Sermon for Third Sunday in Lent

Sermon for Third Sunday in Lent

(Transcribed by machine 04/07/2024)

Grace, mercy, and peace from God, our Father, and His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Have you ever heard someone say, you can’t judge me? That’s what the Bible says, right?
You can’t judge me. It’s interesting that this response usually comes after it has been brought
to someone’s attention that he or she is engaging in some kind of activity that is condemned
in the Bible. The truth is that in Matthew 7 in Judge Not, Jesus is
referring to a judgment that leads to a condemnation of a fellow believer by
one who has not first practiced the proper self-examination in relationship
to God’s Word. This is again the log and speck in the eye illustration given by
Jesus.
This person who advocates for this non-judgmental view bases it on the premise that God is kind.
God is gentle.
God is loving.
God accepts everyone no matter their present state and or activity in this world.
They can do whatever they want because God is love.
As a matter of fact, this person will usually follow up with something like, Jesus also
dined with tax collectors and sinners, and it’s true.
He did dine with those who were considered outside the Jewish cultural standards, but
He was not there to condone them in their sins, but He was there in their presence to
call each of them to repentance and faith in Him.
He pointed out the corruption in their lives and gave them the solution of how to become
right with God.
This is the gospel lesson that is before us this morning in John 2.
In Israel, it was time for the Passover.
It was one of those three festivals where all of the adult males were required to offer
sacrifices to God in the temple in Jerusalem as per the Levitical law.
They were to present the appropriate animal before the priest to be sacrificed and offered
to God as they stood on the grounds before God’s dwelling, the temple, originally built
by King Solomon, rebuilt by Nehemiah after the exile, and now rebuilt and expanded by
King Herod. And when it comes to the sacrificing, with the passing of time, the
logistics of herding all of these animals from distance far away
created a commerce in Jerusalem. The participants could just purchase their
animals in the city that were raised locally. This was convenient for some and
profitable for others.
There were also private banks called money exchangers to exchange the foreign currency
for the Jewish coin, the shekel, to pay for the required temple tax.
These businesses, they developed and they migrated to the temple mount where the people
would pass by to go through the gates into the outer courtyard of the temple and from
there to the appropriate areas in the complex dependent upon their purpose.
These businesses, they were always jockeying for the best place with the
greatest exposure to generate the most revenue for themselves. Eventually, this
Migration would take these activities within the temple,
out of walls.
The area established and set apart for worship and prayer
before God’s presence,
where he promised to be among his people
was turned into a marketplace.
Cattle and sheep pens were erected and full of animals.
Coops of pigeons were stacked as high as one could reach.
Rows of tables were set up by the money changers to make exchange for a great profit as they
worked together in a monopoly.
The complex was filled with people, animals, makeshift structures that were creating filth
and noise for the convenience of some and for the profit of others, totally oblivious
to the place that they were occupying.
With the passing of time, they became numb to the presence of God in their lives, and
this corrupted activity became their new norm.
All of this, all of this with the knowledge and the permission of the religious leaders
of Israel who oversaw the temple complex and the sacrificial system.
For you know, to lease these premier spaces designated for this purpose within
the courtyard in the shadows of the temple, they were not cheap. One day, in
the midst of all of this organized chaos, we see Jesus and his disciples. They had
just traveled from Capernaum on the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee just a
A few days earlier, Jesus had performed his first miracle at a wedding banquet that he
had attended.
In the presence of his disciples and a few of the servants, Jesus turned approximately
150 gallons of water into the best wine that the host has ever tasted.
Now standing in the outer courtyard of the temple complex, scanning the area that was
set apart for a sacred space to commune with God, Jesus sees secular activities
focused only on self-gain. Jesus made a judgment. He judged the situation, He
judged the attitudes, He judged the activities, and He would confront. Jesus
his 30 years of age, he began his public ministry as one who teaches the things of God.
So in the world of religious leaders, he was the new kid on the block.
Now he is standing on the biggest stage in all of Israel, in the courtyard of his father’s
house.
He was moved to confront the situation.
Making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple with the sheep and oxen,
and he poured out all the coins of the money changers, overturned their tables, and he
told those who sold the pigeons, take these things away.
Do not make my father’s house a house of trade.”
Jesus’ confrontation with the encroachment into this holy space truly made an impression
on his disciples. For they recalled Psalm 69 verse 9, zeal for your house will
consume me. When you, you come into this place to be before God in his Word, you
know that you will be confronted by the law of God’s Word. It will expose. You
know the filth in the courtyard of your own life. Your flesh will say no and deny
the existence of this filth of sin while seeking to retreat back into the darkness,
but your spirit will boldly say, yes, it is true. I, a poor, miserable sinner.
You might be thinking about this confrontation in the temple courtyard.
