The Cleansing of the Temple: Passion and Purity (Mark Sermon 56)
June 25, 2023 | Andy Davis
Wrath of God, Worship, Judgment
Jesus, in the cleansing of the Temple, revealed God’s fiery heart for genuine worship and complete purity in the hearts of his people.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
Turn in your Bibles to Mark 11 as we continue our movement through this incredible Gospel of Mark. In today's account we're going to see a very surprising, perhaps even a shocking, side of Jesus. We're going to see in him a holy violence symbolized by the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple. In my mind, these two actions go together. They should be seen effectively as one and the same work by Christ. They reveal God's fiery heart for genuine worship and complete purity in the hearts of his people, and they stand as an eternal rebuke to our own lifeless, listless, loveless hearts. Hearts that should burn with love for God, but instead are often polluted by idols and mechanical in our patterns of worship to God. Today we feel the sting of Jesus's rebuke and the sting of his lash in our hearts, hopefully resulting in genuine passion for God's glory and genuine purity from all idols.
Revelation 5 depicts Jesus as both lion and lamb, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and also the Lamb of God who was slain to take away the sins of the world. These are radically different views of our Savior, a lion of 600 pounds of ferocious power whose roar can instill terror in man and animals for a dozen miles all around. On the other hand, a lamb who is frail and weak, defenseless and meek, easily led to the slaughter, humble and lowly.
The last time as we were looking at the Gospel of Mark, we considered the triumphal entry. We see Jesus depicted there, meek and lowly, humble riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. We considered also at that time his deep sorrow over the sins of his people. As he wept over Jerusalem, we see him meek and lowly. But today, we see Jesus in his lion-like ferocity, taking on the most powerful and corrupt men of his nation, overturning tables, taking a whip to the animals, cleansing a temple defiled by human greed. You see fire in his eyes, you see burning zeal in his heart. Strangely in Mark's account, this dramatic story begins with the only destructive miracle of Jesus's ministry, the cursing of the fig tree. I want to say the full lessons of the fig tree and how Jesus uses it to instruct his disciples on the power of faith-filled prayer, so the withering of the fig tree and its example must wait till the next time that I preach on the Gospel of Mark.
Let's begin with the hunger of Jesus as it reflects the hunger of God. Look at verses 12-14, "The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again,' and his disciples heard him say it." The next day it says they left Bethany. His evening of reflection and preparation is over. Remember, Jesus had the day before entered the city in a wave of triumph, the triumphal entry, the people celebrating the kingdom they anticipated He was ushering in immediately. They cheered him with cries of “Son of David” and “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The salvation that they were anticipating was essentially military and political, physical. The triumph of the power of the Son of David reigning on the throne of David in Jerusalem, reigning over the Gentiles to the ends of the Earth, especially over the hated Romans. That's what they anticipated.
But instead of leading immediately an armed revolution as they expected, Jesus went into the temple, quietly looked around, took stock of what was happening there, but did nothing, said nothing, and because it was late in the day, He went out of the city and went to Bethany for the night. That was it. As I mentioned last time, somewhat of an anticlimactic end to the triumphal entry. The significance of that though, especially given what happened the next day, was Jesus was preparing himself. He was getting ready thoughtfully to do the very thing He was about to do. We should therefore not see the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple as a fit of rage, a tempestuous overreaction. Like many of us, our anger is so frequently sinful and corrupt, Jesus' anger is pure and premeditated and carefully reasoned out. This is the result of a careful deliberation on Jesus' part and soul preparation in Bethany, so early in the morning He sets out, and He comes to this fig tree.
"Our anger is so frequently sinful and corrupt, Jesus' anger is pure and premeditated and carefully reasoned out. This is the result of a careful deliberation on Jesus' part and soul preparation."
