Narrative Lectionary Text: John 2:13-25
The first few seconds of this audio are hard to hear because I was in the Narthex throwing tables around and screaming. That’s why I ask the congregation to check their bodies. I scared a few people. 🙂
This audio also includes the children’s sermon at the beginning.
[yelling and throwing over tables in the Narthex. Hopefully people are shocked]
Check your body right now. How do you feel?
What I just did is what Jesus did in the temple. Imagine how the people, and the temple leaders must have felt.
Jesus got mad. I wonder. What makes you mad?
Have you ever felt like this guy? [picture of baby]
Does anybody here ever get mad? Raise your hand if your a parent. I know you get mad. Now raise your hand if you are a child, or remember what it was like to be a child living under someone else’s authority. I know you get mad.
Parents, have you ever had one of those moments where you’ve had a “conversation” with your child and you just want to scream! I know I have. I’m not a yeller, but there have been times when I’ve been so mad that I did yell. Ask my kids, that’s not a pleasant moment.
What makes us mad?
Today we see a surprising story in John 2:13-25 where Jesus gets really mad, to the point where he starts flipping tables and driving people out of the temple with a whip.
Before we dive into this story, let’s step back a moment and look at the bigger picture.
Remember last week when I told you that the Gospel of John is unique in that he has Jesus moving back and forth between Galilee and Jerusalem throughout the entire story. We have to take these stories in pairs and contrast them.
Last week we saw Jesus at the country wedding in Cana where we saw the first sign of the Kingdom of God. A glimpse of what God is all about in the world. There we saw that God is about abundance. God is about being “full to overflowing.”
Today Jesus walks into Jerusalem during the Passover feast. He walks into the temple and gets really mad.
This story has two halves and a halftime question in the middle.
The first half shows Jesus getting mad. The important piece is not just that Jesus gets mad, but what’s important is why he gets mad.
The halftime section happens when the temple leaders ask the obvious question to Jesus. They ask, “By what authority do you do this? Who do you think you are?” Fair question.
That question sets us up for the second half and our second lesson. This gives us a great opportunity to reconnect to our big theme for the year–God with Us: Are we in Step with God? Jesus talks about the temple and we get to see what the presence of God is really all about–God with Us–and how we should be using it.
Let’s look at the first half. Jesus gets mad.
Did this story surprise you a little bit? We don’t often imagine Jesus as the lash-out-in-anger type of a guy, do we? We don’t like to think of God being angry, do we?
I think that if you polled the general population about why they don’t go to church it’s because many people have been beat up by the message that God is an angry God who wants to smite everyone for their sins.
We don’t really like that God. We like the God we saw last week at the wedding who gives us the really good wine in abundance. We like the God of grace, and love, and forgiveness.
The church throughout history has tended to swing to one extreme or the other regarding God. The fact is, however, that if you look up anger or wrath in the Bible, it is most often associated with God, and it occurs quite often.
God gets mad, a lot. And that can scare us.
This is one of the reasons that I have been drawn into the Lutheran camp.
Lutheran theology understands that God is on both sides of this equation. God works through Law and Gospel.
That’s because God is the loving parent who wants the best for his children. A good parent sets up boundaries to protect the children. When the children disobey and do the things that the parent knows will harm them, the parent becomes angry.
Anger is, what psychologists call, a secondary emotion.
It is like physical pain. Pain is a good thing because it alerts us to the fact that there is an injury or that something is not right in our body.
Anger is like that. When we become angry it is a sign that something has been violated. It’s like a proximity sensor. “Intruder alert, intruder alert!”
Getting angry isn’t bad. It’s what you do with anger that makes it wrong. Paul said in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry, and do not sin.”
One thing that gets most of us angry is when we are violated.
Most of the time, when we get mad, it is because people have violated my sense of what defines me in my pride and ego. Maybe you tease me, or publicly ridicule me, or attack my reputation. Sirens blare, “intruder, intruder” and my anger is a signal that my pride and ego has been hurt. You should be angry when someone violates you, because you are a child of God.
Most parents have these sensors for their children. Just mess with a child and you will see momma bear show up.
But what about the people that Jesus taught us to love? Do our sensors go off when the poor and helpless in society are used and abused by those with money and power. God’s sensors go off. We should get angry.
Why did Jesus get angry in this story? He came into the temple and saw that it had been turned into a marketplace.
We need to talk about the temple for just a minute. The temple was designed to be that place that represents the presence of God. God knows that we, as limited, finite human beings, need something solid to hold onto in order to grasp the infinite God. The temple was that place for the Jews. It was holy ground where people were supposed to come to set their eyes on God and put their priorities in order. To realize that they were blessed to be a blessing for the nations.
Instead, the temple leaders saw the Passover feast as a way to extort the poor and those who had traveled great distances. These people couldn’t bring their own animals to the temple for sacrifice, so the temple leaders charged exorbitant amounts of money and cheated the currency exchange in order to line the temple coffers.
This violated God’s sensors, and Jesus got mad and did something about it.
It is OK to get mad sometimes, if we’re getting mad about the right things.
Then we come to the half time question.
The temple leaders ask the obvious question to Jesus, “By what authority do you do this? Who do you think you are?”
Jesus’ answer sheds light on the second half of this lesson and something that we need to hear.
Jesus said that if they destroy this temple he would raise it up in three days. John tells us that Jesus was referring to his own body.
Do you see what happened right there? Jesus said, “I am the temple. I am the place where God meets creation; where God is with us.”
John started his Gospel by saying that the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. He pitched his tent among us.
King Herod completely missed the point of the Temple.
He spent over 50 years building onto the temple. He built marble porticos all around it. He built a huge fortress to house the soldiers. Herod’s temple was a wonder to behold. But then, in AD 70, the Romans completely destroyed it, and it has never been rebuilt.
I have a confession to make.
When I visit other churches, I get building envy. Last Saturday a few of us attended a Youth Leader Conference at a church nearby and they have a beautiful building. The carpet is clean and new. The worship center has all the high-tech gadgets. The sound system was flawless and crystal clear. They had a room for high school and a room for junior high.
Then I come back to our building. Ugh. Let’s be honest. It’s not something to write home about. Right?
This passage reminds us of an important truth.
The presence of God is not about a building.
It’s not about power, or money, or success.
The presence of God, God with us, is the fact that Jesus emptied himself of all those things and became a servant. He let himself be ridiculed, misunderstood, and crucified, so that we might have life.
And then, he breathed out his spirit onto us, so that God could be with us as we gather around the body of Jesus, and as we go into the world to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
As the church, the body of Christ, we are called to love the world the way God loves the world. We are called to love the things God loves, and to get mad when people hurt and abuse the weak and the poor and the outcast.
We walk in Law and Gospel as we strive to keep in step with the God who dwells with us.