Believe:879. How far will you go to find the truth? He is among us.
Gospel of John, chapter two. We continue with Believe:879. Eight hundred-seventy-nine verses in the gospel of John with the central theme of belief.
Have you ever had a conversation with somebody where you're speaking one thing but they're hearing something entirely different? Now my wife and I do this all the time and one of the worst examples of that is the time when Nathan was just a little guy and it was the Fall Festival and he was dressed up in his biblical costume and we were to meet at Dion's before coming to the church. So I heard---I heard her say, "Dion's Pizza." And I even asked her which one, because in this town there are several of them. And I was certain I heard the right one, but I went to Dion's Pizza and she wasn't there, she went to a different outlet and I wasn't there. So the whole time she's there with Nathan thinking about me, "How insensitive this guy is! He won't even show up to see his own son in his costume." And then I'm at the other Dion's going, "I can't believe how insensitive she is. She called me and told me to meet her; I've ordered the pizza. Nobody's here!" The words "Dion's Pizza" in our minds meant two different locations.
One of the most humorous examples of this was an English girl who wanted to go to school at a Swiss Christian school. She visited the place, she decided she would relocate to Switzerland from England, but she wrote the schoolmaster asking for some more information. In her letter, she said, "When I was on your grounds I did not see the restroom." Of course, in England, the restroom goes by the initials "WC" which means water closet---that's restroom. So she asked for the WC. "I noticed there wasn't a WC in the dorms or nearby." Well, in Switzerland, it doesn't mean the same thing. WC in this Swiss schoolmaster's mind, he couldn't figure out what it meant. And his English wasn't very proficient so he showed her letter to the school chaplain and the only thing they could come up with was that WC must be a reference to the famous West Side Chapel which wasn't far from their grounds. So he writes a letter back to this young lady looking for the restroom with this letter, "My dear madam I take great pleasure in informing you that the WC is situated nine miles from the house in the center of a beautiful grove of pine trees surrounded by lovely grounds. It's capable of holding 229 people. It's open on Sundays and Thursdays only. As there are a great number of people expected during the summer months, I suggest that you come early, although there is usually plenty of standing room. It may be of some interest for you to know that my daughter was married in the WC and it was there that she met her husband. I can remember the rush there was for seats. There were ten people to every seat usually occupied by one. It was wonderful to see the expressions on their faces. You will be glad to hear that a good number of people bring their lunch and make a day of it while those who cannot afford to go by car arrive just on time. I would especially recommend that you go on Thursday when there is a piano accompaniment. The acoustics are excellent and even the most delicate sounds are heard everywhere. The newest addition is a bell donated by a wealthy resident of the district; it rings every time a person enters." I can't go on. That's the gist of the letter.
Well, she meant something very different than what he heard. Same initials; two different meanings. We have some of that same situation going on in John chapter two over a word that is mentioned five times. It's the word temple. Five times in our paragraph, the temple is spoken about. Two more times the word house, which refers to the physical, historical building. When Jesus said, "My Father's house," that is mentioned twice. So seven times altogether there's a reference to the temple, but two of those times when Jesus uses the term, He's not speaking of the physical, historical building, He's speaking of His physical body which will rise from the dead. So we have two things going on here. And you'll see where it breaks up. We have a sign that Jesus does in the temple of Jerusalem, but He speaks about the ultimate sign of His temple, His body resurrected from the grave.
Let's look in verse twelve and we'll pick up our story: "After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, and His brothers, and His disciples; and He did not stay many days there. Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up." So the Jews answered and said to Him, "What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, will You raise it up in three days?" But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered and they believed---what He had said to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said."
The Jews are thinking purely of construction. Jesus changes the conversation to speak of resurrection. Now both of these signs, the sign that He performs in the temple of driving them out, and the sign that He predicts of the temple, His resurrection, are both very important signs. And they are related to each other. It's really all about believing, believing, believing. John includes this story because he wants to show us how what happened in the temple caused His disciples to have even more belief in Him. Now I don't know how you have pictured Jesus in the past, that is physically, but if you were to go by the western portrayals and the little cards that portray Jesus in the last 100 years, you might get the idea that He was some kind of thin, scrawny, puny, effeminate, little man. Until you read this story and you see one human being with a whip driving a whole group out singlehandedly, including their animals. And you think, "This guy is a man. He is a man's man." And He is angry. I'm sure that at this point His disciples were thinking, they'd just started following Him, "This guy is unpredictable. You never know what's going to happen when He's around." They go from the marriage supper at Cana where He brings joy and He sits around the table joyfully, to now anger where He's overturning the tables in Jerusalem.