As I've mentioned, this encounter with the fig tree is one of the strangest moments in Jesus' whole ministry. As we've seen time and time again, Jesus uses his miracle-working power to bring life, to bring, effectively, restoration, to restore God's original purpose, the full purpose of God that sin has marred, that sin has stolen, especially his healings to make blind eyes see, because God did not create the eye so that it would be blind, to make deaf ears here because God did not create an ear to be deaf. It's restoration to God's original purpose and to therefore reverse the curse that Adam's sin had brought on the earth and on his descendants. Specifically when it comes to this issue of fruitfulness, we know that the ground was cursed because of Adam's sin. Genesis 3, God said to Adam, "Cursed is the ground because of you. Through painful toil, you'll eat of it all the days of your life and it will produce thorns and thistles for you." That's the cursing of the Earth and of the crops of the Earth because of Adam's sin.
However, when the work of salvation is finished, the world will be restored and even super abundantly restored to a lavish fruitfulness. These images are given again and again in the Old Testament prophets. For example, Ezekiel 34:26-27, God says, "I will send down showers in season. There will be showers of blessing and the trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops." That's a picture of abundant fruitfulness through the grace of God. Why then this cursing of the fig tree? It is destructive, as I've mentioned, using supernatural power to bring forth death, and it is a little strange because Mark's account tells us that it was not the season for figs anyway. Look at verse 13, "Seeing in the distance fig tree in leaf, he went to it to find out if it had any fruit and when he reached it, he found nothing but leaves because it was not the season for figs."
Let me tell you something, Jesus knows the rhythm of the seasons better than we do. He understands horticulture better than we do. He, with his Father, invented it. He knew very well that it was not the season for figs, so what's going on there? It's clear He is acting as a prophet. It's a symbolic prophetic action. The Old Testament prophets did these kind of symbolic actions all the time, and Jesus is the perfect and ultimately final prophet. It's clear that from the context that this fruitless fig tree represents more than just Jesus's disappointment at not getting breakfast. That's not what's going on here. Instead, it's clearly symbolic. Jesus was truly physically hungry, but He was also a prophet and his actions were prophetic. He was hungry for spiritual fruit from his people and they had produced nothing but an appearance of life without any genuine fruit behind it. The leaves represent that appearance of spirituality, but the lack of fruit represents the lack of what God really was seeking from his people. There was an outward show of religion, of religiosity, but there was no real fruit. Again and again the Old Testament prophets used this image of fruit as a picture of what God wanted from his people, Israel.
A very good example of this is in Isaiah 5:1-7. There the prophet, Isaiah, sings a song for the one he loves, for God, a love song for God. “'My loved one,’ he said, ‘had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up, cleared it of stones, planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it, cut out a wine press as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. Now, I will tell you what I'm going to do to my vineyard. I will take away its hedge and it will be destroyed. I will break down its wall and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, its briars and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.’" Then he says, Isaiah 5:7, "The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. He looked for justice but saw bloodshed. He looked for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.”
I. The Hunger of Jesus and the Hunger of God
That's God hungry for that kind of spiritual fruit in his people and finding nothing. He says, "I'm going to destroy that vineyard. I'm going to curse it. I'm going to take away its protection. I'm going to command the clouds not to rain on it. I'm going to give it over to the beasts to trample it." In the Old Testament, in the book of Deuteronomy and other places, again and again, this kind of judgment is enacted by Gentile armies that invade Israel and destroy it, again and again, whether the Assyrians or the Babylonians or the Greeks, Romans. That's how the judgment would happen generally, invading armies. This is the language of judgment. It's important for us to ask then prophetically and in this text, what is the fruit that God is hungry for? What does He wants?
Again and again, I come in my own heart to the two great commandments. It's the start and the end of everything for me. What are they? That we would love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, with all of our strength, and that we would love each other as we love ourselves. That's the fruit that God wants in us, in his people, and He's hungry for it. He's hungry for a world of love. First and foremost, love for himself, the creator and sustainer of all things. For in him we live and move and have our being, and every good and perfect gift we have ever gotten has come from God. God deserves to be thanked and praised for them all. That vertical aspect, the fruit of lips that confesses his name and of hearts that are filled with thankfulness to him, God was hungry for that, hungry for that kind of worship. He deeply yearns for his people to love him passionately and truly and deeply.
