Cross

Mark 08v34-9:1, “What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?”

Bearing the cross detail

Painting by Andrei Nikolaevich Mironova

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngAre you a follower of Jesus? Or are you just a Christian? Hmm. What does it mean to be a true follower of Jesus? Today we want to look at what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We hear on a regular basis that Vanuatu is a Christian nation. That may be a very good thing. When we consider the history of Vanuatu, we must certainly understand that early Christian missionaries gave their lives for the sake of the people of these islands.

  • In 1839, John Williams and John Harris gave their lives at Dillon’s Bay on Erromango.
  • In 1848, John Geddie and Thomas Powell went to Aneityum and eventually translated the New Testament with the help of an islander named Williamu.
  • Other Christian missionaries such as George Gordon and his wife and brother gave their lives for the gospel on Erromango.
  • Christian missionary John G. Paton brought the good news of the gospel to the islands of Tanna and Aniwa.
  • Many others came and shared the gospel of Jesus Christ, that Christ died for our sins as had been prophesied, that he was buried, and that he rose again from the dead that we might be declared just before God, just as the Scriptures had promised.

Christian foundations were laid. The gospel of Jesus Christ changed lives and with the changed lives, there were new values. The old practices such as cannibalism, infanticide, and the sacrifice of the wives after the death of their husbands were abandoned. For many, Christianity brought a new life of love and joy, of hope and peace. The foundation was laid so that the politicians who forged independence chose the national motto: Long God yumi stanap. Every time you pass a 1000vt bill, you pass the message “long God yumi stanap.”

But Christianity cannot simply be written into constitutions, or our monetary notes, or other important documents. Christianity must be written into the hearts of every individual. Declaring that Vanuatu is a Christian nation may call us back to Christian values which recognize the worth, value, and dignity of every human life, whether boy or girl, child or adult, young of old, born or unborn. That means that we will not kill widows, nor the aged, nor the unborn. And it means that we will love our enemies. But declaring that the nation is a Christian nation will not make us love our enemies. There has to be a change of heart for that to take place.

And so, we must not think that we are Christians simply because we have a Christian heritage. We must not think that we are Christians simply because our parents were Christians, or that we are deacons in the church, or that we are in a Christian nation. Jesus said to one of the most religious men of his day, “You must be born again.”

As so we ask ourselves, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” Or better yet, “What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ?”

1. The Turning Point in the Gospel of Mark

We have been walking our way through the Gospel of Mark. In this eighth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, we come to a turning point. Up to this point, Jesus has not revealed his identity as the Christ.

  • Mark has told us that he is the Son of God (Mark 1:1).
  • God Himself has declared at Jesus’ baptism that Jesus is “my beloved Son in him I am well pleased” (1:11).

The demons have identified Jesus as

  • The Holy One of God (1:24),
  • The Son of God (3:11), and
  • The Son of the Most High God (5:7)

Jesus has spoken of himself as

  • The Son of Man (2:10, 28), and
  • The Lord of the Sabbath (2:28).

But the people have failed to grasp who Jesus actually is. They have had different ideas. The Jewish scribes, who were enemies of Jesus, said that he got his power from Satan. Some others, who thought more favorable about Jesus, thought that he was empowered by the spirit of John the Baptist who had been beheaded by King Herod. Some thought that Jesus was the one that the prophet Malachi had promised would come in the spirit and the power of Elijah. Still others thought that he was one of the Old Testament prophets.

All of those designations were woefully short of who Jesus was. Just as today, some people say that he was a great teacher and some say that he was even a god, the Bible reveals that he is much more than a great teacher or a prophet or even a god.

Jesus asks his own disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”

In Luke’s version, we read,

Luke 9:20 ESV …And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

Matthew’s version is the fullest:

Matthew 16:16 ESV Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, but he had no idea that the Christ would have to suffer. He only saw Christ as a conqueror, one who had great power and who would liberate the nation of Israel from Roman rule.