I find it interesting, really, because this is the first public appearance on spiritual grounds. He was at a wedding supper in Cana but now He's in the temple of Jerusalem where everybody's watching. And the first thing He does is not teach them the Bible, or give them nice words about love and grace and mercy, the first thing He does in a public launch is to beat with a whip those who are merchandising in the temple of Jerusalem. It's a very intriguing story. Let's begin with verses 13 and 14 and just think about the passion that Jesus has for God's holiness and reverence. Now He's speaking about the temple in Jerusalem, the historical temple: "Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. "
Passover was the greatest of all of the Jewish feasts. It commemorated them being delivered out of Egypt. If you were male and you were Jewish and you lived within fifteen miles of Jerusalem, you were required to be there every single Passover at that temple. That's a requirement. But beyond the requirement, if you were Jewish at all, it would be your lifelong dream, even if you lived in the far corners of the world, to go at least once and celebrate Passover in the great city of Jerusalem. That is why even to this day, at the end of the Passover meal, the seder feast, the glass is raised and everyone says, "Next year---in Jerusalem!" That's their hope, to celebrate in Jerusalem. And what it means is pilgrims from everywhere were streaming into that city. So Jesus leaves Capernaum and starts the ninety-mile walk south with His disciples to Jerusalem. The roads would have been crowded and the closer He got to Jerusalem, they would be congested. Because people from everywhere came to that one city. Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that during one Passover season alone during this time, they slaughtered 256,000 lambs in the temple. And the going rate of people to lambs was ten people to one lamb, typically, so there could have been 2.5 million people in Jerusalem during this feast.
Now space was limited and what that meant is, if you owned a home in Jerusalem, you would open it up to visitors and it was forbidden for you to charge rent. So you'd always have visitors in the home if you lived in Jerusalem. Jesus often stayed with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, just on the other side of the Mount of Olives. But if you got to Jerusalem early enough, a lot of people would camp around the temple like the tribes of Israel did around the tabernacle---just to do it. If you were to walk through the streets of the city, you'd hear songs being sung, stories being told, riddles and word games being played. If you were to go into a synagogue four weeks before the Passover, on week four, three, two, and one, they would always be talking about the significance of the Passover season just to bolster their faith and get people ready. If you were to walk into a Jewish home during that time, the women were busy cleaning the pots and the pans and sewing the clothes and getting rid of the leaven that would be in the house. Passover lasted one day; it was on the fourteenth day of Nisan, the Jewish calendar. But it was followed by another feast kept for seven days called the Festival of Unleavened Bread. So it was an eight-day feast and I'm sharing all of that with you because I want you to know this was a huge deal and there were lots of people watching this event happen.
More people meant more profit. The businesses in Jerusalem would flourish during this week and even those who have a business in the temple, verse 14 highlights that: Jesus "found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business." Now that little phrase "those who sold" in the Greek language has a definite article and it's literally tous pōlountas: "the sellers". And it speaks of an identifiable group of people that were well-known in Jerusalem. Everybody knew about these guys. This is how it would work. Let's say you came from a couple hundred miles away, it's taken you a long time to get there. Well, you're not going to drag animals with you the whole way. You're just going to buy one there to sacrifice. So they were ready for you; you'd come in the temple and they'd say, "We have an app for that. You need a lamb? We got the app---we got one right here. You can't afford the lamb, you need a dove? We got an app for that." And then you had to exchange your money because foreign money was not accepted in the temple. You had to have the half-shekel, the temple shekel, or the Galilean, called the tirian shekel because of the weight of silver. So you had to take your money and exchange it.
Well, there was a fee for that and the fee was two hours of a working man's wage, of a daily wage. Two hours of that wage just to exchange money. And for every half-shekel that they gave you change in exchange for larger coins, was another two hours of a day's wage. So you could end up---costing you an entire day's wage just to make money exchange in the temple. Not only that but rabbinic literature tells us that the inspectors---yes, there were animal inspectors to make sure your animal was clean and rejected if it was unclean---they spent eighteen months on a farm learning how to distinguish clean from unclean or animals that were once clean but that became unclean. You see how that would work? You would bring a clean animal to be sacrificed and you had it inspected, but these inspectors would look it over and go, "Oh, I'm sorry. This isn't quite the right sacrifice. We found a flaw!" "I don't see a flaw." "Well, look right here. It's microscopic, but I can see it. You can't. I've been trained." They would reject it. So here's the picture: all these people are coming to worship God with pure hearts and they're being charged an arm and a leg to worship God. They're not permitted into the temple unless they exchange the money and have one of these animals. Sort of like going to the movies. Costs you ten bucks for the movie but 250 bucks for popcorn and a Coke.