II. The Corruption and Coldness of the Temple
Instead, the religion of Israel was corrupt and cold, the corruption and coldness of the temple. So, we come out of the temple, what is it, this structure, this building, this house, the house of God? Jesus says in verse 17, "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers." My house, the temple was God's house. Jesus calls it, “my house.” It is the focal point of the nation of Israel. God had given his laws to Israel at Mount Sinai and central to that old covenant that He made with them at Mount Sinai, central to it was the animal sacrificial system and the tabernacle immovable tent that He set up there in Exodus describing in great detail that tabernacle, what it was to look like, et cetera.
That tabernacle was the center of Israel's life, of Israel's religious life. It was literally, physically in the center of all the tribes as they moved through the desert, the tabernacle. It was designed to be an earthly shadow of a heavenly reality of that very throne that we talked about earlier from Revelation 4, the centrality of God. It's central to everything, an earthly place where the Jewish nation could meet with God and worship him. God told the Jews that once they had entered the promised land, God would choose a location from among the 12 tribes and put his name there. He would choose it out and that would be the place to which the nation would be called to go three times a year with their sacrifices and offer sacrifices at that central location.
That place in the course of time was Jerusalem, called the City of David, because David conquered it from the Jebusites. The City of David was that place that God had chosen. Now in the course of time, King David, with a heart of love for God, wanted to replace the movable tent that had been around for centuries, the tabernacle, with a permanent structure with foundations called the temple. This was in his heart. Nathan, the prophet, told him that God would actually build a house for him, marvelous prophecy to David, but he also said, "You are not the one to build a temple for me, but it'll be a son coming from your own body because you're a man of blood." That was Solomon, so Solomon built the temple and there all Israel went to offer their sacrifices.
God was symbolically dwelling there. That was his dwelling place. Jesus calls it, “my house.” Jesus said it was intended to be a place of prayer for all nations, a place where prayers could be offered on behalf of all nations, but indeed, where all nations could feel comfortable to come and offer prayers to God based on God's dwelling there in Israel, a place of confession of sin, of thanksgiving, intercessions, prayers that God's name be exalted among the nations of the earth. That was what was intended. The Jewish nation therefore would be a kingdom of priests and they would minister the glory of God to the ends of the earth. That was the intention, but instead, we have corruption, the corruption of the temple.
First and foremost in the Old Testament, we see very plainly it's corrupted by the cold, lifeless machinery of religion, just the machinery of the Jewish religion just went on and on and on without any heart connection to God. This is a danger for all of us, that we get into a rhythm of religion, week after week coming to church on Sunday and then living the rest of our lives as though we hadn't been to church. There's a machinery that just runs, a mindless machinery, and God is greatly dishonored by it, greatly displeased by it, but the Jews were doing it, too, in the animal sacrificial system.
Isaiah 1 talks about it.In Isaiah 1:11-13, God says, "'The multitude of your sacrifices, what are they to me?' says the Lord, I have more than enough of burnt offerings of rams and of the fat of fattened animals. I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?” That's the machinery of religion. “Stop bringing meaningless offerings. Your incense is detestable to me, your New Moons, Sabbath and convocations. I cannot bear your evil assemblies.” That's Isaiah 1. That's that lifeless machinery religion that the prophet Isaiah talked about later that Jesus cited and quoted about the Jews of his own day, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain," Isaiah 29:13.
That's the primary problem, the coldness of the hearts of the people toward God, the machinery of religion with their hearts distant from God. But beyond that, we've got the idolatry of money, of covetousness, of greed. In verse 17, He says, "Is it not written? My house would be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it," what does he call it, "a den of thieves." Robbers, thieves, they're using religion to make money. Religion's always been a big moneymaker, still even to this very day, and people seek to make money off of people's religious instincts.
