Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jesus Christ, the new imperishable Temple

John 2.13-22


His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

It can be a little hard to consider and see a Jesus who gets so worked up in an angry fit. Most of the time we like to think of Jesus in much different ways. We like to see Jesus as a kind and loving man who takes compassion on the people he meets. We like to remember Jesus as a man who gathers children in a loving and gentle way. We like to see Jesus as a man who weeps deeply for the people he cares about. But we don’t know exactly what to do with as Jesus who lashes out in anger. We don’t like to see Jesus upturning tables, whipping and driving livestock out, and yelling at people to STOP IT! At least, I don’t know exactly how to handle this scene where Jesus is running about creating chaos where some people have simply come to do their regular work and others have come to simply worship the Lord. I find myself to be much more like the disciples who gawk in amazement as it’s happening only to later realize what was going on. I suspect that if someone was to burst in here this morning and start over turning pews and throwing hymnals about, we would be flabbergasted at such behavior. Yet, this is the Jesus we are confronted with this morning – an angry Jesus consumed by zeal for his Father’s house upsetting what would have otherwise been a normal day.

Why is Jesus so angry? What have these people done that they hadn’t been doing for years upon years? You see, everything that Jesus was angry at was a vital part to how worship in the temple worked for people who were coming to worship their Lord God. Money changers were there so that people could use money that didn’t have graven images on it in the temple. The animals and the people selling them were there so that people would have the required sacrificial animals as told to them in the Torah by Moses himself. This wasn’t corruption plaguing God’s house. It was normal and necessary for worship in God’s house. So, when the temple leadership comes to Jesus asking him what’s going on, they want to know what the purpose of all this is, and simply asking Jesus, “Who do you think you are? Give us an explanation for all this mayhem!” All that Jesus has to say for himself is to point to himself and say, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

To say this to the temple leadership was to say something quite audacious. They were those in the society who studied the Torah and knew the history of the Jewish people. For one, to think that a large stone structure could built back up in three days was ludicrous to them. But, even deeper than ridiculousness of the surface of that statement, they also knew that their temple had been destroyed before. They knew that the destruction of the temple had happened before in terrible times when they were even forced to leave their homes and live as strangers in a strange land. Saying that the temple was going to be destroyed was bringing up a terrible history that shook the people of Israel to the core. No one in their right mind who was Jewish would have wished that upon them again. And yet, here this Jew named Jesus was giving the leaders of the temple and the Jewish faith that the temple was to be destroyed.

We too have built up temples for ourselves all throughout our life. We have created places, things, or even relationships that become the places in our lives where we believe we know where God is. Think about our homes. Our homes become temples quite easily when we let them represent a place where we are happy or at least where we try to secure our happiness. Home is refuge from the hectic world. Home is a warm place on a cold night. Home is sign of our hard work come or coming to fruition. Think about our church buildings. Our churches are places that hold our memories and all the memories of those who have gone before us. Our churches are places where we come to be with God on a weekly basis, or so. Think about our relationships – with our children, our spouses, or our brothers and sisters. These relationships are places we give and receive love and support. These relationships help to give us our sense of identity. These relationships are sources strength for us in hard times. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with our homes, churches, or relationships, just like there is nothing wrong with the Temple and temple worship. The thing is, these temples that we construct for ourselves whether they are our homes, churches, or friends and family are sadly all perishable either sooner or later. Each one of those examples will eventually fall down and crumble either tragically or in their due time. Yet, crumble they still do. Church buildings will eventually fall into disrepair or be torn down. Our homes will eventually do much the same. Our relationships will either sadly break apart in our lifetimes or they will end as the people eventually die. Even the temple in Jerusalem eventually fell into ruin where only a single wall still stands as evidence that it was there at all.

But Jesus knew that this must happen if the people are to truly know who God is. Jesus comes to show the people of Israel and all people that God is more than place on earth. Moreover, Jesus comes to show all the people that worship of God is more than a transaction to be made by buying the right sacrificial animal with the right kind of money. Jesus comes to show them all that he is the temple of God who comes to earth who not even death can destroy. In Jesus we are given a new temple that will never fail either in this lifetime or the lifetimes of the generations to come. In Jesus we are given the presence of God living, breathing, and walking with in our lives. This is the church that is given to us by the Holy Spirit – the church that is present wherever Jesus is proclaimed and the sacraments are rightly administered. This church is not dependant on our hopes and dreams. This church is not dependant upon our ability to make budgets or provide exciting programs to be interested in. This church is simply dependant upon presence of Christ within the people gathered to hear the Word and receive the sacraments.

This morning we will gather around the table to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. In this sacrament, we receive the very presence of Christ in the body and blood in, with, and under the bread and the wine. It is the gift given to us by God so that we might know and have Christ in our lives – so that we might know the presence of the one who forgives us deeply and abundantly. This special gift, given to us by the grace God, is given to show us and help us remember that Christ is eternal and present whenever we break bread together, laugh together, cry together, or even struggle together. This is a new temple that will be with us wherever we go, no matter where we go.

In this new temple only one thing is required – the life centering trust in God that flows forth from what God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit has done for us, simply put faith. No longer does our relationship with God depend on the good that we try to do in our life. Rather, the good in our life and the good we do in our life flows from this gift of faith. What we do as Christians only matters in how we share this good news with everyone else around us. What we do only matters in how we continually come back to the Word and the sacraments to hear and receive yet again God’s love and zeal for us in our life. Christ is not in the things we do or the things we build. This is why Jesus was so zealous in his chaotic upsetting of temple life. His anger is show us that he is God who has come to be with us in our everyday life, in our death, and raise us up into new life.

No comments: