Thursday, October 11, 2007

John 2:23-25

23Now while [Jesus] was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs He was doing and believed in His name. 24But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men. 25He did not need man's testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man.

This passages
sets the context for John 3 and the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Consider the following:

  • This “belief” was an admiration that God clearly had a purpose for Jesus; His character and impressive activity were noted. Miracles cannot be the root of saving faith. The Gospel must be. Nevertheless, miracles do confirm the truth of the Spirit.
    • It was superficial (compare other places in John – 6:25-26, 66; 8:30-31; 10:42; 12, etc.), like the rocky soil from Mark 4 – no root.
  • All men are hypocrites. Even hypocrites assent to the Gospel for the simple reason that they don’t want to outright and finally reject it. Jesus knows the heart – Luke 16:15; John 5:42; Acts 15:8; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 14:25; Hebrews 4:12.
  • Be fearful – Ecclesiastes 12:13; John 15:10,14; Romans 3:18; Revelation 14:7. Jesus will not accept as His disciples those who are not willing to take up a cross and follow Him.
  • Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” 2 Peter 1:10 – “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.”
  • Be humbled entering chapter 3 that Jesus “came to seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).
  • John 3 & 4 are similar to Mark 5. There we saw Jairus and the bleeding woman. Here we see Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. In both encounters, Jesus, upon being asked a question, steers the conversation into deeper spiritual levels that weren’t expected.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

John 2:17-22

17His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me" [Psalm 69:9]. 18Then the Jews demanded of Him, "What miraculous sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do all this?" 19Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." 20The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and You are going to raise it in three days?" 21But the temple He had spoken of was His body. 22After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Jesus’ sign of authority to drive out the merchants. Why didn’t the merchants and moneychangers fight back when Jesus drove them out? Their reaction is one of awe. They can’t believe that one man would dare pull such a stunt against so many. And the question posed to Jesus (by all the Jews) is, “What miraculous sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do all this?” They want Jesus to prove that He has authority to do this, and the only way that could be done is by a miracle. The Jews were willing – so they thought – to accept social and/or political change under the authority of one who is clearly and undoubtedly God’s chosen vessel to institute such change. Thus they were not necessarily wrong to ask for a sign of authority. Of course, we know that even the miraculous would not convince them (Luke 16:31). And that’s why we can say that they were only interested in the physical sign – not the spiritual reality to which the physical sign would point.

Jesus responds to their request with a sort of a parable. It was not a direct response, but an allegorical one. Perhaps, says Calvin, Jesus “reckoned them unworthy of a direct reply,” given His reason for speaking in parables (Matthew 13:13). He gives no explicit promise, yet states, “Destroy this Temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” As is typical of unbelievers (and as we’ll see in the upcoming conversation that Jesus has with Nicodemus), the Jews understood Jesus in a physical sense and were clearly perplexed by His less literal verbiage. They say to Him, “It has taken us 46 years to build this Temple!” Work on the Temple began in 19 or 20 BC and was still conducted, likely until 63 AD – just seven years before its destruction in 70 AD. Of course, from v21, Jesus was speaking of His body as the Temple, which would soon be crucified, buried, and raised. The Jews, as recorded by the other Gospel writers, will remember this statement (misquoted) of Jesus when His trial comes to pass. Jesus came both to purify and to personify His house.

John Calvin says here, “Jesus treats unbelievers as they deserve, and at the same time protects Himself against all contempt. It was not yet made evident, indeed, that they were obstinate, but Christ knew well what was the state of their feelings.” Jesus could have done and did do many other signs and wonders (miracles), but His point to the Jews is that the resurrection is sufficient. Yet not even a miracle like the resurrection is efficient in turning unbelief into faith (Luke 16:31). Not only is the resurrection sufficient, but Jesus is also pointing again to His complete authority over the Temple. Christ is the builder of the Body of Christ. The Temple is His. Furthermore, their response to Jesus’ parabolic sign shows that they had no desire to obey His authority, even if His authority had become clear to them. They were stubbornly enslaved to their own desires, which did not include genuine worship.

The Disciples recalled the significance of Jesus’ words and actions long after they occurred. V17 says, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for Your house will consume Me’ [Psalm 69:9].” The context of David’s quote is maintaining true and genuine worship, according to the Word of God. He is willing to bear any insults that would be thrown against the One True Living God. David thought of himself as having this great zeal for the worship of God, but his zeal paled in comparison to that of Christ, for Christ actually did bear those insults. David never could. Likewise, we ought to be zealous for genuine worship. And there is much to discuss regarding what that is, but let’s just agree that it has nothing to do with what we want and everything to do with what God wants. V22 says, “After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” Notice that only after the resurrection did the disciples of Jesus remember these events and realize the significance of them. Look at the result: THEN they believed the Scripture and Jesus’ words. John acknowledges that they didn’t really believe until after the Spirit brought these things to mind after the resurrection, as promised in John 14:26. It is also as if they went back over the Scripture and compared it with what Jesus had to say; then they realized that He was indeed the Messiah.

