Bible Text: John 2:13-25 | Preacher: Adam J. Korenczuk | Series: John | TEXT: “You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade” (John 2:16). SCRIPTURE READING: John 2:13-25.
Introduction: The six-year-old asked, “Why do they call it God’s house? He is not there.” Maybe not. Maybe so.
All four of the writing evangelists tell us of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. One account would justify the study. Four accounts emphasize the importance of the Holy Spirit attaches to this unique incident. It will be our purpose to examine the experience as related by John for immediate help and possibly future study.
I. Jesus Attended Worship Services. Have you heard people say, “I quit church because I do not like the way they do things”? Jesus didn’t like the way they did things but He didn’t quit.
The son of a pastor said, “My father was a preacher and I got so disgusted with the way the ‘wheels’ treated him that I quit.” Have you considered how hurt Jesus must have been with the way the religious leaders of His day treated His Father? But He didn’t quit. When in the cities and villages, He went to the synagogue. When in Jerusalem, He went to the temple. On this occasion, He seems to have gone to Jerusalem because it was time to observe the Jewish Passover at the temple.
The religious establishment of Jesus’ day was cold, callous, legalistic, and exclusive; but Jesus participated. He sought to correct much that was wrong but He didn’t quit.
I have known people who got so pious and self-righteous they thought they were too good for the church. People who get’ ‘too spiritual” for the church might be more “spiritual” than Jesus. That does not suggest, however, that we should not be constantly alert to any necessary changes. We should also act responsibly in trying to correct errors and improve ministries.
The cleansing of the temple was rare behavior for Jesus and the procedure would probably be appropriate only for the Son of God.
II. What Was Wrong in the House of God? John records Jesus’ complaint, “You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
A. Why the traders were there. It seemed entirely practical on the surface. This was Passover time, the supreme public celebration of the Jews. They needed sheep, oxen, and pigeons for the sacrifice. The original idea was for worshipers to bring their own sacrifices; top animals without spot or blemish. Some, however, came long distances. One might select the best animal he had and it still might not pass inspection when it got to the temple. Why not buy an animal near the temple? Money could not be used for the temple’s tax if polluted. Jewish coins must be used, then the necessity for money changers. Innocent enough, right?
B. Perverted worship. The prophets had long since decried deterioration of the sacrificial system. “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats” (Isa. I: 11-13).
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you'” (Jer. 7:21-23).
“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, o God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 5l:l7).
A person could go through all the ceremony without worship. Since it is all a matter of form, why not eliminate all the inconvenience? The people were going through the motions of confessing sin and worshiping out of a sense of duty, culture, and tradition. So why not make it as convenient as possible? It is likely the temple animal inspectors and traders worked together. That was profitable to both. The money changers were likely extortionists. But even if all participants were on the level, when religion follows the line of least resistance it is no longer worship.
A certain Jewish merchant left his store open on religious holidays to be run by Gentile employees, while he went to the temple. He said he could worship better knowing his Gentile competitors were not getting all the business. He then confessed his personal feeling that outward worship was not worshiping.
III. The Purpose of the House of God.
A. It was to be a “house of prayer.” John does not mention this but the synoptic writers quote Jesus as saying, “‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers” (Matt. 21: 13; Mark 11: 17; Luke 19:46). Perhaps this is the heart of the offense. Jesus was quoting from Isaiah 56:7. When the temple ceased to be the place of prayer, it began to move in the direction of idolatry. What does all this say to us about the purpose of God’s house today? What does it say to us about the priority of prayer in our worship?
B. It was to be a center of evangelism. Go back and read Mark’s quotation of Jesus (Mark 11:17). The temple had different areas for different groups. There was a court of the Gentiles. The original idea was that non-Jews could worship here. From the beginning, God had intended His people to be a blessing to others. This was clear in His call to Abraham but the leaders had become selfish, protective, and exclusive. Guess where the traders were trafficking! It was in the court of the Gentiles. They lost interest in reaching out to other people and the result was the pollution of the whole process.
Conclusion: Our lessons are obvious. When we cease to pray, the place of worship ceases to be a place of prayer. When we cease to evangelize, we cease to be God’s people.