In John chapter two, Jesus entered the newly refurbished Herodian Temple. What would His attitude be toward the pseudo worship of the Jews of His day? The building had not looked so good since the day of Solomon’s Temple, but buildings are not ends in and of themselves. Let’s see how Jesus clarified the purpose for buildings intended to serve as houses of God.
Consider that when Jesus entered the Temple for the first time in His public ministry, He:
1. Demonstrated a Priority
Even a casual study of the life of Jesus Christ will reveal His faithfulness to houses of worship whether it was the mighty Temple or a village synagogue. One might say that faithfulness to the house of God was the custom of the Lord. Yes, there were hypocrites in those places, and, yes, He didn’t always agree with how they were running the show; but He demonstrated faithfulness to the house of God nonetheless.
The local church serves as the hub of the believer’s activity. It is his place of refreshment, education, and accountability. In short, faithfulness to the house of God should be the conduct of our lives. Hebrews reminds us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Without a faithful commitment to the house of God, believers expose themselves to the dangers of isolation and detachment.
2. Demanded a Purity
The Jews had allowed the Temple feasts to become little more than festive days. Worshipping God was no longer a priority, and the religious leaders had seized the opportunity to profiteer money by charging exorbitant exchange rates and inflating the price of the sacrificial animals.
The Jews’ worship was impure because of a relationship that was misunderstood. Jesus reminded them that their activities were especially egregious because they were taking place in the Father’s house. Like too many ancient Jews I’m afraid the modern churchgoer becomes more readily enraptured with church programs, events, and responsibilities than with a heightened awareness of God’s presence and a subsequent worship of His person.
The impurity of the Jews’ worship was evidenced in a religion that was merchandised. Pure religion glorifies God by helping people and holy living (James 1). At its core, pure religion is unselfish and others-sensitive. These Jews had succeeded in making religion an apparatus by which they could personally profit. To be sure, religion has regrettably become a multi-million dollar industry in our land. Even in our good fundamental local churches, people often view church as a means to a personal end. The salesman looks to network. The singer looks for accolades. The preacher looks to make a buck. May God deliver us from such unhealthy motivations!
3. Displayed a Passion
Obviously Jesus was worked up by what He saw. The disciples realized the Messianic implications of Psalm 69 that the zeal of God’s house would eat up the Messiah. Think about that. What eats you up? What stirs within you a passion? Jesus was passionate about the house of God and the genuine worship of God’s people therein.
Unlike the mere emotional passion of so many modern Christians, the passion of Jesus was one that moved to action. The righteous indignation He felt compelled Him to behave in a very unpopular way. He fashioned a whip and drove out the moneychangers! Later in His ministry, His passion stirred Him to preach to the multitudes and pray for laborers in the spiritual fields. What has your passion motivated you to do?
The actions of Jesus arrested the notice of the disciples. They considered His behavior because it motivated their attention. True passion has an enlisting effect. It will cause others to follow. Of course the opposite is also true! Lukewarm believers tend to be uncomfortable around those who rabidly apply God’s principles to their lives. What is it about your life that would motivate the attention of others to the things of God?
4. Detailed a Picture
The Jews were looking for a sign from Jesus. Basically they were looking for some external validation for Jesus having assumed such latitude of authority. After all, by driving out the moneychangers and sellers of sacrificial animals, He was directly challenging the authority of the religious leaders who were profiting from them. How would Jesus underscore His authority?
He offered a riddle as the proof of His authority. Using the illustration of the Temple, He referred to His own body and said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews missed the truth altogether, and the disciples themselves did not understand it until after the Resurrection. The truth remains, however, that the important building was the person of Christ, not the beautifully refurbished Herodian Temple.
His authoritative power found context in His prophecy that He would arise. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the great validation of His ministry and authentication of His power! (Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15)
What are new buildings for? They are places where Christ’s authority should be demonstrated, where His name should be magnified, and where the message of His Resurrection should be proclaimed.