Only when Peter had made his confession that Jesus was the Christ, did Jesus begin to tell his disciples about his mission as the Christ:

Mark 8:31 ESV And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

This mission of suffering and rejection and death comes as a complete shock to Peter and the disciples. Peter rebukes Jesus for such a thought, but Jesus in turn rebuked Peter in the strongest of terms for seeing things from a merely human point of view rather than from God’s point of view.

Jesus uses the word “must.” The word “must” implies that it was a divine necessity. The word “must” controls and modifies the entire sentence: the Son of Man must suffer, he must be rejected, he must die, and he must rise again. Jesus is not simply saying, “I have come to die.” He is saying, “I have to die.” “It’s absolutely necessary that I die.”[1] This was absolutely shocking to the disciples who thought that evil would be overcome by power, not by suffering and death.

No one knew that Jesus came to give his life away.

2. The Mission of the Christ

The Christ was the one promised by the Old Testament prophets, even beginning in the third chapter of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, God himself provided a covering for them and promised that a many times great grandson of Eve would crush the serpent’s head.

Abraham offered his son Isaac as a picture of God offering His own Son as a sacrifice for our sins, and yet the God who provides provided a ram in place of Isaac.

The whole Old Testament system of sacrifices pointed to the one who would end all sacrifices, offering his own blood as a sacrifice for us.

Why can God not simply forgive? Why does there need to be a sacrifice? Why did Jesus say that he “must” die?

Suppose you come to my house and accidentally sit on my iPhone and crack the screen so that it does not work. I say to you, “That will be 100,000vt please.” Or, I can say, “That’s okay. I forgive you.” In that case, what happened to the 100,000vt? If I forgive you for breaking my iPhone, I bear the cost of buying a new iPhone, or I do without. But I am the one who suffers. But someone has to bear the cost. Either you bear the cost, or I bear the cost. When I forgive you, I bear the cost.[2]

We have all sinned against God. The price of sin is eternal death, eternal separation from God. But if we come to God with hearts that are broken over our sin and if we repent of our sins, he will forgive us. But how does he forgive us? He bears the cost. That is why the eternal Son of God went to the cross. He went to bear our sins and the pay the price, to bear the cost and the penalty for our sins so that we might be reconciled to God and brought back into fellowship with him both now and for eternity.

The Jews had failed to see this in the Scriptures. The trusted in their animal sacrifices, but the sacrifice of animals cannot remove our sins. Animals are not created in the image of God as we are. Animals are not voluntary victims. The writer to the Hebrews tells us,

Hebrews 10:4 ESV For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

There were Old Testament passages about the Christ, that is, the Messiah. There were also Old Testament passages about the Suffering Servant such as Isaiah 53 which says that he would bear our sins and iniquities. The Jews had failed to see that the Christ, the Messiah, would also be the Suffering Servant. The Apostle Peter explains that even the Old Testament prophets tried to understand how the prophecies fit together:

1 Peter 1:10-11 NLT This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward.

3. The Terms of Discipleship

Once the disciples recognized that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus began to teach them what that meant. He began to teach them about the true nature of his mission, that he would suffer, and be rejected, and die, and after three days rise again.

If Jesus goes to the cross, what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? If Jesus chooses the way of the cross, what does it mean to follow him?

Beginning in Mark 8:34, Jesus calls crowd and spells out the terms of discipleship.

Mark 8:34-9:1 ESV And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

9:1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

We are looking at the question of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, what it means to be a true Christian. Jesus very clearly lays down the terms, the conditions of following him. He is not talking to a special elite group of people. What he says is not limited to his 12 disciples. Mark very clearly tells us that Jesus “called the crowd to him with his disciples.” The conditions for being a Christian are laid down not only for the 12 disciples, but also for the crowd. In fact, in addressing the crowd, Jesus uses the word “anyone.”