So Jesus comes to the temple---it is a religious zoo in that temple! It's a charade; it's a circus. It's like the psychological traps that are still used for making money for certain ministries. You know, they'll write you a personal letter and have your name in it and then they'll begin the letter, "Dear so-and-so, I was thinking of you this week. The Lord laid you on my heart and I've been praying specifically for you." They don't know you from Adam! And then they'll say, "Enclosed is a little prayer cloth. Put it on your head and believe and you'll be healed." Or, "Pour oil on your head and you'll be healed," and of course, send a special offering for that. I get a bunch of these; I've gotten them over the years. I collect them. I've sort of run out of room so I don't do it as much, but here's one that says, and I won't turn it around so you can see who it is, you might not be surprised but, it says, "Candlelight miracle request on December 24, Christmas Eve, we will light a red miracle candle and release our faith for your Christmas miracle request." And you just check off what you need. You can check off, and here's boxes, a new home, a sleeping disorder, deliverance from a habit, oh and by the way, at the bottom you check this off: "Enclosed is my Christmas miracle seed faith gift." Boy they like that term. And then I sow this in Jesus' name expecting a miracle. Well what comes with that is a little blurb that says in the letter they send with it, "The Word of God also says one can put a thousand to flight and two can put ten thousand to flight, mixing your faith and actions with that of miracle believing partners, in parentheses, my dad and I, makes your prayers ten times more powerful." I bet you didn't know that your prayers would be ten times more effective if you just sent them that money.
It's a sham! And Jesus comes to the temple and finds that these people aren't allowed to worship without this nonsense. So verse fifteen: "When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables." He didn't bring a whip with him. It wasn't like He had this all prepared, a bull-whip was in the back pocket. He just found cords lying on the temple where the animals were bound with and He just started making a cord of whips and He went after them. He's angry! Now you got to know something. Jesus didn't have an anger issue. He didn't require anger management classes. No, He was exercising His rightful authority as Messiah over His Father's house. This is righteous indignation. And did you know that the Bible actually commands us to be angry but sin not? And here is an example of it---and it's a great example. It highlights something that is typically overlooked by most. Even most of us don't want to acknowledge this attribute of God called His wrath. But it's a theme, not just in the Old Testament, but runs all through the Bible, even into the New, all the way to the book of Revelation. Arthur W. Pink even says, "The Bible includes more references to God's anger, fury, and wrath than it does to His love and tenderness."
In the 1700s, Charles Wesley penned a poem that became a song: "Gentle Jesus meek and mild/Look upon a little child." Well Jesus is meek and mild and gentle if the person that He's dealing with is sincere, honorable, and penitent. But when it comes to religious hypocrisy, He is not gentle Jesus. He's a lethal Judge. He's not gentle Jesus when it comes to the holiness of God. And here, He's angry. You remember that time when Jesus goes to the synagogue? It says in Capernaum and there's a man there that has a paralyzed arm, a withered hand some translations render it. And as soon as Jesus comes into the synagogue, all the leaders are watching Him. They're wondering if He's going to heal on the Sabbath, because that would be a no-no. You can't heal on the Sabbath---like they could ever heal anybody. But they're looking to see if Jesus will heal on the Sabbath. The Bible says in Mark three, "Jesus looked around at them with anger deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts." Much later He'll confront a group of scribes and Pharisees.
That's fascinating because He doesn't go, "Now guys? We have a few little differences between us." What He says to them is this and I quote: "Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites, you snakes, brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?" That's Jesus, gentle Jesus, meek and mild, looking upon the little child. In the book of Revelation, which is a description of the great future outpouring of God's final wrathful judgment upon the earth, that phrase is used throughout the book of Revelation: the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. It's interesting, in chapter six, they cry to the rocks, the mountains, and they say, "Hide us from the wrath of the Lamb!" Doesn't that sound like an oxymoron? Have you ever seen a wrathful lamb? Well here, the Lamb of God comes as the Lion of Judah, with all authority and we have a preview of that in the temple of Jerusalem.
So the disciples are watching this and when they see this and they hear this, it triggers a memory. A Messianic psalm comes to mind, Psalm 69, quoted here: "Zeal for Your house has [consumed Me, or] has eaten Me up." Verse 18, we have a confrontation with His enemies, they're really challenging His authority: "The Jews answered Him and said to Him, "What sign do You show to us, [He just showed them one] since You do these things?" Now this is a natural question for them to ask. Jesus just interfered with their whole sacrificial system. In effect, He temporarily put an end to the system of Mosaic offerings. Stopping the animal sacrifices---it was the very heart of their nation. This would be the equivalent of Billy Graham walking into a church and walking up to the pulpit and shredding a King James Bible. Can you imagine that? Whoa! He just stopped their sacrifices.
