John 2:13
The conduct of our Lord in the temple reminded the disciples of the words of the psalmist, "The zeal of thine house," etc. They supplied a most appropriate text to the symbolic sermon of our Lord. Genuine religious zeal as illustrated by the conduct of our Lord here. Notice it -

I. IS THE CHIEF OBJECT OF ITS CONCERN. It is the glory of God and the purity of his house and worship. Under the influence of this zeal:

1. Our relationship to God and his relationship to us are specially felt. It was so in the case of Christ now, and in a special manner he felt and proclaimed God to be his Father. "My Father." Jesus ever felt this relationship; and in the degree in which we are possessed of holy zeal, we shall feel our relationship to God and his to us.

2. God's relationship to his house is felt. Jesus calls the temple his Father's house. And so it was. It was his earthly habitation, where his glory should have shone, his Name should be honoured, his worship devotedly observed, and his people abundantly blessed. Holy zeal ever feels God's relationship to his house, and looks at and speaks of it as the house of God, and not of men.

3. A burning interest in God's house is felt. Jesus could not look on the temple with indifference; but, feeling God to be his Father, and the temple his Father's house, as a loving and dutiful Son, he felt an absorbing interest in its welfare. His Father's house was his own, and their interests and zeal were identical. This holy zeal does not stop with trifles, but is engaged with the highest and most momentous subjects - the glory and honour of God, and the purity and success of his cause on earth.

II. THIS ZEAL IN CONTACT WITH A GREAT ABUSE. The house of God was made a house of merchandise.

1. This abuse is quickly seen. No sooner had Jesus entered the temple than this terrible abuse attracted his notice. How many were there that saw it not! Coldness of the moral nature results in blindness to moral evil. But where this zeal is present, and burning in the breast, then the moral eye is keen and the moral visions are clear, and iniquities and abuses are quickly seen in their magnitude and horror.

2. This abuse is keenly felt. No sooner seen than fully realized and felt - felt as repugnant to Jesus as to God himself, and filled him with feelings of disgust amt indignation. Where this zeal is predominant, not merely the moral eye is keen to discern social and religious evils, but the moral heart is sensitive of their injuriousness and intolerant of their existence.

3. This abuse is unmercifully condemned. Condemned:

(1) As an abuse of the place. Making God's house a house of merchandise. Merchandise in itself is not condemned. As such it is right and necessary, and was even necessary in connection with the service of the temple, but not in the temple. In the market it is proper; in the house of God it is profanation.

(2) As an abuse of privileges. People professed to come to the temple to worship Jehovah, but Divine worship is exchanged for human business. In our Father's house we should be about our Father's business. It is a house of merchandise, but merchandise of a spiritual order - not between man and man, but between man and God. It is an exchange, but not that of foreign coins for those of the temple, but an exchange of repentance for forgiveness, faith for Divine justification and peace.

(3) As an insult to God. An insult to his authority, purity, and honour. What an affront to the Lord of the temple! what an insult to the Divine Father, to be turned out of his own home, and what is most distasteful to him, worldliness, admitted instead! and what a breach of trust, what irreligiousness of feelings and conduct, which are unmercifully condemned by holy zeal!

III. THIS ZEAL EXERCISED IN THE REFORMATION OF ABUSES. As illustrated in the conduct of our Lord, we see that:

1. It is ever active and aggressive. It does not. remain in mere speech and sentiment, but ever rushes into aggressive action. It can no more remain long in the presence of evil without attacking it, than a hungry lion in the presence of his prey, or a powerful army in the presence of the foe.

2. It is most sweeping in its demands. It will not be satisfied with anything short of a complete reform. Our Lord entered the temple and drove out all that sold oxen, etc., and even the innocent doves had to leave. The language of holy zeal with reheard to social and religious evils, is, "Take these things hence; make not my Father's house," etc. Between good and evil, truth and error, there is an eternal difference, there can be no compromise; an eternal war, there can be no truce; nothing will satisfy it but a complete surrender.