These two verses are great encouragement to me, as it is my experience that I rarely see the significance of an event in my life until well after it leads to something else that points back to it. Jesus’ Temple-cleansing had little meaning to them at the time – other than to confuse them or lead them astray by making them think Jesus was going to create a political uprising of some sort. But 50 years later, as John recalls these things, he is clearly aware of the importance and meaning of Jesus’ actions. Some suggest that the disciples could not have recalled all of these events years after they supposedly occurred, so they conclude that the Scriptures are myth and embellishment. We point to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to overcome this obstacle (John 14:26). Certainly our memories are poor at best, but the Lord forgets nothing (Amos 8:7) – except our sins (Isaiah 43:25; Jeremiah 31:34). Many of Christ’s teachings may seem obscure for a time, but as the Spirit enlightens our minds and hearts, we will grasp the precious importance of all Christ’s teachings. C.S. Lewis said, “There are a great many things that cannot be understood until after you have gone a certain distance along the Christian road. … Whenever you find any statement in Christian writings which you can make nothing of, do not worry! Leave it alone. There will come a day, perhaps years later, when you suddenly see what it meant.”

In conclusion, just as with the changing of water to wine, Christ is here demonstrating the passing of the old order of physical “shadows”, and promising the arrival of the new order of spiritual fulfillment – in Himself alone. But, whereas in the changing of water to wine the emphasis is on the blessedness of those who have a part in the new order, this event emphasizes the coming judgment of those who refuse to acknowledge the new order in Christ. Just as Christ drove out the men who had perverted the spiritual significance of the Temple in favor of material things; so in the future, those who refuse to embrace the spiritual realities of the new order in Christ would be eternally driven out from God’s presence.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

John 2:14-16

14In the temple courts [Jesus] found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16To those who sold doves He said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn My Father's house into a market!"

Jesus drives out the merchants from the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus heads to Jerusalem for Passover, as every law-abiding Jew would do, and He sees the merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and others exchanging money right there in the Temple courts. Before going further, let’s consider the motive for bringing these practices to the Temple courts. Why were the moneychangers there? All Jewish males were required to pay a Temple tax at Passover, and the Jewish leadership did not accept Roman money, as Caesar’s likeness was engraved on the coins. So the moneychangers would take the Jews’ Roman money and give them coins that the Jewish leadership would accept for the Temple tax. And you know the exchange rates during Passover weren’t quite in the favor of the Jewish visitors to Jerusalem. Next, why were there folks selling doves, sheep, and cattle? Again, the visitors to Jerusalem were required by law to offer sacrifices according to what they could afford. Picture an influx of people to a relatively small city all hurried and forced to have animals for sacrifices. The visitors could come unprepared and get their taxes and sacrifices taken care of as they entered the Temple. What a great idea to make it easy and convenient on the visitors, right? Do you there was any price-gouging going on? Remember the animals offered for sacrifices had to be perfect – without spot or blemish. It’s tough to carry an animal for miles and miles on a long journey without something happening.

Think about it: we have a bookstore and a cafĂ© just outside the sanctuary at Southeast so that people can get everything they need for their spiritual walk and physical hunger and thirst requirements. It’s seems like a good idea, right? We’re taking care of people’s needs were they are, and that’s perhaps what these Temple merchants and moneychangers were thinking. But you know as well as I do that there were other motives. Think about buying a hotdog and coke at the basketball or baseball or football game. You could buy 10 times as much at the grocery store for the same money. It was all about the money. These folks had profit on their minds. Passover was the biggest money making event of the year for these folks. It’s like Christmas time at the mall. Folks will do just about anything to rent a prime space for the holiday shopping season. The Temple court was where a God-seeker, someone who really was taken up the monotheism of Jewish religion, could come, ask questions, and hear about faith in God. But with all of this commerce and noise and banter and commotion, people were being hindered from coming to know God. It desecrated God; it was worship without reverence. Worship should always be reverent. People who see a worship service for the first time ought to think, “Surely God is in this place!”

So, with that said, some suggest that Jesus is angry about the motives of these folks – which He knows perfectly well. We’ll see how well He knows them in v23-25 of this chapter. They might say that it’s not their practices that He despises, but their attitudes. And He drives them out with a whip to show His disgust with their hearts, fulfilling Malachi 3:1-4 (We’ll talk about v17 at the end). What do you think? I’m not sure that’s it. That’s certainly part of it, but I think there’s more. Jesus drives them out with a whip, because He is disgusted with their hearts and actions. It is out of the heart that the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45). They were not prepared in their hearts to worship God at Passover, and their actions displayed that their hearts were unprepared to worship God. “These people…honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me” (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8; Mark 7:6). They were offering sacrifices and making it easy to offer sacrifices, but their sacrifices were empty rituals. “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). John Calvin says, “It was proper that the Jews should be aroused by this example to expect from Christ something that was unusual and out of the ordinary course; and it was also necessary to remind them that the worship of God had been corrupted and perverted, that they might not object to the reformation of those abuses.”

