Clean Vessels

January 3, 2016   John 2:12 -25     Clean Vessels    


   Did anyone do a New Year resolution to draw closer to Jesus that they would be willing to share?   As we start a new year it is good for us to think about drawing closer to Jesus.  It is good to make a commitment to increase our bible reading, prayer, for some to think and pray about church membership, to increase or start giving consistently or to share the gospel.   The Christian should be drawing near to Jesus and make Jesus the Lord of your life.    Are we close in God’s family and on the inside looking out or war you on the outside looking in?  

    This story comes from Ann Graham Lotz who is the daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham.  It is from her book Longing for More of Jesus.  She writes about Sara Crew from a book named A Little Princess.  In the story Sara is condemned to be a scullery maid for an exclusive girl’s boarding school in London.  Sara is described running her daily errands for the cook through the snow covered roads of the city on Christmas day.   She is dressed in rags that did little to block the biting wind and her shoes had holes in them which allowed the slush of the street to numb her feet.   She was freezing cold, bone weary and emotionally spent as she made her way back to the boarding school.

      As she passed a home with light flooding from a window she paused to look in.  Her hungry gaze fell upon a family who was in the process of opening their gifts.  The children were sitting by a warm fire talking and laughing as they opened their presents in front of the beautifully decorated Christmas tree.   The room indeed the house was filled with warmth, love, security and joy.  As Sara turns to continue her journey big tears fall from her face.  Sara was on the outside looking in.  She was excluded from that.  She could not go in and be part of the joy and blessing that the others experienced.  It is tough to be on the outside.  I could believe that all of us at one point or another have experienced that feeling and it is not a good feeling but it is good for us to know what it feels like.  There is going to be a time or a great party some day that no one will want to miss out on and that party is heaven but many refuse to come in.  Some don’t know about the truth of the gospel and some are stuck in sin and in their own whatever it is.  Heaven will be the party that will beat all other parties.

      As we consider this passage of scripture before us today it is about time for the Passover and Jesus enters Jerusalem and goes into the temple.  In the temple courts he finds men selling sheep cattle and doves and other men are exchanging money.  The purpose of these merchants and money-changers was two-fold.   For one thing, many of the people did not bring animals with them for sacrifice, so they purchased animals there in Jerusalem.  The ammonals had to be approved by the priests and traveling with them they could be cut or hurt.   Second, all Jewish males and proselytes were required to pay a half-shekel temple tax in the coinage of the temple a worship tax you could say.    Furthermore, foreign monies bearing the image of a pagan deity or ruler were unacceptable; therefore, the money changers would exchange their coinage for a fee.    In days gone by, these activities took place outside of the temple, but now the merchants, animals, and exchangers have moved inside the temple courts.    The sacredness of the temple was bartered for profit and convenience.    It has been said that you do not let a camel stick his head in your tent.  If he gets his head in his body will follow.  There are things and people you do not want to get close to you.  Life is better without it. 

      In some ways the cattle and money changers provided a convenience for the Jews.   It certainly provided plenty of business for the temple.  You could say they invented the first drive-through fast service! – fast food religion.   The Jewish leaders must have thought to themselves, “What a great system!”   It made the leader’s temple responsibilities so much easier and more convenient and it made them big money.     We like convenience today.   We like instant potatoes and instant supper – fast food – freezer to microwave etc.   The big appeal in advertising is that this device will save you time.   It has been said if you invent something that will save people a few minutes it can make you a millionaire.   Don’t get me wrong we like things that get done quickly and at times fast food.

      But for many people it is that way with God also.   God I will pray when it is convenient for me.   I will talk to you when I have more time.   That is a problem and spiritually it is not healthy.   For some they think I will go to church when I have more time.   God when I get around to it you are on my list.     God’s place and worshipping God is not strictly for convenience.   We should do it especially when we do not feel like doing it.    I like what Joyce Meyer shared.  She said one day she wanted an hour to pray.   I just want an hour to pray she said.  She was complaining to God that she did not have an hour to pray.  God asked her how much time do you have to pray.   She said I have about 10 minutes.   God said well take 10 minutes to pray and do not waste it complaining.   We only have what we have.  We do not want to waste it.  Make the most of the 10 minutes.  Some of the folks in this church would have a very difficult time to carve 2 hours of free time out of their schedule.  If you have some children in your house you are one busy lady.       

     And as Jesus enters the temple, he becomes angry at what the temple has become.  As Psalms said the zeal for your house consumed me.   Jesus cared about God’s house which is really Jesus house.   Really, God does not dwell in buildings per se but God did dwell in the temple.   In those days if you wanted to experience God or get close to God you went to the temple for that is where God’s presence was.  Sometimes it was more noticeable than other times.  When Solomon dedicated the temple and sacrificed 120,000 sheep the glory of God so filled the temple the priests could not work.  The priests had to leave. 