3. It is intensely earnest. How intensely earnest was our Lord on this occasion! He made a scourge of small cords, a sign, not merely of authority, but also of terrible earnestness. This instrument was not apparently adapted to attain the end in view, but it was the best he could get, and answered his purpose. He wished to destroy the merchandise, not the merchants. Holy zeal, while not regardless of adaptation, will ever use the one available means. It will attack the walls of Jericho with ram's horns, go forth against the giant with a shepherd's sling, and clear the temple with a scourge of small cords. The intensely earnest man is never idle for want of suitable weapons.

4. It is heroically courageous. It carries its possessor away to attack foes who from a human point of view he can never hope to vanquish. What was Jesus to the mighty opposition he confronted? He had:

(1) The opposition of interested persons. Those in the trade - the host of dealers in oxen, etc.

(2) The opposition of interested patrons. The rulers of the people and the governor of the temple.

(3) The opposition of a consenting and benefited public. The crowd who would be more likely to sympathize with the aristocracy of the place than with the carpenter's Son of Nazareth. But this combined opposition he fearlessly confronted, and commenced his task almost alone. Holy zeal is ever courageous, and makes its possessor, if not beside himself, far beyond and above himself.

5. This zeal is entirely self-sacrificing. Liberty, personal safety, and even life is set at nought. It was so with Jesus now. He purified his temple at the risk of his life, and at last he gave himself as a sacrifice, not to the fury of his foes, but to the flames of his burning zeal. "The zeal of thy house," etc. And those under its influence are ever ready to sacrifice even life to their master passion and purpose.

IV. WE HAVE THIS ZEAL GLORIOUSLY TRIUMPHANT. Our Lord drove out the merchants and their merchandise with scarcely any opposition; and did, as one has said, what a powerful army could not do so quickly and completely. How did this zeal triumph, and how must it ever triumph?

1. By its own inherent strength. It is powerful in itself, even when it has only comparatively weak men as its instruments; but how much more powerful when swaying great and well balanced souls, such as Luther, Wickliffe, Paul, and especially our Lord, who is the Son of God as well as Son of man! In such as these, its voice is thunder, its deeds are lightning, its words are two-edged swords, and its chariots and horses are of fire. Its march is majestic, its consciousness of success is supreme, and, should a cloud appear in its firmament, it must soon vanish before its dazzle. It ever goes forth conquering and to conquer, and in its own energy and majesty is terrible.

2. By the strength and justice of its cause. Its demands are ever reasonable, and its cause is just. Jesus was right, and these merchants and their patrons were wrong, and, in the presence of holy enthusiasm, they felt it. He had a scourge of small cords, but he had a more terrible scourge than this - he made a scourge of their guilty consciences, and with it whipped them out. They writhed under the lashes; and corruption slunk away before the majesty of burning holiness; and the unrighteous practice gave way before the heat of embodied justice on fire. Right is ever stronger than wrong, good than evil, and truth than error. Let true principles blaze in the lives and actions of their adherents; they must be triumphant.

3. By its ever-accompanying Divinity. Jesus was a Divine Person, and his act in the temple was miraculous. True; but is not God ever against evil, and on the side of good? Holy zeal is ever accompanied with Divine authority and power; it is really the natural expression of all virtue, the burning presence of holiness, and the flaming manifestation of God's holy nature, who is a consuming Fire. The act of Christ in the temple was symbolic. God is ever on the side of purity and order, and the feeblest voice raised for them and against evil. God is in that voice, and it must triumph.

LESSONS.

1. Our Lord was a Reformer. One of his first acts was to reform the worship of the temple. His followers should be the same; the disciples should follow their Master, and the motto of their lives should be reform.

2. Before we can be true reformers, we must be inspired with holy and burning zeal. This is an essential element of a reformer, as the revealer of evil and the inspiring motive of attack. Without it we cannot see as Jesus saw, we cannot act as he acted; but with it we shall be true reformers. Jesus will have true representatives, holiness will have a voice, and iniquity a scourge.

3. When holy zeal becomes absorbing and universal, abuses and evils in the Church and the world must retire, and the Church and even the earth will indeed be the house of God and the gate of heaven. - B.T.







The Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
I. HIS ATTENDANCE AT THE PASSOVER, One of the three great annual festivals which all males were required to attend. None excused but the sick and the disabled. God made the ordinance peremptory, to teach —(1) That His worship and service were the chief things.(2) That God's house was to be the centre of the moral universe, and that all nations would flow to it. Christ's attendance showed —

1. His fulfilling of all righteousness. He came not to destroy.

2. His communion with believers of the Old Testament. Partaking of their sacraments, He declared Himself of one body and spirit with them, just as by instituting sacraments for New Testament believers He declared Himself of one body and spirit with them. Thus Christ is the bond of both dispensations.

3. Himself and His mission to the nation. The promise was that He should come to His temple. Here the people could identify Him if they chose.

II. THE CONDITION IN WHICH HE FOUND THE TEMPLE, AND HIS INTERFERENCE THEREWITH. The market was going on in the outer courts of the Gentiles. The sheep, etc., were sold there to save the inconvenience of individual Jews bringing their offerings from a distance. The money-changers were there, to exchange foreign money for the half-shekel of the sanctuary. The abuse consisted in making God's house a house of merchandise, in which the priests themselves profited. Christ interfered to show His official assumption and exercise of legitimate authority in His own house. The cattle were driven out, the money-tables overthrown; but the doves ordered to be taken away, so that they might not be harmed. Nothing harmful or cruel was done. In this interference we see His glory as the "Son of God" and His administrative authority as "King of Israel." Unsupported Himself, all fled before Him.

III. THE CONVICTION WROUGHT IN THE MINDS OF SERVANTS (ver. 17).

1. We have here the love of Christ, and His earnestness for their salvation and God's glory: typical of His whole work.

2. Christ's example to us.

(1)Our zeal must begin with ourselves.

(2)Must concern itself with God's honour and man's salvation.

(3)Must be actuated by love.

(A. Beith, D. D.)

I. THE MARKET.

1. Described. Jerusalem was in all its glory. Its inhabitants were astir in the early morning, enjoying the cool of the day and the excitement of the season. The streets were blocked by crowds from all parts, who had to make their way to the temple past flocks of sheep and droves of cattle. Sellers of all possible wares beset the pilgrim, for the feasts were the traders' harvests. Inside the temple space the noise and pressure were, if possible, worse. The outer court was in part covered with pens for sheep and oxen. It was, in fact, the yearly fair of Jerusalem, and the crowds added to the din and tumult, till the services in the neighbouring courts were sadly disturbed.

2. Accounted for. It seems strange that the priests should have permitted it, but the explanation throws light on Christ's conduct. The priests made pecuniary profit of it. The sale of doves was almost wholly in their hands, and the rent for the rest was very large. The money-changers were usurers and tricksters, and augmented the priests' revenue out of their unlawful gains.

3. Christ's indignation was, therefore, natural. He had come fresh from the manifestation of His glory, with all the enthusiasm natural to a Jewish prophet and inspired with His Divine mission, to testify to the nation as a whole where it could be best reached. Behold, then, His Father's house invaded by a troop of mercenaries and hucksters!

II. THE EXHIBITION OF CHRIST'S WONDROUS MORAL POWER. There was no physical power displayed, nor any exciting contention with the profaners of the temple. The scourge was only an emblem of power and chastisement, the sight of which was sufficient, and at which they all unresistingly fled. How could one man effect such a clearance, unknown, a Galilean, with no formal authority, priestly power, or following? It was perhaps due to the "solar light" of His countenance, behind which was the unspeakable power of perfect holiness (Matthew 17:2), which made Him attractive to the virtuous and devout, but awful to mere money-grubbers. They were dumb and helpless, because conscience-stricken, in the presence of Incarnate Righteousness.

III. THE PROFOUND SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS ACT. Spiritual cleansing. The temple may be considered as a symbol —

1. Of the heart defiled by selfishness and sin, to be cleansed by the expulsive power of Christ's love.

2. Of society or the world, to be cleansed by Christ's redeeming grace.

3. Of the Church, to be cleansed from superstition, and worldliness, and bigotry, by truth, purity, and charity.

(J. E. Flower, M. A.)

I. THE SIGN AND ITS APPLICABILITY. The temple a symbol of the temple of humanity, built of living stones. To cleanse this He entered on His ministry; and if He had a right to do the greater work, He had a right to do the lesser.