So it was in that day, and back then the villain was a man named Annas, the true high priest there. Annas was the high priest. He had been deposed from that position by the Romans who didn't want just one man controlling it, but he still controlled the office. They let him designate his successors. He should have been high priest till he died. That was the law, but the Romans interfered said, too much power for one man, but you can choose who else it will be. All of the high priests around that time were members of Annas’ family. Caiaphas who was high priest that year, we're told in John's Gospel, was Annas’ son-in-law, definitely under Annas’ thumb. Annas and Caiaphas were running this whole thing.
Now, as I've said, the Jewish men had to appear three times a year at that location in Jerusalem and offer the sacrifices. No Israelite man could appear empty-handed and they would bring required sacrifices, but there was some practical wisdom set up for this whole thing in the book of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 14:24-26, it says, "But if that place that I choose is too distant and you have been blessed by the Lord your God, and you cannot carry your tithe because the place where the Lord will choose to put his name is so far away, then exchange your tithe for silver and take the silver with you and go to the place the Lord your God will choose. Then use the silver to buy whatever you like, cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink or anything you wish and make an offering to the Lord," so that whole thing was set up.
It was very wise and practical, but for Annas that right there is a moneymaking opportunity. The Temple concession based on animal sacrifice was an opportunity to make money. One scholar puts it this way, "When people came to make their sacrifices, they first entered the outer court of the Temple called the Court of the Gentiles. In this court, concession booths had been set up for the exchange of money, because the people had to pay a temple tax and anyone who possessed foreign currency had to have it exchanged.
Have you ever traveled? Have you ever heard of the exchange rate? At the Temple there was an exchange rate, five to one, a moneymaking opportunity for Annas and Caiaphas. To continue the quote, "Annas also had a monopoly on the sale of sacrificial animals, because the Old Testament law required that any sacrifice be without spot or blemish.” A man would leave his field, go to the Passover, bringing his own sacrifice. Maybe he chose to carry his lamb under his arm and he would go there. But Annas had stationed inspectors of sacrifices at the Court of the Gentiles and each sacrifice had to pass inspection. Let me ask you a question. What percentage of those lambs that were brought actually passed inspection? I would think there's a business model here where you want about 10% to pass and the rest not. I think you also could confiscate some of those animals and sell them again tomorrow. The whole thing was designed to make money. It's disgusting when you think about it.
To continue the quote, "As a result, the suggestion was made to obtain approved sacrifice for sale at a certain booth in the Court of the Gentiles, and it also would be sold at five times its actual value." Annas had a real good thing going, as history has intended to us, around the Passover time in Jesus' time, you're talking about a quarter of a million Passover lambs. You realize, that's every year, the kind of money that was rolling into the coffers. Also, as the scholar wrote, "The Jews hated Annas." The Talmud says of Annas, "Woe to the house of Annas. Woe to their serpent's hiss. They are High Priests. Their sons are keepers of the treasury. Their sons-in-law are guardians of the temple and their servants beat the people with staves."
They had a monopoly on this Temple concession system and they were making huge money. This is the den of thieves that Jesus is speaking of. They had turned this sacrificial system into a huge machine for making vast amounts of money. Both of those problems, the religious machinery where the people aren't even involved in the covetousness, but they're just coming to do the religion, but their hearts are distant from God, and then Annas and Caiaphas and all them and their covetousness and greed, both of them miss the point of the sacrificial system, and that is that our sin deserves our death. The wages of sin is death. We deserve to die for our sins, and the animal sacrificial system was set up to teach us that, that all sin deserves the death penalty. That should be our blood that is shed.
But instead, God has arranged whereby a sacrifice, a substitute, may stand in the way and the guilt can be transferred to the substitute and the substitute die in our place. But the whole thing is symbolic. The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. It was waiting for the true Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world and that was Jesus. It was pointing ahead to Christ. But in that Old Testament era, they should have come with brokenness over their sin, with sorrow and grief over their sins, not some cold-hearted religious machinery or a moneymaking opportunity.