Did Jesus lose his cool?
Is this really our loving Savior who’s willingly took our sins to the cross?
What happened to the command to love your neighbor as yourself?
Yes, they’re all true.
However, it is important to note that this is not a different Jesus, nor is He acting
out of character.
The truth is that this is our patient, merciful, loving Jesus acting out of love and compassion
for His people.
Was Jesus upset?
I’m sure of it.
Was He angry?
Probably, but he is involved in this cleansing without sin in thought, word, or deed.
It was a righteous anger and it moved Jesus enough to confront the whole group and disrupt
those before him from their sinful lives.
He knew that their sins are not good for them and that the wages of sin is death.
Is this not true for you and me?
Jesus comes in and confronts and disrupts the sinful things in your life and He loves you
enough to hold you accountable for your sins.
The law of God’s Word exposes sin.
It shines the true light of the Word and the Spirit that casts away darkness, reveals the
truth of our sin, our filth before God.
What Jesus did in the temple courtyard on that day rocked the world of all the
parties involved. He made a major statement on this big stage, drawing
attention of everyone including the religious leaders. Immediately they asked,
what sign do you show us for doing these things? In other words, they were asking
him to perform a miracle to show that he has the authority from God to rid the courtyard
of this corruption.
They were so blind.
It was Jesus.
It was his word, and it was a makeshift whip, which was a symbol of authority, and no one
stopped him.
No one stopped him.
The vendors didn’t, they outnumbered Him.
The customers didn’t, they outnumbered Him.
The religious leaders with their temple guards didn’t.
And the Roman guards assigned to that place to keep peace didn’t.
It was a miracle.
Jesus had confronted them with the law, but now He was going to confront them with the
gospel.
Temple, destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Jesus was introducing to them the means by which God would provide salvation to the world.
This was the first reference in the gospel of Jesus’ future death and resurrection.
The religious leaders heard the word temple and they immediately thought of this massive
of structure that surrounded them, and it had been under construction for 46 years up
to that point, and it would continue for another 24 years to be completed in 64 AD, only six
years before Rome would totally destroy it in 70 AD.
The Apostle John, inspired by God, lays it out so beautifully for us in John 1.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
And a few verses later, he writes, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
A better translation for dwelt is tabernacled.
We know that God dwelt in the tabernacle in the wilderness and now in the temple in Jerusalem,
but Jesus was telling the religious leaders that they are standing in the very presence
of God, tabernacled in the person, in the flesh, right before their very eyes.
Destroy this temple where God dwells in the coming weeks, months, and beyond.
Jesus will continue to confront all those who had ears to hear the firmness
of the law and the sweetness of the gospel. Last Wednesday night at Jesus
Deaf Lutheran Church, I was with eight junior high students from the Texas
School for the Deaf. The Bible story was Jesus raising the widow’s son from the
dead.
At the place in the PowerPoint where Jesus commands the young man to get up, in the English
text on the screen, there was not much response.
But then the next slide, there was a picture of Jesus looking at the young man sitting
up, still shrouded in the burial cloth, looking at Jesus.
three of the students eyes got big and they signed to me, truly, in other words,
is this real? I signed yes, it’s true. I said Jesus can do this because he is
God and he loves you so much and I took them to the cross where he defeated all
of their enemies and won the gifts of forgiveness of sin, salvation, eternal life for them.
What a blessed night as they were confronted with the gospel, the good news about Jesus.
This is true for you.
In the waters of holy baptism, Jesus confronts the evil plans of the devil and through the
power of the word and the work of the Holy Spirit, the filth of your sin has been washed
away. God has claimed you as his own, a redeemed child of God covered with
Jesus’s robe of righteousness. You are now the temple of God where the Holy
Spirit dwells. As the giver and the gift, Jesus comes to you at the communion rail
to give you his body and his blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the
strengthening of your faith. Jesus stood before the religious leaders speaking
the truth. Why? Because he loved them. He loved them and he desired for them to
come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved. In a couple of years he will
ride into this same city on the back of a donkey with people lining both sides
of the road down the Mount of Olives through the kindred valley saying, blessed is the
king who comes in the name of the Lord, peace in heaven and glory in the highest.
In all this time, Jesus knew that he would not wear a crown of gold but one made of thorns.
He knew that he would not sit upon a throne of gold in Jerusalem but to hang on one made
of wood in the shape of a cross outside of its walls.” Why? He knew that this was
the only way that he could save you. The only way. He knew. Destroy this temple and
in three days I will raise it up. And because our Lord and Savior lives, we too
shall live with him forever. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our Lord
Jesus confronts us in his word as the Holy Spirit works in our lives, not
because he wants to make our lives miserable or because he hates us. No, it’s
because he loves us and he promises never, never, never to forsake us. Thanks
speak to God. Amen. The peace of God which passes all understanding keep our
hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.