WORD OF GOD SPEAK — THINGS REMEMBERED
The tale is told of an actor and a preacher. The preacher said, “What is the difference between you and me? You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all.” The actor’s answer was a classic. “This is quite simple. I can tell you the difference between us. I present my fiction as though it were truth; you present your truth as though it were fiction.” Well, as we’ll see in today’s passage, Jesus didn’t have that problem. Jesus had an obvious zeal and passion for His Father’s house. Which is point number one. But He also had compassion for those excluded from it. Which is point number two. So let’s dig in and see if we can’t hear the word of God speak.
John 2:12 [NIV] says, “After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples.” From Cana, deep in the northern Galilean hills, it would literally be down to Capernaum on the shores of the Lake of Galilee which is 685' below the level of the Mediterranean Sea. And “there they stayed for a few days.”
Verse 13 continues. “13When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” Which is about 2,600' above sea level. So adding the 685' Capernaum was below sea level to the 2,600' Jerusalem was above sea level means that Jesus walked 3,285' from Capernaum up to Jerusalem. Isn’t that amazing? Raise your hand if you’d like to walk over 3,000 feet straight up to get to church? Anyone? No? But Jesus did. Why? Point number one: He had zeal for His Father’s house. Even when others did not.
Verses 14-17. “14In the temple courts he found men 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 area, 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! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!’ 17His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”
According to the Jewish historian Josephus, selling cattle, sheep, and doves began at some point in the reign of Caiaphas the high priest. And historians believe Caiaphas ruled between 18 and 36 AD. Since the priests profited greatly from this traffic in the temple, to disrupt it was an attack against the high priest. But there’s more to this story than confronting the high priest for a lack of reverence in God’s house. The place in the temple where Jesus finds the cattle, sheep, doves, and money changers, according to verse 14, is the Court of the Gentiles. The Temple precinct of Christ’s time had four courts. The Court of the Gentiles was a large outer enclosure, surrounded by columns with covered porches was accessible to all worshipers regardless of race or religious affiliation. The Court of the Women was accessible to all Jews regardless of age or gender. The Court of Israel was only for male Jews. And the Court of the Priests in which the ecclesiastical personnel functioned. But Gentile believers wanting to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael were only allowed to go into the Court of the Gentiles. That was as far as they could go. So when verse 14 says that Jesus found a bunch of money changers and cattle and sheep in the place where the Gentiles should be, he got angry because the people in the temple were making it harder for those outside it to come in!
Sure the money changers were there for a good reason. Hundreds of thousands of Jews and Gentiles believers traveled to the temple for Passover. They weren’t going to bring a bunch of sacrificial animals with them. So they had to purchase them when they arrived. The folks inside the temple were there for a good reason. Providing a good service that was supposed to honor God. But notice, according to Jesus, good services and reasons can still prohibit those far from God from coming a little closer. Literally. And if we’re not careful, we can by the way we conduct our worship services make it more difficult for emerging generations of believers from far and near to come a little closer to God. And when that happens in Jerusalem or Toledo, I think that makes Jesus angry. Because He loves all of us like crazy!!! Jews. Gentiles. Men. Women. Catholics. Protestants. Adulterers. Murderers. Gossipers. Alcoholics. Wife beaters. Homosexuals. You name it. All are precious in His sight. He doesn’t want any of them to feel excluded. Jesus wanted His Father’s house to be called a house of prayer for all nations, which is a quote from Isaiah 56:7, not a den of thieves, which is a quote from Matthew 21:13 when scholars believe Jesus cleansed the temple again. Once at the beginning of his ministry. And once at the end.
So Jesus had an obvious zeal and passion for His Father’s house. Which is point number one. But He also had an obvious zeal and compassion for those excluded from it. Which is point number two. Jesus wants the church to also be for people far from God. He gets angry when those inside it make it harder for people far from God to come a little closer.
Verses 18-22 continue. “18Then the Jews demanded of him, ‘What miraculous 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.’ 20The Jews 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.”
In John 2:20, the Jews assert that the temple had been under construction for 46 years at the time in which they were speaking. The construction of the temple was an ongoing project that not be completed until 63 AD, just 7 years before it complete destruction. Though Jesus will specifically teach us point number three, here in verse 20 John is subtly hinting at it and that is this: Revering the broken body of Christ is just as important to Jesus as revering the broken building of Christ. Jesus wants all nations to revere the shed blood of Christ and the broken body of Christ just as much as any building. Regardless of how long it took to build or how long it was used.