Now how do we keep this in perspective? Remember that the Temple in Jerusalem was a type of Christ. It was representative of Emmanuel, God with us. It symbolizes the true Church. Our church buildings today do not reach that level of significance. Rather, we should view ourselves as temples of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies should not be corrupted like a den of robbers or a market place, but we must strive for purity, both inside and out. And so like Jesus, we drive out the sin from within and declare ourselves, “Holy – set apart for service to the Lord.”

Lastly, Jesus says, “How dare you turn My Father’s house into a market!” Matthew 21:13 is harsher, quoting Jeremiah 7:11: They had made the Temple a “den of robbers.” That speaks to their motives and to their actions. Notice that Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of God by calling the Temple His Father’s house.

Monday, October 08, 2007

John 2:12-13

12After this [Jesus] went down to Capernaum with His mother and brothers and His disciples. There they stayed for a few days. 13When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Jesus’ travels to Capernaum and on to Jerusalem. John here builds on to the timeline of Jesus’ ministry. After the wedding miracle, He heads to Capernaum with His mother, brothers, and disciples; John interestingly separates brothers and disciples here – Catholicism groups these into one group, denying that Jesus had any brothers since Mary remained a virgin her whole life (Matthew 12:46). Now a few days later, He comes to Jerusalem and cleanses the Temple. The other Gospel authors tell us of such an event (Matthew 21:12; Mark 11:15; Luke 19:45), but those accounts occur near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, leaving us to wonder about the accuracy of John’s account.

Most suggest that there were at least two such Temple cleansings in Jerusalem, one at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as recorded here by John, and another near the end of His ministry as recorded by the other Gospels. None of the Gospels record both, however, so some (especially liberal) commentators suggest that there was only one cleansing, likely occurring at the end of Jesus’ ministry. Those who hold this view make John’s account out to be non-chronological history. They must labor to explain that John’s timeline (i.e. the next day, three days later, a few days) is not literal, but being liberal, they generally don’t mind that. They suggest that those terms suggest an uncertain amount of time, as John is not interested in literal day-to-day events, but symbols and types. Here is one explanation of John’s symbolism:

“There can be little doubt but that many of the events related by John have a symbolical significance that places Jesus’ ministry in the stream of redemptive history. The first miracle – the changing of water at the wedding in Cana – is a sign (2:11). A wedding is a symbol of the messianic days (Isaiah 54:4-8; 62:4-5), and both a wedding and a banquet appear in the Synoptic Gospels as symbols of the Messianic era (Matthew 8:11; 22:1-14; Luke 22:16-18). Revelation pictures the Messianic consummation in terms of a wedding (Revelation 19:9). In John’s Gospel, the wedding at Cana symbolizes the presence of the Messianic salvation; wine symbolizes the joy of the Messianic feast (see Mark 2:19); the six stone jars used for Jewish rites of purification symbolize the Old Testament era that is [imperfect and] now ending; and Mary’s statement, ‘they have no wine,’ becomes a pregnant reflection on the barrenness of Jewish purification, much in the vein of Mark 7:1-24. John deliberately places the cleansing of the Temple at the very beginning of his Gospel, much as Luke places Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as another sign (2:23). John interprets this to represent the Messiah’s lordship over the Temple. It will be destroyed and replaced by all that is represented in Jesus’ resurrection (2:19-20). The idea that the Temple worship, both in Jerusalem and in Samaria, is to be displaced by worship inspired by the Spirit is overtly asserted in 4:20-24.”

I prefer the “two cleansings” view for the sake of the “the next day, the third day, and a few days” and its fit with the surrounding material toward the theme of Jesus’ ushering out the old and making all things new (it also makes sense when considered with Mark 11:15-18 – they didn’t plot to kill Jesus yet). Perhaps the best reason to prefer the “two cleansings” view is this: while John alone (v19) records Jesus claim, “Destroy this Temple, and I’ll raise it up again in three days,” the other Gospel writers refer to it (Matthew 26:61; 27:40; Mark 14:58; 15:29; Acts 6:14). These authors, though writing earlier, confirm the historicity of John’s account. Any thoughts? Finally, it is also suggested by commentators that the Cana wedding event is parallel to Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus and that the Temple cleansing event is parallel to Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman. What importance is that? We’ll talk more about it as we cross those passages in John 3-4.