Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Hardened Response


"Then answered the Jews and said unto Him,
What sign shewest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things? 
Jesus answered and said unto them, 
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 
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. 
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 2:18-22

   The Jews' hardness and unrepentant spirit is once again displayed. After Christ cleanses the sanctuary of His Father, the only words they can think to say are, "...What sign shewest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things?...." Notice, they did not argue with Him concerning the legitimacy of His actions. They knew full well that they were profaning the temple by turning it into a place of business, but their heart is so hard that they confront His righteous act of cleansing with a challenge. Jesus said in Matthew 12:39, "...An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign...." People who harden themselves against God's truth are always saying "why" or "prove it" even when they know that their actions are wrong. These Jewish leaders were not simply seeking for some proof of Christ's authority, they were wholeheartedly rejecting the truth that was being given to them. Christ's answer is quite interesting. He says, "...Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." This is similar to the answer that He gave in Matthew 12 when He said concerning the wicked generation seeking a sign, "...and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Each time the unbelieving Jews demanded a sign from God, He pointed them to His death, burial, and resurrection. This is certainly not the type of sign they were looking for or expected. Few people understood the concept of the Messiah's sufferings and resurrection, yet, that is the only means by which man's salvation could be wrought. The sign Christ chose to give was the humble one of His suffering and resurrection that pointed to the sins of man and the need for a Sacrifice to take away that sin. This is definitely a sign that would cause any proud soul to come face to face with their sin problem. Christ never gave them a sign that would feed their pride. He gave signs that would encourage them to humble themselves. He works the same in our lives.
   Jesus says, "Destroy this temple...." The word for temple here is naos which means the inner sanctuary. The other Greek word for temple is herion. This word refers to the temple in general; however, naos is speaking of the most holy part of the temple, the inner chamber where the presence of God dwelt upon the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant. Truly, everything in the physical temple pointed to the true temple, the temple made without hands (Heb. 9:11). Jesus says concerning the sacred temple of His body, "...and in three days I will raise it up." The verb I will raise is a predictive future. Jesus is demonstrating the truth of His deity. Here, we see the Son take part in His resurrection. In Colossians 2:12, we see God the Father as the main source of the Son's resurrection, "Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead." By declaring that He would raise His temple, He is showing His deity.
   "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." I Corinthians 2:14 says, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Man, in and of himself, will not understand spiritual truth. He must be willing to humble himself before the King of Heaven who will enlighten him if he be willing. Jesus pointed these unbelievers to the event that would procure their salvation and all they could do was count it as nonsense. A Christian walking in worldliness and disobedience will be just as blind to spiritual truth as these unsaved people were. I Corinthians 2 warns the carnal Christian of inability to understand the deep things of God. May each of us draw close to God in godly fear so that we will not be blinded to the lessons that God would have us learn. The Catholic religion will misuse this passage in an attempt to "prove" that Jesus had a sin nature and was a rebellious teenager who threatened to destroy a temple. I once had a Catholic man try to tell me that Jesus was a rebel and tried to ruin a temple and he referred to this passage. That is a classic example of how lost and carnal men will tamper with God's word for their own purposes. Many Christians are often guilty of the same treachery.
   "When therefore He was risen from the dead...." This verb is passive. It refers to the action being done to the subject. This demonstrates that God the Father was key in raising God the Son according to Colossians 2 and other passages of Scripture. "...His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said." The words scripture and word are both the direct objects of believed. The Scripture and Christ's Word are one in the same. His word is authority because He is God. After the resurrection, the disciples were profited by believing the word that Christ spoke here. The unbelieving Jews, however, were not profited, but hardened their hearts even further and attempted to cover over His divine resurrection. Hard people tend to get harder and harder unless they bow the knee to God. Let each one of us have a tender and submitted heart to the Holy One of Israel.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Righteous Indignation


"And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 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. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." John 2:13-17

