Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 3-3-24  “Jesus Cleanses the Temple”

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John 2:13-22

The middle age has given us great paintings portraying Jesus. Da Vince, Raphael, Michelangelo, and many others have placed in our minds to whom we recognized now as Jesus. Images of Jesus resting on his mother’s arms; Jesus with his disciples in the Last Dinner or Jesus hanging on the cross. All these images from these great painters show Jesus with a peaceful face and tender eyes, like if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. Therefore, for many of us is hard to portrait the image of Jesus with whip in his hands, and overturning tables.

The event we heard this morning is found in the four gospels, for the scholars, this is proof that it was real and important. There is a difference between John and the synoptics. The synoptics gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) place this even at the end of Jesus ministry and John places it at the beginning.

Another difference between John and the Synoptics is that John does not call miracles, to Jesus’ miracles, he calls them signs. Consequently, the cleansing of the temple -for John even when it was not a miracle- it was a sign. For John, Jesus was acting out symbolically God’s judgment on the temple. The priests, Annas and Caiaphas, and most of the religious leaders with them had sold out to the Temple to the Romans. King Herod had transformed the temple from a place of worship to one of the wonders of the world that attracted thousands of people every year. His allegiance was not to the God Israel, but to Rome. He even placed a large golden eagle, a symbol of Roman power, over its gate.

Passover was and still is the most important day for Israel, this a celebration of freedom. They celebrate the event when they were rescued by Jehovah; when they were brought to a land full of honey and milk; they also celebrate God giving the law to Moses. Jesus picked this feast to clean the temple to send a sign to Israel. And the sign was: I am here to liberate my temple which right now is a “prisoner” of men and their sinful practices. Jesus picked the day when they celebrated God giving his law to Moses, to remind them what the Old Testament says about the temple: This is God’s house not a marketplace.

The cattle and sheep sellers were allowed in the temple to facilitate the journey of all the pilgrims, so the pilgrims did not have to carry animals during their trip to Jerusalem, but -according to some historians- they were selling all the animals even fifteen times higher than the regular price. They were not serving God’s people; they were taking advantage of them. They were making money for themselves; the money changers also were taking advantage of all the pilgrims.

Now, does this scripture have any message for us today? I ask this question because the temple does not exist anymore, it was destroyed in the year 70 A.D., I ask this question because we do not offer animals sacrifices as part of our worship service, we do not have to exchange money for our offering. Is this scripture still relevant for us?

My Old Testament professor used to say: “when you got questions about the bible, go to the bible first.” So, I went to the bible and found some scriptures I believe are related to this event and can help us to answer the question, does this scripture have any message for us today? In Matthew 24:1 and 2, Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple, “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.”  Matthew 27:51 says that when Jesus died the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And 1st Corinthians 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

From these scriptures we can conclude that after the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed, it was replaced by another temple. A spiritual temple. Therefore, even when the physical temple of Jerusalem does not exist anymore, Jesus’ cleaning of the temple still talks to us because we are the new temples.

Let us go back to Matthew 27:51, in here Matthew described how the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was torn down. This is a pivotal event for the interpretation of our text today. I have heard two interpretations of this passage: One says that its tearing symbolizes the removal of the barrier between humanity and God, signifying that through Jesus’ sacrifice, people have direct access to God’s presence without the need for intermediaries such as priests or sacrificial rituals. Before the destruction of the temple only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy place to intercede for the people. Now thru Jesus we do not need another intercessor, we can come directly to God. We do not need a human mediator. We have Jesus as mediator before the Father in heaven.

Second interpretation says that when the curtain of the temple was torn, was not only for us to have direct access to God, but it was for God to leave the temple, his dwelling place and come out and dwell within his people. God left his house in Jerusalem to dwell in the new temple, you, and me. “Or do you not know that your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” says Paul in 1 Corinthias 6:19.

Now, do we have to present sacrifices in this new temple? Let us see what the book of Romans chapter 12 verse 1 says: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, –and sisters, I would say- in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

Now, knowing that we are God’s temple, and we too must present a sacrifice, I believe John 2:13-22 has a message for us today.

Jesus is here and he still requires from us to clean his temple, to clean his place of dwelling. That place of dwelling is our heart, our body, and our minds. The temple in Jerusalem was full of false worship. Priests did not wait for this feast to celebrate God’s freedom and the giving of the law, but to celebrate business; it was a celebration of self-interest. Money changers and cattle sellers were there to make money not to worship God and to serve his people; The temple in Jerusalem was not anymore, a place for holy assembly, but a place for exploitation, place to abuse and humiliate others; a place to take advantage of their fellow brothers and sisters.

Now, how is God’s new temple today? by that I mean our life, does God feel comfortable living in me? Is he pleased with our worship? Is he receiving our adoration in spirit and truth?

Jesus used a whip and his own strength to clean the temple in Jerusalem, now he is using his love and the power of the Holy Spirit to clean and transform our lives.

The leaders in Jerusalem forgot the purpose of the temple; they forgot that it was a house of prayer; they also forgot whose house it was. Since we are the new temple of God let us not forget our purpose. And what is the purpose of this new temple? Ephesians 2:10 tells us about our purpose. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  When Paul says that we were created in Christ Jesus, he means, we belong to him, we are a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

This new creation is the result of the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood. As new creations we must do good work. We must continue doing the good work of Jesus. And with our good work we can and will overcome evil.

Besides Ephesians 2:10, 1 Peter 2:9 reminds us about our purpose, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

We were created to declare the praises, to celebrate what God has done in our lives as individuals and in the life of us His chosen people. Let us celebrate what God has done in us, and what he is doing thru us; but also, let us celebrate what he is doing in the lives of our brothers and sisters and thru the lives of our brothers and sisters.

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