Third Sunday in Lent – 4 March 2018
A Sermon on John 2:13-22 by Samuel Zumwalt
John 2:13-22 English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
FOR OUR SALVATION: TOSSING OUT THE TRASH
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
This guy I knew from high school was home from his first year in college and feeling very grown up. So he chose to stay out all night in the company of a gal from his graduating class. As I arrived at 6 a.m. to pick him up for work, I heard his mother say in response to his answer about where he had been: “Well…she’s trash and so are you!” That’s about as strong a word as one might hear from your mother. He laughed when we drove away.
In our small northeast Texas town, you didn’t want to be known as white trash. That meant you were from the wrong side of the tracks and probably from foul-mouthed, uneducated, alcoholic families. Of course, if you were from the right side of the tracks, well-educated alcoholics belonging to the country club, that was an entirely different matter! Some were more discrete about their sins but were still the talk of the town.
Let’s be clear. God doesn’t make trash, and no one is, in and of him- or herself trash. Rather all of us have trash in these hearts and minds, bodies and spirits. We all have trash that Jesus needs to toss out of our lives. That’s what we need to focus on today.
Temples of the Holy Spirit
The cleansing of the Jerusalem Temple occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry only in John’s gospel. The synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) place this event just before the passion of the Lord (His suffering and death). We typically call these other three gospels “the synoptic gospels,” because they follow roughly the same one-year timeline for Jesus’ earthly ministry. John, the latest of the four gospels, tells the story in a deeper and more meditative way, as one might expect of an older writer who has had more time to ponder the meaning of all that the Lord Jesus said and did. In John, the Lord’s public ministry takes place over a three-year period. We can say this because of the number of times Jesus goes to Jerusalem during His public ministry. In John’s gospel, the Lord Jesus is the replacement for the Jerusalem Temple and for all the holy days of Judaism. This point is reinforced by the writer of Hebrews as well.
The Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. It has not been rebuilt in recent years, because there are two mosques located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which remains the strongest reason why there will not be peace in the Middle East.The purpose of the Temple in Judaism was to offer blood sacrifices in order to be forgiven.
As John, Hebrews, and Revelation make clear, there is no longer a need for the Temple, because God’s Son Jesus is the once-for-all blood sacrifice that has been made for the forgiveness of sins. Thus, for Christians, Baptism into the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection brings forgiveness. Through Baptism, we are now members of the Body of Christ, and our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Each time we make confession of our sins we return to our Baptism asking that our Lord will toss the trash out of our lives and give us His forgiveness, life, and salvation! So, then, Baptism is not magic. It is a way of life, a daily turning and returning to our Father, like the lost son in Luke 15. The Holy Spirit shows us our sin and drives us to the cross of Jesus, the once-for-all blood sacrifice for sins. We ask daily for our temples to be cleansed. We ask daily for the Lord Jesus to toss the trash out of our broken, sinful lives!
Cleaning the Holy Spirit’s Temple with Jesus
We have spoken of Lent several times as a spring cleaning of heart, mind, body, spirit, relationships, and, yes, even of congregations. You will remember that, in Genesis 12:1-3, God chose Abram and Sarai to be the parents of a whole new nation, in order that their descendents might be a blessing to all the families of the earth. The point of the Temple that was eventually built and rebuilt was not to be a place exclusively for Jews, but a place where all people could pray and receive the forgiveness of sins from Israel’s God.. By the time our Lord cleansed the Temple, Gentiles were no longer welcome in God’s Temple. In fact, a warning to Gentiles was placed at every gate to the Temple proper.
The forty days of Lent, excluding Sundays, are a time for greater intimacy with the Lord Jesus, His Father, and the Holy Spirit. Some of us give up specific things that we savor as Pr. Johnson taught us last weekend. But the occasion for giving up something in Lent is really about adding more time for prayer. The various daily prayer resources on our website (www.stmatthewsch.org) can assist us to clean the temple of the body with Jesus.
Among the other ways that we clean the temple with Jesus is to examine the practices of our congregation through the Lord Jesus’ eyes. Do the words and deeds of this house bless our neighbors? Do we primarily offer forgiveness, life, and salvation to all people? Or do we concern ourselves mostly with our own private concerns and narrow interests?
Yes, those dealing in sacrificial animals were selling the means for receiving forgiveness. Yes, those changing Gentile coinage into temple coinage were making it possible to pay the very priests who made those blood sacrifices on their behalf. So, then, the Lord Jesus was seen as a very clear threat to those who made their living from the Temple system. He is still a great threat to the business and way of life of God, Incorporated. No pastor, no parishioner, no professor, no church bureaucrat dare forget that Jesus tosses out trash!
Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God
King David forgot he was called to be God’s forever prince not God’s successor. David had faithful Uriah killed in order that he might cover up his adultery with Uriah’s wife. That child conceived in adultery did not inherit David’s throne, although Solomon, the next son fathered by David and borne by Bathsheba, did eventually succeed and build the first Temple in Jerusalem. On Ash Wednesday, we said Psalm 51, attributed to King David, and today we will sing its most familiar words: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.”
We come today with the clear memory of the things done and left undone that have grieved our Father in heaven. If we are not as clear of our sins, Martin Luther reminds us to read the Ten Commandments, which happily are placed before us in the First Lesson today. We come confessing that there is no place to receive the forgiveness of sins than from Jesus Christ, who lived the perfectly obedient life we cannot live and died the perfectly innocent death we cannot die that we might be His own. There is no Good News other than Jesus Christ crucified for sinners. Without preaching our need for forgiveness, and without preaching Christ crucified for sinners, there can be no forgiveness, life, and salvation. My father loved to sing an old American gospel hymn: ‘There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb. There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb!” (Lewis Jones).
So, then, what trash remains in your heart, mind, body, soul, relationships, or even this congregation, dear ones? “Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” (Elisha Hoffman). Have you been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection? If you or your child are unbaptized, why are you waiting?
If you are baptized, you may receive Jesus’ body and blood today for the forgiveness of sins. If you are unbaptized, cross your arms over your chest and receive a blessing. Then, schedule with me today the date of your Baptism. Jesus tosses out the trash in our lives with one intent. He does so for us and our salvation. He does so that we may be only His!
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
©Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina
For Our Salvation: Tossing Out the Trash
“Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly and inwardly that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 982).
John 2:14 “In the temple he found those who were selling oxen…the money-changers sitting there.”
St. Augustine [late 4th – early 5th century Bishop of Hippo in North Africa] “Those who have no desire for redemption have everything for sale. They do not want to be bought; they want to sell. Yet surely it is for their good that they be redeemed by the blood of Christ so that they may attain the peace of Christ. For what profit is there in acquiring anything temporal or transitory in this world – whether it be money, or gorging oneself on food or achieving high honors from your fellow human beings? Are not all things smoke and wind?” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: John 1-10, 101).
John 2:15 “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple…”
St. John Chrysostom [late 4th – early 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople “If He had acted out of hypocrisy, He would have only advised them, but to place Himself in such danger was very daring. It was no small thing to offer Himself to the anger of so many market people or to excite against Himself a most brutal mob of petty dealers by His reproaches and the disruption he caused. This was not, in other words, the action of a pretender but of one choosing to suffering everything for the order of the house” (102).
John 2:16 “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
St. Augustine: “Our Lord’s driving out of the temple people who were seeking their own ends, who came to the temple to buy and sell, is symbolic. For if that temple was a symbol it obviously follows that the body of Christ, the true temple of which the other was an image, has within it some who are buyers and sellers, or in other words, people who are seeking their own interests and not those of Jesus Christ”(103).
John 2:19 ““Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Origen of Alexandria [4th century North African Bible scholar and theologian]: “…we know that the temple will be raised up and the body will arise on the third day after the day of evil that threatens it and the day of consummation that follows. For the third day will dawn in the new heavens and the new earth, when these bones, the whole house of Israel, shall be raised up on the great day of the Lord, once death has been conquered, which followed from His passion on the cross, contains the mystery of the resurrection of the whole body of Christ” (104).
- What is trashing up my body, the temple of the Holy Spirit? What does Jesus need to drive out?
- What is trashing up this part of the Body of Christ? What does Jesus need to drive out of us?
The Sacrament of Holy Baptism
As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.
What does such baptizing with water indicate?
It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Where is this written?
St. Paul writes in Romans chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4) [Luther’s Small Catechism].
- Pray for every unbaptized child and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too.
- Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.
- As you walk past the baptismal font, dip your fingers into the water and make the sign of the cross in remembrance that God has graciously chosen you to be His child for Jesus’ sake.
- Memorize the fourth section on Holy Baptism and Martin Luther’s explanation of it. As you say your prayers each day, be sorrowful over your sins, repent of them, and ask that the Old Adam or Eve in you be drowned again in the waters of Baptism, which is the way of life.
- Pray daily using Scripture and the devotions. Use the daily worship resources on our website at stmatthewsch.org . Use daily prayers, daily psalms, and daily lessons.
- What is keeping your from Sunday School or Crossways Bible Study? Do you already know it all? Is reading the Sunday newspaper more important to you than God’s Word? Or…?
For Husbands and Wives
Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”