   This passover is the first of three recorded in the book of John. By heeding the three passover accounts given (chapter 2, 6, and 13), one can clearly see the three and a half year ministry of Christ on earth. The Bible says, "And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem...." Even though Christ was in Galilee which is north of Jerusalem, the Bible says that He "went up" because the city of Jerusalem is physically higher than the surrounding terrain and will be even more lifted up in the Millennial kingdom (Is. 2:2, Ps. 48:2).
   The next few verses clearly describe Jesus' zeal for righteousness and truth. "...and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting...." These men were not simply providing at cost the items necessary for sacrifice. They were taking advantage of the ceremonial needs of their traveling brethren and were making a great profit at the expense of others. They knew people would need certain items of sacrifice and they would charge exorbitant amounts to meet the need. They were ignoring the weightier matters of the law such as judgment and the love of God. They were ignoring God's desire of mercy rather than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6) and were preying upon the needs and simplicity of others. Not only was all this treachery going on, but it was happening within the hallowed walls of God's house, a place not intended for business. The Bible goes on to describe Jesus' reaction to all this treachery, "...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...." The word for drove out literally means cast out. It is the same word used when the Bible says Jesus cast out a devil. Our Lord is dealing very seriously with this sin. Christ is here our perfect example of righteous anger. His anger is pure because it is of a pure motive. Each and every man gets angry based upon his own desires or wants not being met, but here Christ gets angry because God's truth and holiness are being violated. Anger is not necessarily wrong. The wrath of man it what is wrong (Jam. 1:20).
   "...and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not My Father's house an house of merchandise." Notice His compassion in not overturning the tables on which the helpless doves were resting, but rather He commanded their owners to remove them. Jesus commands that God's house not be a place of merchandise. This principle can be applied to churches today. God's house ought not to be a place designed to make money. Providing aids of ministry at cost is one thing, but making money off those who come to worship is quite another. The Bible actually records two cleansings of the temple. John is the only one who records the first cleansing. The other three gospels record the cleansing toward the latter part of Jesus' ministry. In Matthew 21:13, Jesus cleansed the temple again and said, "It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves." In the first cleansing, Jesus commanded that God's house not be a place of merchandise (literally marketing). In the second cleansing He commands that God's house not be a place of thievery and taking advantage of others. These two exhortations make quite plain that God's house is not a place for making money either justly or unjustly. He says in Matthew, "...My house shall be called the house of prayer...." He is referring to Isaiah 56:6 and 7, "Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of My covenant; even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon Mine altar; for Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people." God's house is holy and ought to be different from anything we encounter in everyday life. Buying and selling, if done honestly, are not wrong, but God's house ought to be different. It ought to be a place of reverence and respect, a place where humble Christians come to meet with their holy God in prayer and fellowship. Many churches would doubtless see a change for the better if they were to put aside their bookstores and bazaars and return to a focus on reverence and worship of the Holy One of Israel. Though Christ is not speaking of the church here particularly, the principle can be applied and ought to be.
   "And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." Psalm 69:9 is being quoted here. God's people need to return to a zeal for the things of God. The coffee shops, bookstores, trinket shops and fundraisers need to disappear from the meeting places of God's people and reverence, the fear of God, concern for others, charity, respect, and holy zeal for living God's word need to take their place.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Not Many Days


"After this He went down to Capernaum, He, and His mother,
and His brethren, and His disciples: and they continued
there not many days."  John 2:12

   A small town situated on the northwestern side of the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum was known in Scripture for its rejection of truth and its refusal to repent of its sin.  In Matthew 11:23-24, Jesus upbraids Capernaum for their hardhearted attitude.  He says, "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee."  This town was a place in which Christ had spent much time.  They were very familiar with His teachings and yet, for the most part, they rejected Him and His truths.  Though this passage in John does not say exactly why Jesus did not spend much time in Capernaum, one can only surmise that it had something to do with their disbelief.  The little band that had been assembled at the wedding in Cana makes its way down to Capernaum and the Bible says, "...and they continued there not many days."  They did not stay long.  How sad, that a town which had been given such spiritual opportunity should miss fellowship with the Savior of the world because of disbelief.  Disbelief and an unrepentant attitude never cultivate ground from which a healthy spiritual life can grow.  God forces Himself upon no one.  God commands us to seek Him (Ps. 27:8).  God desires fellowship with His creatures, but the blessing of a relationship with God can be voided by rejection (I John 1:6).  A Christian can experience the tragedy of broken fellowship with their Savior by refusing to repent of sin.  Jesus will not "continue long" with a hard heart.  Though His Spirit never leaves the Christian (Eph. 1:13), a Christian can forgo sweet communion with Christ just as Capernaum missed out on the blessing of having the Son of God abide within her walls.  It is a great tragedy indeed, when God comes to us and cannot "continue there many days" because of our unrepentant spirit.