How do we know? Because we just finished reading about miracle of the wedding at Cana remember? And what did Jesus do there? He turned water into wine! His first miracle was something nobody would forget. We studied how an abundance of wine in the Old Testament was in fulfillment of Messianic prophecy being fulfilled. So here in John, on a level a careful reader might catch, is the other half of the communion story! The shed blood in Cana and now the broken body of Christ is what we should remember! Verse 21 says, “21But the temple he had spoken of was his body.”
Yes, what Jesus did at Cana was in fulfillment of a bunch of Messianic prophecies about the abundance of wine. And yes, what He did in displaying zeal for His Father’s house was in fulfillment of Messianic prophecies in Psalm 69:9 and Isaiah 56:7. But don’t miss point number three, revering the broken body of Christ is just as important as revering the building of Christ.
So with that in mind, what we’re going to do right now is act out point number three. Instead of the normal communion service with all its formality, we’re going to participate in a very simple abbreviated version of that. So like the disciples we can experience the most important things Jesus wants us to remember. Most significantly in this case today, the shed blood and broken body of Christ that His actions in Cana and now the temple remind us of.
So while we have some reflective music being played in the background, I’m going to ask the deacons to bring in the pre-packaged individual servings we’re using today to help us remember point #3. We have enough for each person to have one cup and one communion wafer. These are the versatile and efficient versions of the timeless tradition Jesus instituted in the Upper Room. And we’re going to experience them today in the same order John subtlety introduced them to us in His Gospel.
So when you receive your individually wrapped communion wafer and juice set, take it apart and hold both in your hands and wait until everyone has one. I’ll ask a blessing on both of these simple reminders and this time together we’ll drink the cup first—since the miracles of Cana pointing forward to the shed blood of Christ on the cross comes in John’s Gospel before He went down to Capernaum and up to Jerusalem. And then as soon as your done with that you can go ahead and eat the communion wafer revering as you do the broken body of Christ.
Does everybody have one that wants one? Do you believe this cup represents the shed blood of Jesus on the cross miraculously given to you as a gift of God’s grace? Do you revere this wafer as a symbol of the broken body of Christ? If you do, I invite you now as the music softly plays, to thank Jesus for them both right now. Would you please repeat out loud after me? Just say what I say. “Lord, today we accept you as Messiah and Lord. Thank you for dying on the cross for us. Thank you for forgiving us of our sins! For cleansing us just like that temple. Please come into our lives. Make our heart your new temple. And help us to always remember and revere you. Bless these symbols of your amazing grace, and us in your service, in Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Eat both of these symbols, Jesus would later say, “In remembrance of Me.” Yes, Jesus had an obvious zeal and passion for His Father’s house. Which is point number one. Yes, Jesus also had compassion for those excluded from it. Which is point number two. Yes, His broken body is to be revered as much as His building which is point number three. Why? Because Jesus is the Messiah! The one Isaiah and Zechariah predicted would come in the end time. Zechariah 14:20-21 refers to this saying “ 20 On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. 21 Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them. And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD Almighty.”
The prophets were reminding us that cleansing the temple is an end time act of the Messiah. And by doing it twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of His ministry, Jesus was not so subtlety proclaiming He was that Messiah.
He often used symbols to say so. Sometimes subtly. Like he did at the wedding of Cana to point people to the shed blood on the cross. Sometimes not so subtly. Like he does in verse 21 of our passage today . Verse 21 says, “But the temple he had spoken of was his body.”
But still we sometimes miss the clues. Which is why Jesus repeats them. And when He does, His words to remind us to use ours. Verse 22 concludes. “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. Jesus wants all nations to recognize Him as their Messiah.”
In John 2:11, after the first miracle turning water into wine, the Bible says that the disciples believed immediately. But here, just a short period of time later, they had apparently forgotten that miracle and the clues they revealed about the Messiah. Because here in John 2:22 it isn’t until years later, after Jesus dies and is resurrected, that they recall the things remembered. It says, “THEN they believed...”
Their eyes had seen the glory of the Lord. Both in Cana and at the cross. And they believed because of His words. Which is point number four: Jesus wants us to “use our words” instead of relying on miraculous signs because words don't have to be understood immediately to become things remembered. When Joshua and Lydia are arguing, I often remind them to “use their words” not their whine. And I think that’s the last thing I hear the Word of God speaking to us today. Jesus wants us to use our words because they don’t have to be understood immediately to become things remembered. THEN they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Is that your desire? If it is, I invite you to sing our closing song, “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” #647.