Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jesus at the Temple Part 4 (Jn. 2:12-25)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 2nd August 2009 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 2:12-25

Because we are able to see the Invisible Lord and have a close relationship with God, we can appreciate how true His love is for us. In contrast, the gods of other faiths are very fake and far away from them. But in Christianity God lived among us in the flesh. Christ became the Mediator between God and men, enabling us to return to God. This Christ is in eternity and also temporal history. John 2 tells us how He lived as a human being and represented men before God.

The first miracle Christ performed was at a wedding. It showed how important marriage is in God’s eyes. Marriage tells us the meaning of union, teaches to make sacrifices and to honor another person. In union, you have to sacrifice yourself and honor others. You change position from receiving to giving, especially when you have your own children. Marriage is only meant to happen once in one’s life, so those who enter are frequently those experience, and through this they are forced to be humble. Marriage can be very tiring and exhausting but we need to pay a price for something valuable.

The second incident in John 2 did not seem related to the first. But it actually demonstrates an important attribute of God. The first incident demonstrates His grace and the second incident demonstrates His righteousness. He came to the temple as the Lord of justice. He came as the Lord of the temple.

Jesus did not say much to those who refuse to understand. Towards the hypocrites, He did not spend much time explaining to them. Even when He spoke what He should, He allowed them to misunderstand Him. But He is willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who are elected to understand His will. If it were not for God who open your heart, none will come to Him. If He chose us, we cannot resist Him. He will capture us with His grace that is beyond our understanding. Those who are not elected will not be able to enjoy this grace. If He does not want to give you His grace, He will just allow you to keep opposing Him. This doctrine of sovereign grace is clearly portrayed in the entire Bible. He did not say anything to King Herod when He met Him. He revealed the silence of God. When God is silent, we should fear. When God suddenly keeps quiet, what is happening in the universe? When God did not want the Israelites to understand, there is not a prophet for 400 years.

Jesus’ words “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in 3 days” become the motivation for the religious leaders to kill Him. When Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples suddenly understood what it meant to destroy th temple and to be raised in 3 days, that the temple is the body of Christ. Only in Christ could we enjoy the presence of God and understand the covenant of God. It is where God is one with us.

The first time Jesus entered Jerusalem He did many miracles. But John did not record in detail these miracles. Why did John not record the miracles in Jerusalem, but recorded those in Galilee? It would seem that the miracles performed in the capital is the most important.

Is it true that you should preach important sermon only when there is a big crowd? If so, isn’t it a waste that Jesus spoke some important words only to Nicodemus? God said His will is above our will, His ways above our ways. How many miracles did He perform in Jerusalem? Why is it not recorded? John only recorded that many people believed because of the miracles He performed.

Many preachers fail right here. If the audience are just a few old people, they do not talk seriously. But if thousands of people are listening, they preach the most important sermons and take a lot of photographs.

If more people come, it is revival. Is it true? The greatest church leader could be the most deceiving. This is a very serious error. Is everything we hear and accept in line with the truth? Very often they are half-truths. Some are the truths that have been changed and twisted because of wrong motivation. Some errors are significant and consistent. They are errors that are consistent in totality, hence you might not recognise it.

John 2 shows us that Jesus did not appreciate that there were supporters among His opposers. He would not accept them just because they believed in His miracles. He would never use people’s support as a platform for greater work. This is the mark of an honest person. He is not seeking after the glory of men. Truth is not established on numerical success. Indeed He performed many miracles when He first entered Jerusalem and many people believed Him but He would not entrust Himself to them. The passage tells us that Jesus was able to look at their motives. If Christianity is dependent on how many people could accept, then we should thank people for coming. But Christianity’s value is intrinsic in itself, independent on whether people accept it or not. Its value is not dependent on what others feel and think. If my value if dependent on whether you like me or not, then my value does not exist. In the market, value is dependent on demand. If many people want your product, the price will increase. If there is no demand, your product has no value.

When many people rejected His preaching, Jesus said, “Father, I praise you, for this is Your good will.” When He was on the cross and there was no glory, He said “It is completed”. When He said that, nobody believed. Not a single church had been established. Not a single Christian soldier had been trained, not a gospel had been written. It must have been the greatest failure of all. All the founders of faith died a good death and most in old age. Christ is the only one nailed to the cross and humiliated to death at a very young age of 33 in unjust manner. Where then is His value? It is not dependent on the recognition of men. He denied all those acknowledgement when people supported Him on His first visit to Jerusalem.

Those who lower standard of God to achieve numerical success are the true destroyers of the temple of God. The larger the church is, if they do not preach the truth, they are doing greater damage.

John said Jesus did not need men’s testimony about men, for He knew what is in men. With such a great declaration John 2 ended. This is the first time the book of John displayed the omniscience of God. In the beginning was the Word, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; He was full of grace and truth, and finally, He would not entrust Himself to those who do not truly believe.

What is your motivation of coming to God? To receive His grace? His miracles? Hence you are interested in Him? Jesus is not interested in such people. Do you believe in Him because there are good things in Him? He will search your heart, illuminate you, judge you and correct you. Do you think just because you believe Jesus will accept? When we are one-sided and not wholeheartedly following Christ, He would not accept us. Matthew 7 say when we serve God in our own way He will not accept us. Jesus said “Not everybody who called me Lord, Lord would enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of My Father in heaven. In the last days, many would ask, ‘Did we not chase out demons and perform many miracles in Your name? ‘ Then I would say, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers.’” No religious Scriptures is as stern as the Bible. These are the people who actually perform miracles and drive out demons in Jesus’ name. They seem very successful. If you find a preacher who could drive out demons and heal diseases in the name of Jesus, would you say he is not of the Lord? Surely many people who see such miracles and sign will accept that as the mark of true disciples.

But Jesus would not thank you just because you work for Him or appreciate you just because you believe in Him. Why could these people cast out demons in Jesus’ name if their faith is fake? God honors His own name. When the pharisees sit on the throne of Moses, we still have to listen. Hence you will be most astonished that those who drive out demons and perform miracles are not recognised by Christ. They thought they recognise Christ but Jesus said He never knew them. This is most horrifying. Jesus would not entrust Himself to those who believe just because of His miracles.

If you truly want to follow the Lord, Jesus said to pick up your cross, to love Him more than anything else or else you are not worthy to be His disciples. This is very tough but this is His standard. How is our faith like? Is it based on popularity? Do you pray to the Lord to bring you into His will? Believe in Him based on the principle of truth, not signs and wonders. When Jesus accepts you and recognises you, do not be afraid even if the world does not recognise you. Conversely, if the whole world welcome you, you are finished if Jesus does not welcome you.


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