Now they are challenging His authority---they want a sign. They want something further. And the reason they're challenging Jesus' authority is because Jesus just sidestepped their authority. He didn't go to them first; He didn't get permission. He just walked right into the temple and cleaned house. Now I can't prove it but I am very certain in my heart that these leaders who, by the way they knew their own Scriptures, they must have thought back to a prediction that comes from the book of Malachi chapter three. I'll read it to you: "And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple. Even the messenger of the covenant and He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver, He will purify the sons of Levi [that's the priesthood] and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness." I'm sure that that just clicked and so they want to know, they want some clarification, identification. "Give us a sign. Give us something that we can hang our hats on."
There's something else. Jesus referred to the temple as not "our Father's house" but "My Father's house". My Father. He is staking His claim as having a unique relationship with the heavenly Father that they did not have. "It is My Father's house." And so this is the sign in the temple and now Jesus will speak of an even greater sign: the sign of the temple, the ultimate sign. Let's look at that. Verse 19: "Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." If you and I would have been there, we wouldn't have gotten it either. Unless there were an editorial note given us by John in verse 21. Verse 20 says: "The Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, will You raise it up in three days?" But [verse 21] He was speaking of the temple of His body."
We call this a riddle; a double entendre. Something that can be understood in two completely different ways. Like WC, WC. Depends on who's doing the listening and the talking. The Lord often did this with parables. He said to His disciples, "Now I'm speaking in parables so that those who are hostile to Me won't get it, but those who are open and honest and want Me to reveal, I'll reveal it deeper to them. So it will close the eyes of those who are hostile and it will open the eyes of those who are seeking Me." Now something about the temple. You know, they're going, "Wait a minute. Forty-six years!" It took from 19 B.C. to almost 70 A.D.---it was about 63, 64 A.D. that the temple was completed. Then it was destroyed. But at this point it had taken forty-six years to build what was there. Now some of you are thinking, "I'd get a new building contractor at that point. That's a long project." Massive stones. Understand that Herod the Great decided that he was going to take the entire temple mountain and level it. So he took the old temple of Zerubbabel from the captivity---post-captivity, decided, "I'm going to make this thing awesome." He put a wall around the mountain; he put fill dirt around that, so he created a 36-acre flat platform for the temple to stand on and the buildings. If you come with us to Jerusalem, you'll walk on that platform still intact. It's massive.
So they're going, "Forty-six years!" You know, it went like this, right over their heads. "Destroy this temple." And the disciples heard it and it went---and for three years they didn't get it. It says in verse 22: "Therefore when He had risen from the dead His disciples remembered that He had said this to them." I have a question. Why did Jesus speak of His body in this cryptic way? Why did He use the double entendre, the WC analogy? Why didn't He just come right out and say, "OK. You want a sign---here's the ultimate sign. You're going to kill me and I'm going to rise from the dead three days later. Remember that I said that to you. Why did he say "destroy this temple"? Now listen carefully. To the Jews the symbol of God's presence to them was the temple. What Jesus is saying is "I, the unique Son of God, the Logos and the actual presence of God among you." That's what He was saying: "I am the presence of God among you in flesh. I am Immanuel---God with Us".
Later on Jesus will predict the same thing. They'll say, "Show us a sign!" This is in Matthew's Gospel. He will say, "An evil, a wicked generation seeks after a sign. No sign will be given except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights." The resurrection. I want to touch on something just quickly. Because somebody will ask, "Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, physical resurrection, such a big deal? Why is it so essential that you Christians hold to the bodily resurrection?" Because it means everything. If Jesus doesn't rise physically from the dead, His credibility is shot. The resurrection proved who He was. Because He predicted that He would rise from the dead many times---many times. If He didn't do it, He's a liar. His credibility is gone. There was a so-called theologian who said, "It wouldn't hurt my faith one bit if they found the bones of Jesus." I don't know what kind of faith he has, but it would decimate my faith totally if they found the bones of Jesus. Everything rests upon it. That's why the New Testament preachers all kept the resurrection at the center of all of their sermons. It's the credibility of Christ. Not only that, but it proves that I'm going to rise again from the dead as well. If Jesus can do it and He would always say, "If you believe in Me, you'll live forever. I'll raise you up on the last day." All of that promise is hinged upon His physical, bodily resurrection.
