Thursday, April 12, 2012

Restoration and Re-creation

Several weeks ago our lesson focused on a wedding Jesus attended in Cana of Galilee where He performed His first miracle. Only His disciples (Andrew, John, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel), the servants assisting in the miracle, and probably His mother knew that water had been turned into wine. Jesus had not started His public ministry. The good stuff was saved for last. John 2:1-11 Jesus, His disciples, His mother, and His brethren (vs. 12) went to Capernaum for a short stay because the Passover was at hand. Our lesson this week focuses on John 2:13-22.

'And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,' John 2:13 One of the most important Jewish traditions to observe was the celebration of the Passover. It was the time for worship instituted by God in remembrance of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Ex 12:1-30 When the Israelites saw they had crossed the Red Sea safely and been delivered from the Egyptians, they were elated and worshiped God. The Jews would travel long distances to worship God during this required festival, followed by the seven day feast of unleavened bread. Ex 23:15 At times, they would forget the goodness of God. Yet, Passover was an annual requirement of the Lord. Lev 23:4-8 Jews from all over traveled to Jerusalem, the capital. The Scripture says '...Jesus went up to Jerusalem.' Jerusalem was higher in elevation than Capernaum.

'And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:' John 2:14 Many times Jesus had gone to the Passover. However, this was the first Passover in which He intended to worship for the beginning of His public ministry. It was unfortunate that when Jesus arrived He found businesses operating in the outer court of the Temple. It was a marketplace instead of the Temple. People came from long distances and would not be able to bring animals for their sacrifice. The Jewish leaders in charge of the Temple knew many people would come and made sure booths were set up for purchase of animal sacrifice. Doves were available for those persons who could not afford the more expensive animals. The Law of Moses required that any animal offered in sacrifice be unblemished. The animals sold were not the best and exorbitant prices were charged. The people had no other alternative. Also present in the Temple-turned-marketplace were money changers. The Mosaic Law required every Jewish male over nineteen years of age to pay the Temple tax. When people came from their various areas of where they lived, they had their own coinage. Their money was not acceptable in the Temple. The money changers performed the service, at the bidding of the religious leaders in charge of the Temple, of exchanging money and charging a Temple tax. The Temple taxes were exorbitant. Additionally, the marketplace was noisy. The people were being robbed of their worship experience with the Lord.

'And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.' John 2:15-16 The righteous anger of Jesus was aroused because of the misuse of the Temple He was observing. He did not talk to anyone to seek change. He immediately made a whip (scourge) of small cords. There is no evidence that He actually used the whip on anyone. He used the whip as a symbol of His authority to send the merchants out of the Temple along with their animals. He also threw the money of the moneychangers out, presumably on the floor since He overturned their tables. Jesus did not intend to standby and allow the money-hungry persons in charge of the Temple to defile the house of God. Jesus was all Divine and all Man. The house of His Father was Holy and He was going to protect that holiness.

'And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.' John 2:17 Jesus had an extraordinary zeal to clean the house of God and make the wicked tremble. His calling the Temple His Father's house and His zeal in doing so reminded the disciples of the Old Testament Scripture, 'For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.' Ps 69:9 This psalm of David predicted that when the Messiah came, He would be utterly consumed with a zeal for the things of God. See also Ps 119:139.

'Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?' John 2:18 Jesus had already proved His authority when He cleansed the Temple of corruption on behalf of His Father. (See vs. 16.) As Jewish leaders, the Old Testament Scripture should have come to their remembrance as they were supposed to be educated in the Scripture. It was written at Malachi 3:1, 'Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.' John the Baptist had not preached in the Temple, but he prepared the way for Jesus who went directly to the Temple. These leaders should have assisted Jesus in ridding the Temple of its corruption. They were blinded, however, by the financial benefits they were receiving from the merchandising businesses in the Temple. This led them to have a wicked slant of what was allowable in the Temple. They believed they had jurisdiction over the actions of the Temple. So they questioned Jesus' authority to cleanse the Temple by asking Him for a sign (miracle) to prove He had higher jurisdiction than they did to overrule their actions in the Temple.

'Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' John 2:19 The activity that took place in the Temple was a reflection on the spiritual lives of the people. Jesus was no longer talking about the physical Temple and began predicting His death at the hands of the Jewish leaders and His Resurrection. He was mocked many times for His prediction because man did not understand the prophecy. 'And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, Save thyself, and come down from the cross.' Mark 15:29-30 (See also Matt 12:40; 26:60-61; 27:40,63 and Mark 14:58.)

'Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.' John 2:20-21 The Jews were totally confused. Jesus may have even pointed to His body, we do not know. We do know the Jewish leaders were not seeing through spiritual eyes. They believed He was speaking of the physical Temple which was undergoing a remodeling project that had been started by Herod the Great 46 years prior. For this reason, Jesus' statement that he would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days became a great stumbling block for the unbelievers. They did not have the spiritual ear to hear that Jesus was not talking about the Temple of God, His Father, but the temple of His body.

'When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.' John 2:22 Last week our lesson focused on the day of the Resurrection. The disciples had not remembered nor comprehended what the Lord had told them. The disciples had wanted to believe in their Master's power, but the Jews had crucified Him. They had destroyed His temple. On the third evening following the crucifixion the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, with the doors shut. All of a sudden the Lord appeared, calmed the disciples with a familiar greeting, and allowed them to feel His wounds. They were overjoyed that He had risen. What they knew from Old Testament Scripture and prophecies and what they had heard from Jesus Himself caused them to believe in the Word of God preached and taught by Jesus. They remembered that Jesus told them He would send back a Comforter, the Holy Ghost, to teach them all things and bring all things back to their remembrance (John 14:26).

Written by Deborah C Davis

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