What is the one thing many of you do at least once a year, especially in the spring? I bet most of you did some spring cleaning. Spring is a good time to give your house a good going over and clean everything up and get rid of a lot of junk that you don’t need.
Today I want to tell you about a time when Jesus did some spring cleaning. It was time for the annual Passover celebration, so Jesus traveled to Jerusalem. When He arrived, He went to the temple. He couldn’t believe his eyes. There in the temple area he saw people who were selling cattle, sheep, and doves for the people to use as sacrifices in the temple. There were tables set up for money changers so that people could change their money to pay their temple taxes. It looked more like a carnival than a house of worship.
Jesus did not like what he saw. He was so angry that he made a whip from some rope and he drove the cattle and sheep and those who were selling them from the temple. He went to the tables of the money changers and turned them over, scattering coins all over the temple floor. To the ones who were selling the doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market.” Yes, I would say that Jesus did some spring cleaning in the temple that day!
Jesus had a high regard for pure worship of His Father. He wanted to rid the temple of the abuses that had crept into that worship. The moneychangers and sellers obeyed Jesus for several reasons:
- They were punished by their consciences
- They thought Jesus was a prophet, and the Jews had respect for prophets.
- Jesus had a wide reputation among the people, and many of them thought He was the long-promised Messiah.
- He made people tremble in His presence.
God approves of anger at sin and wants His servants to take appropriate action against it. Jesus revealed the righteous anger God feels when what is good and intended to help people is infiltrated by human greed. Mercy is always available to those who seek it, but we can’t forget that Jesus gets angry when He meets injustice and any restrictions on those seeking God. Jesus acted as He did because of the moneychangers’ dishonesty and their disregard for the purpose of the temple-worship. Jesus would clean out the temple again near the end of His public ministry. Why? There are several possible reasons:
- The moneychangers and sellers forgot Jesus’ rebuke.
- Nothing that was sacred could guard them from their sin.
- Their love of money was stronger than their sin.
Jesus believed that the temple was a place that should be set aside for people to draw closer to God. It was not meant to be a place where a person’s sincere desire to worship God should be exploited for profit. He ended a way of life and thought. The normal practice of sacrificing animals for the sins of the people would not be needed now that He had come. He would be the new house in which God’s glory will break forth.
We are now in the season of Lent. It is the time in the church year when we focus on setting priorities in our spiritual lives, gaining some clarity and perspective on what really matters in our Christian faith. Just as driving while distracted can lead us into trouble, distracted discipleship can lead us into dangerous territory. We can be so busy and preoccupied with the church that what our faith and worship are about can become impossible for people to distinguish.
Today, Jesus is still challenged by the darkness in our lives. When we gather to worship, pray and listen to His Word, our minds are filled with earthly concerns. The light of Christ shines in the darkness and draws our thoughts back to Jesus.
Christ enters our lives, forgives our sins and cleanses us so that we can worship properly. We become a cleansed temple. Through Jesus, we have been given forgiveness and freedom. We don’t receive them because we follow detailed and perfect rituals, but through Christ’s gift to us.
As we think about Jesus cleansing the temple, we should also think about some other cleaning that needs to be done. Lent is a time to look inside ourselves and see if there is anything in us that needs to be changed. Are there some areas of your life where Jesus needs to do some ‘spring cleaning’?
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1444-1445)
- “Spring Cleaning.” Retrieved from www.Sermons4Kids.com
- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Fredrikson, R.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 27: John (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985; pp. 69-74)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Pastor Bob Coy, “Principle Power.” Retrieved from www.activeword.org
- The Rev. Dr. J. Bennett Guess, “Driven from Distraction.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
- Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 3rd Sunday in Lent (B).” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
- Richard Niell Donovan, “Exegesis for John 2:13-22.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
- Rev. Wayne Palmer, “The Light Blazes in Fury.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org