Ultimate Authority

Ultimate Authority

You were bought with a price, and if you’re going to follow Jesus, He’s got authority over your life.

Well, that’ll get you motivated, won’t it? That’s some good worship from the hymns to the praise songs to Mitzi to the choir. I tell you what – if that doesn’t get you looking forward to heaven, I don’t know what will. Y’all know when we get to heaven, there’s going to be a lot of singing and shouting and praising in the throne room. So, I just I love it, absolutely 100%, and I love the talent that we have here to lead us and prepare our hearts for worship.

This morning, we’re going to jump right in. We’re in John, chapter 2, and I believe we’ll finish chapter 2. We took about six weeks to go through chapter 1. It took us two weeks to get through chapter 2 so that’s pretty good, I think.

But we will look at the conclusion of this event that’s taking place in chapter 2, and just to give you a little bit of a reminder, last week we saw Jesus transform water into wine. There was a problem at a wedding festival that He was at. Mary comes up to Jesus, and Jesus does a miracle that the disciples and the servants at the wedding saw. We see that God is transforming things. Jesus is transforming things. He’s changing things. He’s making things new, lasting, and abundant. But it’s not really a public miracle.

Today, when we pick up the story, Jesus gets about as public as you’re going to get. And He’s going to let everybody know Who He is, what kind of authority He has.  And He’s going to ruffle some feathers. Anybody ever ruffled any feathers? I might ruffle some feathers, too. I don’t know, but honestly, as I studied this passage and thought about it this week, it ruffled some of my feathers. It is a very convicting passage when we look at it and reflect on what it is teaching. And because Jesus has got to come in, He’s got to clean house.

Now I love Andy Griffth the show, but I also love Everybody Loves Raymond. Anybody seen that show? I like all the old shows. I don’t know what’s on TV today. I just watch TV Land and all those fantastic shows. Everybody Loves Raymond has an interesting plotline. Some would say that for a time when I became your pastor, this was my life because I lived across the street from my parents for a while, and I am the favorite child of me and my brother. They’ll deny it, but anyway, that’s not the point. That’s not the point. The point is, the mother-in-law Marie on Everybody Loves Raymond likes to come over to the house of Raymond and his wife Deborah,  and she likes to point out how unclean it is. And she likes to straighten up and organize, and Debra gets really mad because it’s her house. And Marie’s like, well, if you did a better job, I wouldn’t have to come over here. And she’s like, who are you to come over here to clean my house? That’s what we’re going to see today to some level. Jesus is not compared to Marie. Let’s just be clear, because Jesus actually has the God-given authority to show up and clean the house. But those who think they’re in charge of the house, they’re going to want to know who gave Jesus this authority, and so that’s where we pick up our story today.

Read with me in John, chapter 2. Verse 12 is a transitional verse. “After the wedding in Canaan, they went back to Capernaum.” Capernaum is going to be the headquarters of Jesus’ ministry for three years. He’ll go back there and rest a little bit in between things He does and spend some time in Capernaum. We’re not sure how long and then they travel up to Jerusalem.

This is where we pick up at in verse 13.

John 2: 13-25 – 13 The Jewish Passover was near, and so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple He found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and He also found the money changers sitting there. 15 After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. 16 He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

17 And His disciples remembered that it is written: Zeal for Your house will consume Me (from Psalm 69).

18 So the Jews replied to Him, “What sign will you show us for doing these things?”

19 Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days.”

20 Therefore the Jews said, “This temple took forty-six years to build, and will You raise it up in three days?”

21 But He was speaking about the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the statement Jesus had made.

23 While He was in Jerusalem during the Passover Festival, many believed in His name when they saw the signs He was doing. 24 Jesus, however, would not entrust Himself to them, since He knew them all 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify about man; for He Himself knew what was in man.

That’s a powerful passage. Jesus shows up to clean house, and we got to unpack this passage this morning, but there’s really just one insight to take away from the passage, and it’s this: that Jesus reveals His authority over the temple.

That’s the main idea in the whole section. Jesus reveals His authority over the temple. It is the time of Passover. It’s interesting how this works out cause Passover is coming up for us in the middle of April or so. We’re getting close to that time where it is celebrated, and so we’re talking about Passover. One interesting thing that might catch your attention. It says they had to go up to Jerusalem. Now if you’re looking at a map, they’re in Capernaum, which is in the North, and Jerusalem is down here in the South.

So, we might think, I got to go down from Capernaum to Jerusalem, but they look at things differently. Jerusalem is up on a hill.  From Capernaum to Jerusalem, they literally had to walk up to get there, so they’re going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.

