Jesus Clears the Temple Courts
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people 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 courts, 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! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 The Jews then responded to him, “What 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 They 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.
A son, a brother, an uncle, a die-hard St. Louis Blues hockey fan, a jokester, a dear friend, a strong and devoted man of God with a loud deep bass voice booming from the back row of the choir is kicked back in his recliner watching TV with his sister on a Friday night as they do many nights. He is a lover of the movie Mrs. Doubtfire and frequently does an awesome imitation of Robin Williams being a hot dog. But this night, this Friday night, his imitation of a hot dog was not him acting goofy. Kicked back in his recliner watching TV with his sister, this 50-year-old man has a heart attack which straightens out his body. Upon arriving in the Emergency Room via the ambulance, he has passed away and his Savior welcomes him into his heavenly home. Lord, I don’t understand.
A daughter, a wife, a mother of two precious little children, a dedicated high school math teacher, a strong and devoted Christian is told for the fourth time in as many years that she has stage four breast cancer which has metastasized to her bones, her spine, and her liver. She goes in to find out the plan on how and what treatment will look like. A test drug is available and she agrees to try it. She goes in the next time to receive this test drug but the numbers in her blood say that she no longer qualifies. After hearing this numerous times, the doctors at one hospital say they don’t know what else they can do. So she goes to another hospital. The doctors are able to make some progress and are at a point in her treatment where they are able to strengthen the dose of her chemo … but then she has a reaction to a dye and then she develops pneumonia. In the subsequent weeks her health declines and she is placed on hospice care. Surrounded by her family in her home she passes away and her Savior welcomes her into her heavenly home. Lord, I don’t understand
These are true stories from my life. That die-hard St. Louis Blues hockey fan is Jessica’s Uncle Royce who was a dear friend of mine and the one who got me hooked on Blues hockey. He was called to rest eleven years ago this upcoming May. The fun loving mother of two who had quick smart alec responses that no one could recover from is my sister-in-law, Jessica’s sister Heather. These are stories that are close to me … I’m sure that you have yours as well. You have a story of a close family member or a friend where you look to Jesus and simply say, “Lord, I don’t understand.” But maybe it isn’t a family member or a close friend who has had something happen to them, maybe it is something which has happened to you or is currently happening to you that you don’t understand. You too, even though you are doing everything you think you can possibly do right still look to Jesus and simply say, “Lord, I don’t understand.”
Jesus in our gospel reading is doing something which seems so un-understandable. Jesus’ disciples, the entrepreneurs in the temple, the money changers, and the Jewish leaders look at Jesus’ actions and simply say, “I don’t understand.”
The stories of Jesus which we remember, the images of Jesus which we like include images of Jesus carrying the lost lamb in his arms; Jesus holding a little child in his arms; Jesus teaching the crowds, Jesus giving out the Lord’s Supper; and Jesus appearing to the disciples after his resurrection. We understand the kind, gentle, loving Jesus, the Jesus who gives sight to the blind, heals the sick, and raises the dead. Here in the Gospel reading this morning, John tells us that Jesus is doing something different, something we aren’t use to him doing. Jesus is making a whip from cords, he is driving the sheep and the cattle out from the temple, he is overturning the tables of the money exchangers and he is telling the pigeon sellers to get out of the temple. This is not the normal Jesus we hear about and know. This image of Jesus which we have this morning is different. Along with everyone else who was there when Jesus was clearing out the temple, we look at Jesus this morning and can easily say, “Lord, I don’t understand.”
But the Jewish leaders take it one step farther. After Jesus is done overturning tables and driving everyone and everything out of the temple, they ask him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority do all this?” (John 2:18). Not only do they not understand why Jesus is doing what he is doing, but they want an explanation for his actions.
Let’s stop here for a moment … let’s stop for a moment and think about this … doesn’t it sound familiar. When our children do something which doesn’t make sense, we want to know why they did what they did. We want to know what their rational was for their actions. This questioning of children is not only for the young ones like mine, or for the teenagers, but it also applies to those like me who are grown up.
But this not understanding and wanting an explanation for something which happens is not limited to our children nor to our family and friends … it is something which very much so applies with God doesn’t it? When my sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer for the fourth time and all the way through the morning of her passing, not only did we tell God that we didn’t understand, but we wanted an explanation. When someone dies suddenly of a heart attack, when someone loses a job, when someone has been involved in an accident, whatever the sudden event is, not only do we not understand why it happened, we like the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day want some sort of viable explanation.
Now I could quote the Bible and simply tell you that in Isaiah 55:9 Isaiah says this, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” That answer is true, it is a good and right answer to give, but it doesn’t really help does it? The answer that God as the creator and sustainer of everything in the whole universe and is way smarter than any one of us could ever be, as true as that is, it doesn’t really help does it? “Lord, I don’t understand, Lord, I still don’t understand.”
Notice that in this reading from John, Jesus doesn’t play the “I’m God’s son so I don’t have to give you an answer” card. Instead he recognizes that you and I, that the disciples, the temple entrepreneurs, the money changers, and the Jewish leaders don’t understand. He recognizes that and yet the answer he gives is an un-understandable one. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:18). As ambiguous as his answer is, Jesus says a lot. He says a lot which you and I need to hear.
We know from the reading that when Jesus is talking about destroying the temple and raising it up again in three days that he is not referring to the physical building he just cleared out. He is referring to himself. The leaders question to Jesus asking for a miraculous sign is found in the deadly destruction and rising up of his own body. So why does Jesus clear everything out of the temple? … To make room for his sacrifice. The reason for making room for his own selfless sacrifice … so that you and I may know and believe with all our hearts that even though sin has wreaked havoc to this world, even though sin has wreaked havoc in our individuals lives … Jesus, Jesus through His own selfless sacrifice and glorious resurrection says to you … you are mine. You are mine! Throughout the Scriptures and throughout Jesus’ very own life he says you are mine! I love you so much that this sin which has brought death and destruction into the world, which has brought death and destruction into your own individual lives … I have conquered it, I have defeated it, and it will not have the final answer.
You and I … we suffer incredible things. We live through various trials and temptations which are beyond our control. We say, “Lord, I don’t understand.” And God says, “I know. I know, but trust in me, believe in me, follow me … for I got this.” Over and over again in God’s Word He is reaffirming His people, He is reaffirming you and me that He is with us, that He is going with us, that He is often there carrying you and me so that we don’t drown in the sea of doubt and unbelief. We don’t understand why it seems like bad things happen to good people, we don’t understand why it seems like we can never catch a break. It is impossible for you and me to truly understand how God could care enough about you and me and our loved ones that He would be willing to send His Only Son Whom He loves to be the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) … but He does. And thanks be to God that He does love us that much … for if he didn’t, we would truly be in a heap of trouble. Amen.