II. THOUGHTS SUGGESTED BY THE SIGN.

1. All men are created to form part of God's temple. The Divine idea of humanity is an organic whole — Christ the centre, the shrine; human hearts grouped round Him forming the courts. Contrast the ideal with the actual. Yet in the midst of chaos God is working out His purpose, and will not rest till the idea is realized.

2. Men have misused the courts as markets. Commerce is good, but its place is outside the heart, not inside. It defiles when it intrudes on the sanctuary. Yet how hard even in the most sacred seasons to exclude their profane associations. Business for most is more absorbing than God and His will.

3. Christ has power and authority to cleanse the courts.(1) With His scourge He may drive away the property which usurps His Father's place.(2) He may scatter the money-changers' money, and leave him at leisure to reflect with out it.(3) He may speak His orders to those who defile the sanctuary with lighter profanations through judgment and disease.

4. The time will come when the temple shall be purified. In the Revelation we see the design perfected. A city without a temple, because itself is a temple. There shall be gold there, and all the good things of the earth shall be sanctified to Divine uses.

(C. A. Goodhart, M. A.)

I. APPROPRIATE to —

1. The place: the metropolis, the centre of the Theocracy, the predicted theatre of Messiah's self-revelation (Zechariah 2:10, 11; Zechariah 9:9).

2. The time: at the passover, when the paschal lamb, of which He was the antitype, was about to be offered, and when the vast crowd gathered afforded a favourably opportunity for impressing the national mind and conscience.

3. The condition of the temple: whose forecourt, reserved for the worship of proselytes, was transformed into a market and fair under the pretence of religion — a melancholy, because faithful, picture of the secularization of the Jewish religion by the Pharisees.

4. The character of Him who carried it through. The Father's Son had a right to purge His Father's house.

II. SUPERNATURAL. As much so as the turning of water into wine. The manifest insufficiency of the means places it in the same category as John 18:6. Its suddenness also surprised, and inward consciousness of guilt paralyzed, the traders. Natural and supernatural causes were thus combined.

III. SIGNIFICANT. Designed to be a revelation to the ecclesiastical authorities of His Messiahship (Psalm 69:9; Malachi 3:2-6).

IV. SUGGESTIVE. Recalling to the disciples the words of the Psalmist, it confirmed their recently formed convictions.

V. ALARMING. It startled the Sanhedrim, who recognized the Messianic character of the action, but wanted to know whether He was Messiah. Secretly they must have dreaded this. But because He was different from what they expected, they declined to receive Him. They trifled with their consciences by asking for a sign. They preferred the darkness, although the light had now conspicuously dawned. Lessons:

1. The duty and privileges of the ordinances of religion. Christ at the passover.

2. The need of purity and order in the sanctuary — Christ purging the temple court.

3. The danger of a worldly spirit intruding into the domain of religion — the traders in the sacred edifice.

4. The propriety of being zealously affected in Divine service — Christ's example.

(T. Whitelaw, M. A.)

Had Christ appeared as a teacher it would have been a great benevolence: but He would hardly have had so wide-spread an influence. Teaching was only one part of His task, the other was to ordain a fellowship. So He needed to appear as the reformer of religion. The temple was the centre of religious life: here then the reformation must begin. See then the principles of Christ as a religious reformer.

I. HE DID NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO PURIFY AND FINISH. But why trouble Himself about an institution that was to pass away? (John 4:24). The answer is that Jesus did wish to erect the new on the ruins of the old, but since so much depended on the old, this, when reformed, should attach itself to that. We should be like Christ in this, not to destroy but to reform and build up.

II. THE ZEAL OF THE REDEEMER WAS INTENDED TO BANISH EVERYTHING THAT MIGHT ENTANGLE MEN AGAIN IN WORLDLY THOUGHTS AND ANXIETIES. The really devout and upright as well as the frivolous might see no evil nor distracting influence in these things. The temple was large enough. All these arrangements had to do with religious life. Was it not a matter of indifference whether they were carried on within or in the neighbourhood of the temple. Those whose thoughts would be disturbed by them would be disturbed without them. But human prudence is one thing; the judgment of Christ another. Whatever draws men to and keeps men near God must be kept pure and free from desecration. The weakness of the human heart forbids the worldly and the Divine mingling with one another. The germ of the Jewish corruption lay in the mixing of the two. Let then our church, life ordained by that Lord who here cleared the temple, be free from foreign admixture.

