenience sake. The people in the stadium know that. So did the people who sold animals at the temple. It was well known , and commented on in the townwood and in the writings of people like Josephus, that the people in charge of selling animals at the temple charged an arm and a leg for the sheep and the oxen and even the pigeons that were supposed to be offered by those who were poorer. Besides the cost , think of what the sounds and the smells we’re like in the temple area with all of this going on. It was something that did not lead the people to appreciate what they were going to be doing there at the temple. Their minds were distracted and the poor were cheated.
Into this hectic and chaotic scene came Jesus. He looked around , surrounded by his disciples, and was appalled. He saw what would what this all was doing for the people who came there. The poor were being overcharged to do something that the law had been designed for them to do affordably. There were arguing’s going back and forth all over the place. It was not a conducive atmosphere for people who would come to worship the Lord of the temple. That is why Jesus took the bold and decisive action that he did. Notice that it does not say that he attacked any of the people who were exchanging money or selling animals. We are told that he made a whip from rope cords that he found all over the place there. He used this whip not on the people who were there but on the animals that were being sold use the whip, basically, as a prod to get the animals out of that area. He then upended the tables that the money changers were using to apply their business. And he condemned everything that he saw there and said that it was turning his father’s house into Amir place of business.
It is interesting to note that this wasn’t the only time that Jesus did something like this. The other three gospel writers record a similar scene that took place during Holy Week. The people who were there hadn’t heated Jesus warning and they had continued doing what he had condemned. At that time, he was even more critical of what was going on. He said that the people who were conducting that business had turned his father’s house into a den of robbers.
The leaders of the people saw what Jesus did and they heard what he said good they picked up on his expression , my father’s house. They took from what he said that he was making some special claim about himself, perhaps even claiming that he was the Messiah. Maybe because they knew that what they were doing was wrong, they did not have the nearby Roman guards arrest Jesus at that time. Instead, they approached him and asked him how he was able to do this. They then made a request. They asked that he performed some miraculous sign to prove that he had the authority and the ability to do what he had just done. This is the sort of demand that Jesus opponents made of him from time to time during his ministry. They knew that Jesus had been reported to be performing miracles. In fact, right before this in John’s gospel, we hear about him performing his first miracle: the turning of water into wine. They were saying, in essence, prove it!
Jesus response to them is an interesting one. He tells them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” Of course, they did not understand what he was telling them. they thought that he was referring to the building in which she stood. They pointed out how ridiculous it was that Jesus could make such a claim. The temple and its magnificent area had been under construction for 46 years. It would be under construction for roughly another 30 years. How in the world could someone be able to build the whole thing up in a mere three days? What Jesus was doing, of course, was pointing ahead to the end of his ministry. He knew what they were going to do. He knew that they were going to continue to ignore what he said and did . They would continue to deny that he was the promised Messiah. Finally, they would have him put to death. After he was put to death, he was going to do something even more difficult than raising up a building. He was going to raise himself from the dead to prove, once and for all, that he is who he said he was. We are told that the disciples who heard Jesus say this did not completely understand what he was saying either. They did, though, remember what he said and understood what he was talking about after he rose from the dead.
Now we get to the biggest reason why Jesus was so angry about what was happening at the temple. You see, everything that happened at the temple really pointed to him. All of the sacrifices they took place at the temple really pointed to him and what he would accomplish by his death. When people came to the temple and offered their sacrifices, they were supposed to go away with the message that God had promised a sacrifice for their sins. Instead, because of everything that was being done in the temple area, they went away with the feeling that a relationship with God with something that they had to buy for themselves. The emphasis had been placed on the price that they were paying. They had their minds on all sorts of earthly things and had missed out on the message that God wanted them to see and to understand.
This is what Jesus wants to continue to happen in his church. He wants people to come here freely. He does not want them to think that their admission into this place has anything to do with the amount of money that they are able to give. Yes, we do support the ministry of this church and of the church at large with our offerings. However, we must never give the impression that a person buys their Salvation through this. Instead, Jesus would have us focus all of our attention on the message that is being proclaimed. Just as he wanted the people who came to the temple in his day to see the forgiveness of sins that the sacrifices their proclaimed, he wants people to come here and to understand that he is the fulfillment of that prophecy and that he is the one who offers them forgiveness of sins fully and freely. My prayer for your worship here is the same as Jesus prayer for the worship of the people at the temple in his day. I want you to come here and no that Jesus has paid for your sins and that he offers this Salvation to you freely and without cost. This is why the ministers of Jesus take all of this so seriously. This is why we endeavour to bring you God’s word as clearly and freely as we possibly can. This is what Jesus would want us to do. Amen.