We spent some time in chapter 1 talking about the Passover, but just a reminder, it is a celebration where the Jews come together to remember that night in Egypt where their ancestors were passed over by the Angel of Death if their door frames were marked by blood from a sacrificial lamb. So that was such a powerful moment in Jewish history because the conclusion of that was that Pharaoh said get out. Pharaoh said, I’m setting you free. This one event that they’re celebrating is really their freedom from bondage, their freedom from slavery, and it’ll become a festival throughout the centuries. It had become a pilgrimage where families were expected to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate this festival. They were to participate in the sacrifices. They were to partake in that symbolic meal, recreating that Passover meal that you can read about in Exodus 12.

It was also a time of reflection. It was supposed to be a time of worship, a time of instruction, a time of prayer, a time of remembrance as they celebrated their history and what God had done for them.

Now one thing to keep in mind is, so you understand, the pilgrims coming from all over the region, all over the area, would have to have a sacrifice. Now some people would bring their own sacrifice. The problem with that was if they brought their own, it would have to pass inspection, so they would have to pay for their animal to be inspected. If it had any blemish, it wouldn’t pass inspection. Remember, these sacrifices have to be pure and undefiled. And if the inspectors found one itty bitty thing, not only did they pay for the inspection, they would have to go pay for another animal, so a lot of people didn’t bring their own animals. It was a long journey for some of them, and they didn’t have to waste their money on the inspection.

So people set up booths to sell sacrificial animals that had already been approved by the inspectors. There’s really nothing wrong with that. On the surface level, they’re providing a service. The money changers that we read about were there to make sure that the coinage was correct. All the Jewish males were required by law to give a donation or a tax to the temple, but it had to be a tax in a certain coinage. It had to be pure silver, undefiled silver or undefiled materials, and a lot of these people traveling had foreign coinage. They didn’t have a pure coin to donate, so the moneychangers would exchange it out, providing a service for the pilgrims.

Was there corruption?  I am sure there was. Was it possible that some of these inspectors would say sorry, that animal is not unblemished, and make them go spend money somewhere else and then use that animal to sell? So, it’s possible that there was corruption. Were the moneychangers taking a huge percentage of profit? I’m sure they were.

But when you look at this text here, this is the first temple cleansing. This happens early in Jesus’s ministry. What you read in the other Gospels is a second cleansing that happens the last week of Jesus’s ministry. Here, Jesus’s focus isn’t on the corruption of what’s going on. He is upset that they’ve turned this into a market place.

Now historically, when I was reading about it, these vendors would set up outside the temple. They would do their business up around the Mount of Olives. And other than the corruption, that was probably OK, because they were away from the temple. But the high priest had this idea that it would be easier and more convenient, it would benefit the needs of the people, if they moved the vendors into the Court of the Gentiles.

Now interestingly, there seems to be evidence that the Sanhedrin and the high priest argued about this, and Caiaphas, the high priest, it’s interesting to note that the vendors had to pay the high priest to use the land. So, there is some corruption, right? But listen to what they’ve done. The Court of the Gentiles was a very important place in the temple. It was the only place where non-Jewish people could come and worship. It was the only place where someone who was not a part of that faith could experience God, could pray to God, could come and learn about God and reflect. It was really designed in my mind as an evangelistic effort, right?

When you read the Old Testament, the Jewish people are supposed to set the example. They’re supposed to be a light to the nations. They’re supposed to tell people about the one true God, and yet the only area where those non-Jewish people can come and worship is no longer a place of worship.

You see, Jesus shows up expecting to worship, to pray, to reflect, to celebrate. He shows up wanting to learn and to have this time, and when He gets there, He’s walking through. He doesn’t hear people crying out to God. He hears people crying out to sell a cow, right?

It reminds me of when you go to a festival, and you’re walking through the festival, and all these people are shouting hey, come win this prize! This game is not rigged at all. I guess you’re waiting. You can win a teddy bear. Everywhere you walk. We took a few days to go down to the beach. We were down at Broadway. We’re just walking down there, and people were like hey, come buy this product! Try on these sunglasses. Look at this little fake dog that barks and runs around and the batteries will die before you get home.

They’re selling a product in the temple. They’re shouting about hey, the best doves in Jerusalem! Get them here. Get them here – the best sheep around – straight from the Bethlehem shepherds right here!

That’s not worshipful. And so, instead of crying out to God, there’re cries of merchants. And it’s distracting. And so Jesus, He gets angry. Now I don’t know, but I can imagine these early disciples sitting there or standing there, and Jesus grabs these cords and just starts quietly twisting. And Peter is probably there, and like, uh oh, trying to back up. I messed up a lot, but I didn’t mess up this time now.