Look at the last verse where we close, verse 22. Just as the sign in the temple brought a negative reaction by His enemies, the sign of the temple, that is His resurrection, brings a positive reaction from His friends. "Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said." Now you know these disciples weren't seminary Ph.D.'s. They were blue-collar fishermen. They had calloused hands---they were workers. But they were Jewish fishermen who had at least a little bit of working knowledge of Scripture. And now they're developing a worldview. They're remembering. It's just like when He was in the temple and He whipped them out. They remembered Psalm 69: "Zeal for Your house is eating Me up." They're going to connect another dot in three years when Jesus rises from the dead. And they'll trust in Him again.
Now I want you to think about that. Jesus said something that those disciples wouldn't get for three years. All I can say is Jesus is sure patient. He knew they wouldn't get it for three years and He doesn't drag them outside the temple and go, "Don't you guys get it? You guys gotta get this now! You gotta understand this right now!" He just said it, let it go, knowing in three years, it'll snap. What that tells me is God is so gracious that He lets us grow at our own pace. He lets us grow at our own pace. Have you ever read through the Bible and you've read the passage several times and then suddenly it's like, "I get it! I never saw that before! That's awesome---I never noticed that before." It happens to me all the time. God lets us grow at our own pace. Patience.
Compare verse 11 with verse 22, because that's really the heart of this series. In verse 11, which is at the marriage supper of Cana after the waters turned into wine, we noticed last time. "This is the beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee and manifested His glory and His disciples believed in Him." Verse 22: "Therefore when He had risen from the dead His disciples remembered that He had said this to them and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said." Boy, it's a great day when you start believing the power of Scripture. When you start saying, "Not only do I believe in Jesus, but I believe that what is here is from the very mind and breath of God." And it's so freeing and it builds such confidence in the way we live. The disciples are developing a biblical worldview. They're starting to look at their life through the lens of Scripture. Now I don't know how you look at life or what lens you approach it with. If it's the lens of popular culture or CNN or what people's opinions are, but it's a great day when you start looking at life through the lens of Scripture and develop a biblical worldview. It really is wonderful.
One of my favorite little newspaper articles that I read was a reporter who was talking about survivors of tornadoes. And in one instance when a house was being shaken and they thought that it'd be ripped up from its foundations, one of the women living in the house, so scared, she shouted out, "Auntie Em! Auntie Em!" That's from the Wizard of Oz. She had so internalized the Wizard of Oz that that's the first thing that came out of her mind and her mouth. Wouldn't it be wonderful if our lives were so influenced by the Bible that when we are in a crisis, that's what comes out first? We believe the Scripture and the Word was Jesus said so that's equating His word with Scripture in that verse.
I can't resist but thinking of something. Nicodemus I believe was in that crowd. He'll show up in chapter three. He'll want to talk to Jesus, but I'm sure as one of the representatives, the teachers of the law, he was there that day in the temple and he knew all about Jesus and he saw that commotion. Beautiful thought. Now you know the Bible talks about another temple and that temple is you and me. First Corinthians chapter three: "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you?" So here we are housing the Holy Spirit of God in these physical bodies called the temple. But we all know that our temples can get cluttered. That life can crowd in around us and we can take certain activities into our lives that aren't pleasing to God and they need to be purified---they need to be purged. Second Corinthians 6 says: "What union can there be between God's temple and idols? For we are the temple of the Living God."
So if you are discovering today that your life, your temple, is being crowded out and you're not worshiping God like you should and devoted to God like you should, your temple's been crowded and needs to be cleaned, cleansed, purged, I know just the One who can do that. And it is Jesus. And it is the sign of His temple being resurrected that proves He can still perform the sign in the temple---your body and my body---today. Because if Jesus rose from the dead, then He's still alive. And if He's still alive, He is ever powerful. And He can change. When you feel like, "I can't change anymore! I need real change!" He can do it. Let's pray for that.
Heavenly Father, we discover that change in all of these stories so far. In Cana of Galilee, the disciples believed in Him. In the temple of Jerusalem, they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus spoke. There were changes that occurred in their lives at every twist of an encounter with Christ. So Father we pray today that there might be a change. I pray there would be a change for those who have never met You personally. They've come out of curiosity or to indulge a friend or a relative this morning. Maybe they've come because they sense a burden that's going on in their heart; they want some relief from that. They're looking for answers; all legitimate, all genuine needs. Or it could be, Lord, that some who have made a commitment to follow You found that their lives, their temples, have been crowded with unnecessary and even ungodly things. And they want to be set free. I pray, Lord, that You would do that today, that You would change today, that You would increase our faith today, and we would grow more and more into Your image. In Jesus' name, amen.