III. The Fiery Zeal of Jesus: Passion & Purity
So, in comes Jesus. We see the zeal, the fiery zeal of Jesus, what I call passion and purity. Look at verses 15 and 16, "On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who are buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the benches of those selling doves, and he would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts."
I believe proper reading of the New Testament, this is the second time that Jesus has cleansed the temple. I think He did it at the beginning of his ministry as recorded in John 2 very early in his ministry right after changing the water into wine, which is said to be his first miraculous sign. The next thing He does, He goes to Jerusalem and cleanses the temple. To some degree Jesus's powerful, vigorous cleansing of the Temple was the alpha and the omega of his public ministry to Israel. It's the beginning and the end of what He did there. In John 2 we're told Jesus sat down at that point and made a whip. Again, that shows this was not impetuousness on his part. It took time for him to make that whip and then He used it on the animals. It was not a thoughtless action or losing of his temper there like it is for us. Also here, He took that night in Bethany to think, to reflect, and then come back the next day and do it.
At that time in John's Gospel, there was a statement made about Jesus's zeal, John 2:17, "His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for your house has consumed me,'" [Quotation of Psalm 69]. Zeal for your house, what is zeal? It's fire and it literally has devoured him. Zeal for your house has eaten him up. It's like a fire burns in Jesus' heart for God's holiness and his temple to be pure and holy. Zeal is burning in his heart.
I think it's a perfect fulfillment of what the prophet Malachi predicted concerning the coming of the messenger of the covenant, Jesus. Malachi 3:2-3, "But who can endure the day of his coming? The messenger of the covenant will come suddenly to his temple. He will come to his temple, but who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or like a launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. He will purify the Levites." Did you hear that? He'll purify the Levites, the tribe entrusted with the sacrificial system. He's going to purify them like fire and He’s going to refine them like gold and silver. "Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness."
Let me just tell you the end of this sermon. When Christ is done with us, we will be a kingdom of priests with hearts every bit is zealous for the holiness of God as He had. Isn't that good news? When we are in heaven, we'll be offering sacrifices of praise to God from pure hearts forever. Amen. Hallelujah. That's the happy ending of this sermon. But there's a hard journey to travel in between now and then. Here we see Jesus' actions. Now, at the human level, I believe this was literally fulfilled. We can put it this way, zeal for your house has destroyed me. Zeal for your house has killed me.
"When Christ is done with us, we will be a kingdom of priests with hearts every bit is zealous for the holiness of God as He had."
Why is that? Because what do you think motivated Annas and Caiaphas to be so determined to have Jesus killed? There are a lot of reasons we could have said, He was a blasphemer, violated, but what did they really care about? Think about it. Picture them like the Mafia. Picture Annas like the godfather. Somebody cuts in on your business, you're going to take that person out. Really, it was this action that started the mechanism, that and the triumphal entry where the Romans are not going to put up with that kind of display and they don't want to lose their position of power and money, and so they're going to move out. Zeal, this zeal for God's house will literally, physically result in the machinations and the plots and plans by Annas and Caiaphas to have Jesus killed.
But at a deeper level, it is zeal for the true spiritual house of God that led to Jesus' death on the cross, is it not? It is so that sinners like you and me can be purified of our sins by the shedding of his blood that we would be pure. Zeal for the house of God has consumed him. He's saying, "I'm willing to die an infinitely painful death on the cross that God's house might be pure forever from sin." Sin is the great defiler of God's universe, the great defiler of God's land, the great defiler of God's city, the great defiler of God's house, and especially the great defiler of God's people. You cannot measure the fire that burns within Christ's heart for holiness, total purity from defilement. He would pour out his lifeblood to achieve it.