And now Jesus isn’t going to be running around flipping people. He’s not this violent guy. If you’re going to move an ox, you’re going to need a whip. Have you ever tried to push a cow? If they’re not asleep, they’re not budging.  And if they’re asleep, you’re just going to tip them over OK. The whip isn’t going to be used to clear out these animals, but just help with the process, but He makes the whip, and He cleans house. He’s like, don’t turn My Father’s house into a marketplace. This is a place of worship. It’s a place of prayer. It’s a place of celebration. It’s the only place that the people you’re supposed to be telling about God can come.

And so you might be thinking, well what happens next is those Jewish elites, those people might come out of their high, holy places. And they come out and they ask Jesus for a sign.

Now, what they understood was that only the Messiah had the authority to do what Jesus just did. Only the Messiah could do this, and so these high holy rollers step out of their places of comfort and they’re like, show us a sign. And if I was Jesus, I’d be like did you just see it? I cleaned the house. But Jesus understands they really don’t care. They think they’re know-it-alls. They’re religious people. They’re the religious elites. They’re in charge of the temple. And so, Jesus gives this really veiled, odd answer.

He says, tear the temple down; I’ll rebuild it in three days. Don’t be hard on them for not understanding what He meant cause in their minds they took it literally. It took 46 years to put these stones together. How can you build it in three days? Even the disciples didn’t really understand it in the moment, because you read the commentary that John says after the resurrection, we understood what He was talking about.

John shows us that side of Jesus – these veiled answers and veiled questions. We’ve already seen one. Remember Andrew and the other disciple? They’re following Jesus, and He asks them what they are searching for. It’s a very simple question, but a very spiritual question. And so, John is just giving us that picture of Jesus and He says, tear it down; I’ll build it up in 3 days, and He’s talking about the resurrection.

And the disciples realized that after the resurrection. They realize that what they have seen infers of Psalm 69, which is talking about a coming of a Messiah. But what Jesus I think is really saying is that today, everybody here, you’ve seen Me show My authority over this temple. But on that day when My body walks out of that tomb, I will reveal My authority over sin and over death, and I will be victorious.

Today, you are sacrificing lambs and doves and oxen, but on that day, you will know that I am the once and for all sacrificial lamb, the Lamb of God Who came to take away the sins of the world. On that day, I will have finished My work, the work that My Father sent Me to do, and everyone who believes in Me will have eternal life.

It could be easy for us to sit here today and say atta boy, Jesus. Atta boy! Go get them! You ever seen somebody jump into a situation and just fix it and you’re like, well, I wasn’t going to do that, but I’m glad they did that? Atta boy! It would be easy for us to sit here and think that Jesus’s anger is only confined to the Jews in the temple or to those heathens or sinners down the road or next door. I think it’d be easy for us to sit here and take great joy in Jesus whipping all those bad people, but that would miss the point of this passage. It would miss the point that John is trying to communicate to his readers decades later.

The point is that Jesus does in fact have authority over the temple. He has authority over you, and He has authority over me. Yeah, the passage ends in a weird ending in these last two verses, but honestly what we see in those last two verses is Jesus knows the heart of man, that Jesus knows what’s on the inside of our hearts. He knows our sins. He knows our failures. He knows our successes. He knows what’s on the inside, not just of the Jewish people, but all men and women. He knows what’s on the inside, so we have to sit here. All week, I just reflected on this passage. We have to sit and look at these verses and reflect on how it applies to us. And there’s two points of application I want to give you. The first is this.

1 – That temple is no longer there, and Jesus gives us a new temple.

The way we see that is the church is the new temple. The apostle Paul says in first Corinthians 3 – “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you?

Paul writes in Ephesians 2:21 – “The church is growing into a holy temple in the Lord.” The church has now replaced that temple, but I want you to understand what the church is. It’s not this building. It’s not the church down the street. It’s not their building. If these buildings would collapse and fall and crumble, the church would still remain strong and stand strong and stand here because the church is the people that make it up.

But that word “ecclesia” in the New Testament is a word that talks about a gathering of people, not a gathering place. I’ve often defined the church as this way. It’s a gathering of people called out of this world by God’s grace through faith and sent into the world to gather others. That’s the church.

And so church, I think we stand here, we look at this passage, and we have to open our eyes. We have to have a real open evaluation of what we do. We have to ask ourselves if Jesus walked through the doors, where is He going to clean house? What would He see? If Jesus walked through the doors of our church, would He see complaining, grumbling, backbiting, gossiping? I think those are things He’s going to make a whip and clean out.