III. WHAT RIGHT HAD CHRIST TO ACT IS THIS WAY? Did He not overstep the bounds of His authority. No, according to the free customs of that people and age it was competent to any one to assail anything that was at variance with public law. There was ever scope for honest zeal. Christ found it so, and would have us find it so and lift our voices for what is right and good, to win public opinion to them. We Christians are a priestly people called to keep pure the temple of God upon earth.

(Schleiermacher.)

We see —

I. HOW MUCH CHRIST DISAPPROVES OF IRREVERENT BEHAVIOUR IN THE HOUSE OF GOD. Are there none who bring to church their money, their lands, their cattle, etc.; who bring their bodies only to a place of worship and are "almost in all evil, in the congregation" (Proverbs 5:14).

II. HOW MEN MAY REMEMBER WORDS OF RELIGIOUS TRUTH LONG AFTER THEY ARE SPOKEN, and may one day see in them a meaning which they now do not see (vers. 19, 22). Sermons preached to apparently heedless ears are not all lost and thrown away; nor are texts taught by teachers or parents to children. There is often a resurrection of the good seed sown after many years (1 Corinthians 15:58; Ecclesiastes 11:1).

III. HOW PERFECT IS OUR LORD'S KNOWLEDGE OF THE HUMAN HEART (vers. 24-25). He saw beneath their superficial faith that they were not disciples indeed. This thought ought to make hypocrites and false professors tremble. They may deceive men but they cannot deceive Christ. But it is a word of encouragement to real Christians.

(Bp. Ryle.)

It is impossible not to feel the change which at this point comes over the narrative.

I. There is A CHANGE.

1. Of place: Jerusalem and Cans.

2. Of occasion: the passover and the marriage feast.

3. Of manner of action: the stern Reformer and the sympathizing Guest.

II. THE SPIRITUAL LESSONS WHICH THE TWO SIGNS CONVEY ARE ALSO COMPLEMENTARY.

1. One represents the ennobling of common life and the other the purification of Divine worship.

2. One is a revelation of the Son of peace, the other a revelation of the Christ, the Fulfiller of the hope and purpose of Israel.

(Bp. Westcott.)

Alas! that even in the restored and consecrated temple of man's soul, scenes are at times enacted, of which the sacrilege in the Jewish temple was but a feeble emblem. It is a desecration, Dot of a material building but of God's spiritual house — the merchandise, not of sheep and oxen but of sins. The pollution is not in the "outermost court of the Gentiles, but in the inmost sanctuary where God delights to dwell" — in man's heart. Too often is there rebellion, even in the believer's soul, against the authority of the Lord; and giving to Him a divided heart. Too often are the living temples thronged with carnal things, earthly affections and desires. Too often is the lowing of oxen and the bleating of sheep heard, and the tables of the money Changers planted, within the precincts of God's house. Alas! how often is the silent and solemn devotion of the believer's heart distracted by the noise of conflicting passions, and its purity defiled by low and grovelling affections. Holy thoughts and desires, like the poor, despised Gentiles, are turned out of their proper place, and thrust into a corner. Oh, this is monstrous incongruity. Have you not here a temple which you have sacrilegiously profaned; and has not your passion for sordid gain and worldly occupation so entirely engaged and absorbed you, that all your feelings and faculties seem to be expended on earthly vanities, and your affections settled down to the dust? You profane that which God has made holy — that which He has set apart for Himself, and where He would delight to dwell. "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves."

(W. Chalmers, M. A.)

in the temple are those who pursue secular interests in the church; and God's house is made a house of merchandise, not only by those who seek to obtain money or praise, or honour by means of holy orders, but .by those also who exercise the sacred ministry, or dispense sacred gifts, with a view to human rewards and not with simplicity of intention.

(Bp. Wordsworth.)

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