Now this work here, this action, is extremely physical. I mean, it's physical. It's like Samson with the jawbone of a donkey. This is a physical thing. This is a massive undertaking. He's driving people out, possibly again with a whip like John 2. He's overturning heavy tables covered with boxes and bags of silver and gold coins. He's throwing them on the ground. He's driving out animals. He's opening up cages with pigeons and doves and they're fluttering away. Interestingly, only in Mark's Gospel we have this one statement in verse 16, "He stopped the flow of traffic across the court. He wouldn't let anyone carry any merchandise across." It was a shortcut to the bazaar, to the market. He's like, "Not today, it's not, not today." It's the kind of detail that just gives you a sense of the truthfulness of this account. This is something that is unusual. He's like, "You will not carry that merchandise through here." How did He get away with it? Do you wonder that? Why didn't someone stop him? But I think they're all stunned, so no one stopped him.
This is a picture of God's zeal, God's hatred for sin. The Bible says in Deuteronomy multiple times, and then in the book of Hebrews 12, "Our God is a consuming fire. God is light and in him there is no darkness at all." God's not lukewarm about sin. He hates it. Taking another passage from Psalm, Psalm 18:7-8, it says of God, "The earth trembled and quaked and the foundations of the mountains shook. They trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils, consuming fire came from his mouth and burning coals blazed out of it." Now we should not imagine there's the slightest hint of a shade of difference between God the Father and God the Son on holiness. Jesus is every bit as holy and zealous as his father.
This action, this cleansing of the temple, is a picture of what He will finally do in AD 70 through the Romans. It's the Romans that will destroy Jerusalem and leave not one stone left on another in that temple. Jesus said that would happen. But ultimately it was almighty God through his son orchestrating the Romans to do this and bring an end to the animal sacrificial system and an end to this temple worship. In Mark 11, this is what I would call a surgical strike. God is slow to anger and very careful, I mean, laser precise about his displays of anger. Think about Elijah and the prophets of Baal, how the fire came down just on the sacrifice. It's a surgical strike.
Jesus comes in here and no human being is hurt. As far as I know, no animal is hurt. I guess some of the doves had their freedom. All right, they're gone, but I'm sure the beasts were all recollected for the next day, I don't really know. But there's no one hurt here. The tables are overturned, the coins are everywhere. But I can picture the money changers like lizards on the ground scrambling for rolling coins. Nobody's hurt here, but there's a vigorous display of holiness here. Then He gives his reason, verse 17, “He taught them, ‘Is it not written? My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of thieves.’"
As I said, the Jewish nation was to have been a priest nation, a nation of priests in a darkened world. They were to be a light shining in a dark place. They were to be a city on a hill. The Temple was to be the pinnacle of that display of holiness and of the goodness of God in a darkened world. It should have been a house of prayer for all nations. Isaiah's vision for the future of the Temple of God is laid out in Isaiah 56:7, "Foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord in a covenant," of them, it says, "I will bring them to my holy mountain and I will give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." That's the vision of where we're heading. You can read about it all also in the streaming of the nations in Isaiah 2, the streaming uphill, all these nations streaming to Jerusalem spiritually through the preaching of the gospel.
Solomon, when he dedicated the temple, said it would be a place of prayer even by Gentiles. 1 Kings 8, it says, "As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel, but who has come from a distant land because of your name, for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this temple, then God, hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you as do your own people, Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your name." Solomon had a vision for missions, basically, through the building of that Temple, all nations would come. But instead, the Temple had become a place of religious machinery, cold, distant worship and the idolatry of money.
Jesus' zeal here is for true worship. God desires his people to have his passion and his purity, zealous for God and pure from idols. God sent his Son into the world. He tells the Samaritan woman, "God is seeking those who will worship him in spirit and in truth. For these, they are the kind of the Father seeks. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."
