Sunday, August 02, 2009

Jesus at the Temple Part 3 (Jn. 2:12-25)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 26 July 2009 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 2:12-25

The first time the word ‘temple’ is mentioned in the Bible is by Jacob in the wilderness when he was escaping from his brother Esau. At that time, there was no building. He had a dream where there was a ladder that reached up to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending upon it. He declared that this was the temple of God. The temple is not a building. It is where God’s presence is, where God reveal His truth and His will. It is the place where men respond to God and offer sacrifices to God. In the era of Jacob, nobody explained that to him. His understanding surpassed physical things. He could see what others could not. The temple is the intermediary between men and God where heaven and earth come to a harmony.

Jesus Christ is the temple of God. When we think about the temple, we need to think about Christ being the intermediary between God and men. He is the One who made us holy. When He cleansed the physical temple, He wanted us to understand that only in true holiness we could see God. The religious leaders studied the Scriptures but could not understand. It is the tragedy of religion. A lot of established seminaries become dead religion after many years. Academics that lose the fervor of true religion are dangerous.

John 2 shows a comparison between a true and a false temple. There were people who served God on surface but Jesus considered them as those who destroyed the temple. He said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it in three days.” But they were not interested in the first portion of His words and only focused on the second portion on raising the temple in three days and thought He was crazy. This passage shows the decadence of religious leaders. The sellers who were chased away did not challenge Jesus, likely realising their mistakes for doing business in the temple. But the religious leaders challenged Jesus. Often times lay people could see a mistake but religious leaders and preachers could not. The fact that Jesus had to clear the temple every year showed that they had never repented. The religious leaders invited the sellers back.

Jesus had deep zeal for the temple of God. When Jesus was 12, He was brought by His parents to the temple in Jerusalem. The people there were astonished by the depth of His understanding. The parents were worried about Him because He stayed in the temple after they left. When they found Him again, He asked, “Didn’t you know that I must be in My Father’s house?” Since His childhood, He knew the temple was His Father’s house. When Jesus cleansed the temple, He came as the Lord of the temple. He was angry when He saw how the religious leaders had insulted and abused the temple.

When Paul was in Athens, he was filled with anxiety because of the idolatry in that place. He was not behaving like a tourist taking pictures when he saw all those idols. What sort of response do we have when we see such things? Do we see as God would have us see it? We should not behave like the rest of the world.

So when Jesus went into the temple, He was filled with zeal. The religious leaders were angry that He had interrupted their business-making opportunities, so they asked for miracles as the proof of His authority. But Jesus did not answer their question. He was gracious to lay people but was not as friendly to the religious leaders. Instead of answering their question, Jesus simply said to destroy the temple and He would raise it in three days.

People have selective hearing. We have the whole Bible but only want to hear parts of it. Jesus first said “Destroy this temple”, indicating that they were the destroyer of the temple of God, and they completely ignored this part. They only heard that He said He would raise it in three days. They said proudly that it took 46 years to build it so how could He claim to raise it in 3 days? They could not understand it. But God had determined that those who were not meant to understand to always remain ignorant.

The disciples did not understand either at that time, but when Jesus was raised from the dead they remembered His words and finally understood. Jesus was determined to be crucified.


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