+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 2:17
Theme: Zeal For God’s House
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
God is patient. He is long-suffering even with the unbeliever. God wishes to spare people from the grief of openly sinning against others. He wishes to protect the most vulnerable from the exploits of the most powerful. The commandments serve to define, protect, and nurture the believer’s relationship with God and with other people. But they apply also to those who do not believe, warning believer and unbeliever alike that there are consequences for disregarding God’s will.
The law convicts the heart and threatens punishment. When Christians follow God’s commandments out of fear of punishment, shame, or consequences they are showing that their sinful nature has gotten the upper hand. The Old Adam must be repressed with threats. When, however, we follow His commands out of trust that they are for our well-being and the good of others, there evidence of faith. When God is taken at His word the commandments are already fulfilled; for Christ kept them perfectly. When the command of God is doubted or despised nothing is fulfilled; we have severed ourselves from Christ.
God’s love is fully known only in Christ. Jesus was a regular worshipper in the synagogue and frequent visitor to the temple. He did not invent a self-styled religion. He fulfilled the hope that had been promised to Adam and Eve, ratified by covenant with the patriarchs, and forecasted by the prophets. Today He exercised His moral authority by driving out of the temple courts those who were brazenly fleecing the worshippers at the temple. Not surprisingly, the religious leaders were not impressed. They challenged His authority.
Jesus was not obliged to cater to anyone’s demands or bow to anyone’s requests. The Jews were always seeking a sign from Him. The miracles He did perform they often denied or ignored. Still, some miracles were witnessed by so many people and were so irrefutable that the authorities had to deal with the consequences. In today’s response for a sign Christ said, “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’…He was speaking about the temple of His body.”1 An unmistakable prediction of His resurrection; it also connected Him with the temple. The place to find God was transitioning from a house of stone to a body of flesh- Jesus Himself.
People demanding evidence for Christianity must finally find it here. Jesus the Christ was laid in a tomb, death had taken Him. But death could not hold Him. On the morning after the Sabbath, He rose bodily from the grave and began to show Himself alive to His followers. Christ alone has power over death. Immortality resides in Him. Life emanates from Him. The Scripture says He “has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”2 The gospel is not answerable to human logic.
Human reason has its limits. We can paint God into a box and reflect happily on our achievement, but God’s not really in there. We’ve only deceived our own conscience. Let God be true and every man a liar3, the Bible says. Trying to decide on a case by case basis when to follows God’s wisdom compared to human wisdom is to chase diminishing returns. More importantly, it tears authority and truth away from God and locates them within human jurisdiction. The authority of the forgiveness of sins is not dependent on some human consensus of what is fair. The sins of repentant sinners are forgiven because God, in Christ, declares it to be so. You are forgiven, not because some criteria have been met by you, but because Christ hung from the cross.
Dear friends, Christ’s passion in cleansing the temple should remind us that we easily fall under Satan’s spell of lethargy. Spiritual numbness dampens our interest and appreciation of holy things. The Holy Spirit’s attentiveness to us counters the devil’s work. It is not without reason that we sing, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.”4
Well, aware that spiritual apathy is a perennial danger for Christians Luther constructed his final question for those preparing to take communion in as follows: “But what should you do if you are not aware of this need and have no hunger or thirst for the Sacrament? To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body to see if he still has flesh and blood. Then he should believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7. Second, he should look around to see whether he is still in the world, and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say in John 15-16 and 1 John 2 and 5. Third, he will certainly have the devil also around him, who with his lying and murdering day and night will let him have no peace, with or without…”5
Note how tangible Luther’s advice is. If apathy has quenched your desire for Holy Communion he doesn’t recommend some highbrow spiritual meditation as an antidote. He says to pinch yourself to see if you’re still alive. He tells us to look around at the world and observe the sin and turmoil that is so prevalent. He tells us not to naively think that Satan is napping. All of his advice directs us to Scripture, apart from which we can have no certainty or any desire for God’s grace at all.
Time and wear begin to take their toll on our bodies and minds. In sickness or trauma our decay can accelerate. But the soul does not age. Your spirit is not liable to the effects of time. Rather, it is vulnerable to any and every temptation to doubt God’s word. The mature Christian can regress back to an adolescent and even an infantile faith when estranged from God’s means of grace even for a short period of time. Yet every time your soul receives the promise of forgiveness, the comfort of the Spirit, and the peace of Christ that anchors us even in the raging storms of life, you are refreshed with the vibrancy of the risen Saviour.
Christ was zealous for the Lord’s house. God is zealous for you. He is firm with the skeptical. He is gentle with the weak. He is unyielding with the schemer. He is full of cheer for the sorrowful. He is hope for those who are despairing. He is pure, unbounded, unconditional love for the sinner. He is never remiss, never inattentive. He is the Physician of the body and the anchor of the soul6. Christ cleared the temple with a whip of cords. He then cleared the debt of sin after the whip was put to His own back. God’s house still stands because He is its foundation, its head; its very life. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Third Sunday In Lent
8 March, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 John 2:19-21
2 2 Timothy 1:10
3 See Romans 3:4
4 LHS, p.13
5 Luther’s Small Catechism
6 See Hebrews 6:19