IV. The Deadly Determination of the Priests
The account ends with the deadly determination of the priests, verses 18 and 19, "The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.” His zeal, as I said, put him right in Annas's crosshairs. Top priorities were to take this guy out. But they're afraid of the people, of course, because Jesus is popular. They're afraid of mob rule. But from now on they're going to do anything and everything they can to kill Jesus. It ends rather anticlimactically in verse 19, "When evening came, they went out of the city.”
V. Lessons: Let His Temple Be Purified
What are some lessons we can take from this account today? Fundamentally, let his temple be purified. Let me begin by saying to you as the people of God, repent of any cold machinery you have in your religion, in your walk with God. Don't just show up here on Sunday morning. Don't just show up for church. Prepare your hearts for worship. Prepare even the day before. Get your heart ready to meet with God. Expect to meet with him in the Word of God. Expect to meet with him in the songs that we sing. God doesn't want songs that are not sung from hearts, filled with praise. I know that sin makes us distant and cold and lifeless, but God has made provision for that. Be honest with God. Say, "Lord, my heart is distant from you. My sins have left me cold. Forgive me my sins. Cleanse me."
“If we confess our sins, he's faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and” what, “purify us from all unrighteousness.” Jesus doesn't have to use a whip in us to purify us. It's enough for him to be the pure Son of God standing radiantly within our hearts by the spirit. But allow him to search you and know you and show you your wickedness and cleanse your heart and get rid of that cold, lifeless worship because God doesn't need it. I've said before He has a hundred million professional worshipers up there in heaven. They do a great job up there. We're kind of single-A ball, not even like, we're like the developmental league baseball here. We are at the lowest level. But God loves us, because any father loves the rudimentary artwork of his kids. I have a drawer full of it. God loves our rudimentary worship. He knows that someday we're going to worship far better. Let's say, out with cold, lifeless, mechanical worship. We don't want anything to do with that.
Then secondly, watch out for greed. We are a wealthy people. I worry about the wealth of our church. We're a wealthy church. We do well year after year financially, because God's lavishly blessed us. But read carefully the injunctions given to rich Christians in 1 Timothy 5-6 and follow them. Be generous with your money. Give to the poor and needy. Give to the work of the church. Give to missions. Don't accumulate for your own pleasures. Be careful concerning materialism. Don't say, "I thank you, God, that I'm not like Annas and Caiaphas. I would never do that kind of thing." Don't be like that. Say, "God, show me where there is materialism and covetousness and greed in my heart."
Fundamentally, this text is about Christ's zeal for holiness. Let the blood of Jesus purify you from sin. Perhaps you came here today outside of faith in Christ. You're not a Christian. You were invited here today. Well, let me tell you, Jesus shed his blood on the cross. He died for us. It says in Titus 2:13-14, "Jesus Christ gave himself on the cross. He shed his blood for us to redeem us from all our wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Doesn't that kind of sum it all up? He was zealous for our holiness, though we will be zealous to do good in his name. Trust in him, repent of your sins and trust in Christ. Then all of us, let's stand in the fiery zeal of Jesus for his own glory. There's a fire inside Jesus in this text. Stand inside it. 2 Corinthians 7:1 says, "Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God."
Finally, if you are in a pattern of sin, habitual sin, you don't seem to be able to break out of it, but you're a child of God, thank God that He won't just give you over to your sins, accept his discipline. It may be that in some sense He's going to take a whip to you, to your life. It talks about it, the beating that God gives to his sons and daughters. In Hebrews 12:4-6 it says, "In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood and you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons. My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord nor be weary when he reproves you, for the Lord disciplines the one he loves and he chastens everyone, every son whom he receives." If you need that say, "Lord, do it to me. Purify my life of sins that I seem to be unable to defeat myself."
Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for this challenging passage. It's a picture of Jesus that could initially be off-putting as He curses a fig tree and it withered immediately. Then He went into the Temple and threw around furniture and drove out animals and stopped people from carrying things. God, we see the perfect holiness of Christ's zeal for your house. I pray that that same fire would be in us and that we would yearn to be pure as He is pure. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.