Would He be outraged over battles between choirs and praise teams, over contemporary and traditional music?  I think He would make a chord and kick out that attitude of disagreement. Would He be outraged over struggles to build or not to build? Would He be outraged if He saw complacency or people sitting around doing nothing but keeping the status quo? Would He be outraged if He’s to see not authentic worship, not worship in spirit and truth, but people watching the clock as they sit through a service? Would He question the words spoken from this pulpit? See if I’m going to point my fingers at you, I need to know there’s three pointing right back at me in this passage. Would He be outraged? Or would He see a faithful pastor, a faithful servant, a faithful shepherd? What would He see?

Would He see Sunday school teachers who are faithfully teaching the Word week in and week out, not just Sunday morning specials in their preparation? Would He see Sunday school classes that are creating an environment for worship, prayer, reflection, growth, and fellowship? Would He see ministries that are focused on service and worship and growing, or would He see ministries that are focused on fun and socializing in that country club environment? Would He examine our youth and children ministries and what would He say? What would He clean out? Where does Jesus need to clean house if He would show up here today?

And there’s some tough things that we have to reflect on. We have to pray about. We have to answer those hard questions. But another point of application is this:

2 – Your individual body is a temple.

If the church is made up of people, then the peoples would be a temple. Paul goes on to say in first Corinthians 6 – “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God with your body.”

If Jesus walked into your home, your place of business, where does He need to clean house in your life? Do you understand that? He bought you with a price. If you believe in Jesus, if you follow Jesus, He bought you with a price. And it was His blood. He gave His life so you could have a life. Greater love has no one than this – than to lay down his life for his friends. By the way, Jesus laid down His life for His enemies. You were bought with a price, and if you’re going to follow Jesus, He’s got authority over your life. He can tell you what’s right and what’s wrong. He has that authority. He can tell you what direction to go in, what direction not to go. He’s got that authority. Do you accept it? The religious leaders didn’t. Do you accept it?

Do you accept that His ways are the best ways, and He’s got the authority to tell you what to do? And in our culture and in our day, we don’t like to be told what to do. But Jesus has that authority, and I know it’s hard.

Listen, Jesus might be calling you to the mission field, and you’re like, I’m not going to sell my house. I’m not going to sell my possessions. I’m not going to do it. And Jesus says, well, I’m telling you to. You better. Jesus says you need to stop doing what you’re doing on the weekends. I don’t want to, that’s fun. Well, you better, cause I know what’s best.

Have you surrendered your life to Jesus? Some of you might be sitting here like, well, I’ve given Him authority over 75%. I’ve given him authority over 95%, but that 5%, that’s mine. Oh no. Jesus has authority over the whole temple, the whole church, and the whole individual.

Where do you need to surrender your life? It may hurt. It may be challenging. It may be something that you don’t want to do, but where do you need to surrender? Where do you need to surrender? As we as we sing this last song, that’s what I want you to reflect and pray about.

In fact, here’s what I want us to do. This is something that I feel led to do this morning. I’m just going to have these guys play some soft music. We’re not going to sing; they’re just going to play. I want you to bow your heads. I want you to close your eyes, and I want you to do business with God. First and foremost, how can God change your life? What areas of your life have you been holding back? What areas of your life are you not allowing Jesus to have ultimate authority?

Secondly, we pray for our church. Pray for how we can do the things that God is calling us to do. Pray for attitudes to change – here and the church everywhere. Everywhere – the universal church.

So, I want you just for a few minutes, and I’ll close us in prayer, I just want you to sit there, reflect, pray. You do business with God this morning. Bow your heads, close your eyes, and let’s just silently pray together.

Father, we are certainly grateful for Your Word, but this is a challenging passage as many passages are. It is a passage that demands that we sit down, pause, and reflect and we ask some hard questions about our lives, about our churches, about our communities. We have to ask these hard questions, and Father, I just pray that you would reveal to us answers. Where do we need to clean house? We ask You to reveal those areas to us and then give us the strength and the courage and the boldness to do what we got to do so that we can be a lighthouse to the world for Jesus.

So that we can focus on Who You are, what You’ve done, what You’ve called us to do. Father, help us to have these verses on our hearts and our minds throughout this whole week. Help us to soak them in and meditate on them. Father, ultimately, we pray that You Who have the power to transform, would transform our hearts and our lives, that You would shape us and mold us into the people You have called us and created us to be. We ask these things in Jesus’s name, Amen.