    So in those days the gentiles that wanted to worship or contact God would come to the temple.  Now there were some serious restrictions at the temple.  There was a sign saying if you are a gentile do not pass this point.  If you passed that point and the Jews knew you were a gentile they would kill you.  So just imagine you want to get close to God and you are a gentile.  So you talk to a Jew one day about God.  The person tells you that they the Jews know God.  They know the God who created everything.  So you ask them how do I get close to God.   They begin to tell you about the temple. 

    So you decide to go to the temple and ask people about the temple.   Well Jewish men can go into the outer court but you can’t go in there.  You can never go there.  But I want to draw near to God.  I want to be in His presence.   I want to know God and experience God.  Well you can become a Jewish proselyte but you can’t go in.  Well what happens past the court where the Jewish men can go?   The priests work in there.   Well I wish I was a priest so I could get closer to God.  Behind all that is the most holy place.   That is where God’s mercy seat is.  I wish I was a priest because I would like to live around God’s mercy.  I would spend a lot of time in there.  Well only one Priest can go in that place and only once a year.  Really?   I wish I could spend my time basking in God’s presence and His mercy.  I want to go into the most holy place.  That would be so awesome to go into the most holy place and sprinkle blood as offering for the sins of God’s people.  Quit dreaming you will never be able to do that and so the gentile is allowed to only be in the outer court yard.    But at least he could go that far.  And it was supposed to be a place where the gentile could pray and think about God. 

    God allowed the gentiles to get that close to him.  And at that point they could pray and seek for God and now that area was turned into a mess.      Why did Jesus get torque up about the moneychangers and animals?   It was taking place in the court of the gentiles.   In other words this was where the gentiles worshipped.    They worshipped in a barn yard.   The noise and the smell would not help you to worship.    I expect the gentiles had to walk around the animal piles of waste.    There was money being exchanged and there was the greed of the leaders.   It was disgusting and sickening.   The statement made here is that we do not care about you gentiles.    Ouch.   How far from God’s heart they were and how it broke our savior’s heart.  

     Jesus took this desecration personally.    HE WAS OFFENDED.   Jesus drove them out of the temple.  Get out of here you don’t belong here.    This account of Jesus’ aggressive behavior may not set too well with our views of Jesus as a teacher, healer, comforter, and gentle shepherd but it is a statement that Jesus hated sin.    Yet, when we look into His message for us, we see clearly that Jesus is far more confrontational that we often imagine.   His work in our world proves to us that He constantly disrupts things in religious establishments as well as on the personal level of individual.

    .   Jesus does something and gets involved here.  Jesus did not just turn his head and walk on by.  It is a good thing that God gets involved in this ole world.   He gets involved as you pray and as you walk with him.    As a matter of fact, this incident brings to the disciples’ minds a quote from Ps. 69.9: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Jesus is consumed with zeal for his Father’s house and it is displayed by his actions.  Jesus is passionate about people and passionate about worship.  That means that Jesus is zealous of you and He has a great zeal for you.   He cares about you.      Jesus gets involved.   Jesus shows emotion here

    In those days the temple was the dwelling place of God.   Well since Christ came as a sacrifice for sin, he has made it possible for God to live in our hearts.  Now we are invited into God’s presence.  Christians are invited into the throne of God.   That is why 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us that we are the temple, the Holy Spirit dwells in our bodies in our hearts.  We are the dwelling place of God.   Jesus lives in me and I belong to Him.    He is Lord and Jesus wants to be Lord in the Christians life.  We need to be aware of stuff that we hang onto that contaminates His temple – the Christians body.  The Christian has received God’s spirit in his or her life.  Our life then belongs to God.  A lot of the stuff in the world pushes us away from God.    

      God takes sin to heart.  We see that throughout the whole bible.   David writes in Psalm 15 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?   Who may live on your holy mountain?  The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.

     God sent Jesus to die for us.   Jesus died to reconcile all things to God.  Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.  Jesus came so we could be in and not excluded.  But God is holy and God loves righteousness.   When Adam and Eve sinned God did not say it was a little messy wessy.     Adam and Eve made a real mess.   God likes clean temples – clean people spiritually and Christians are the temple of the HS.   Jesus gets offended today with sin in our life.  Let’s step by step draw near to Jesus this year.  He loves us and wants us to enjoy him.  He wants to enjoy his presence.  He delights in spending time with you.  He desires to fill your soul with good things. David said my cup runs over.  Let’s start this New Year with a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus loves you right where you are.  He will accept you right where you are.