Mark 8:34 ESV … ”If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

That means you. That means me. Jesus spells out the cost of discipleship for you and me. He tells us what it will cost to follow him. He tells us what it will cost each of us to be a Christian.

A Christian is not one who is born of Christian parents, or raised in a Christian church, or born in a Christian nation. A Christian is one who follows in the footsteps of Christ.

4. Self-Denial and the Way of the Cross

The way of Jesus was the way of the cross. It was the way of self-denial. The Jesus way is the way of death to self. Just as Jesus took the way of self-denial and the way of the cross, he tells us that anyone who would come after him must also deny themselves and take the way of the cross. We find this throughout the New Testament:

Philippians 2:5-8 NLT You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

2 Corinthians 8:9 NLT You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.

The night before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed to the Father,

Luke 22:42 ESV saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Jesus explains why we must deny ourselves:

Mark 8:35 ESV For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

The instinct of self-preservation is ultimately self-defeating. Timothy Keller explains,

Jesus is not saying, “I want you to lose your sense of being an individual self.” That’s a teaching of Eastern philosophy, and if he meant that, he would have said, “You must lose yourself to lose yourself.”[2]

This is not eastern mysticism or the loss of our personhood. It is not our absorption into the nothingness of nirvana.

Rather it is laying down our rights of self-determination at the feet of the king. We no longer sing, I did it my way.

We no longer claim to be masters of our own fate.

Rather we come to recognize that God is on a mission of redemption and he has graciously invited us to join him in that mission. We lay aside our petty agendas to embrace something infinitely greater than ourselves : the agenda of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

We lose ourselves for the sake of Christ and in losing ourselves, we find ourselves in Christ and discover who we were created to be.

Jim Elliot was a missionary to the Auca Indians in South America. Before losing his life at the end of a spear, he wrote in his diary, “He is no fool who loses what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”[3]

Jesus says, “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Jesus tells us that the way to save our lives, is to lose our lives for Christ’s sake.

When Jesus speaks here of saving our lives, he is speaking of more than mere physical existence. He is speaking of the core of our existence, our “personhood,” our identity.

So many people are trying to find themselves. They are trying to find their identity. They do not know who they are and they are continually searching and trying to identify themselves or to carve out an identity for themselves.

Never before in the history of the world has there been so much confusion about identity. Today people wrestle with sexual orientation and gender identity. In some cultures, boys are taught to wonder if they are girls, and girls are taught to wonder if they are boys. These are questions that our grandparents would not even have understood.

At the hospital when a baby is delivered, the doctor never wonders what kind of a baby it is. If it’s a boy, the attending physician will declare, “It’s a boy!” If it’s a girl, he will declare, “It’s a girl!” No one is confused about that.

Accepting your maleness or your femaleness is recognizing God’s sovereignty in your life. He has created us male or female according to his own good will for us. And it is not hard to figure out what he created us to be.

Beyond that, some people are constantly trying to find themselves, to “discover” who they are. They may focus an inordinate amount of attention on their own selves to the point of idolizing themselves, making an idol out of their own bodies, worshiping themselves, abusing themselves, and doing all that they can to draw attention to themselves.

Others try to build their identity on gaining a place in the world.

Every culture points to certain things and says, “If you gain [these things], if you acquire or achieve [these things], then you’ll have a self, you’ll know you’re valuable.” Traditional cultures would say you’re nobody unless you gain the respectability and legacy of family and children. In individualistic cultures it’s different; the culture says you’re nobody unless you gain a fulfilling career that brings money, reputation, and status. Regardless of such differences, though, every culture says identity is performance-based, achievement-based.[4]

To that, Jesus says,

Mark 8:36 ESV For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

We focus on our success and will take whatever measures are necessary to achieve it. We have our agenda, our plans for our success. We may be pursuing wealth or fame, but we have our aspirations and our goals. We have our eyes fixed on some prize that will win us the applause of others, and we think that when we achieve that, we will be happy. We will have found ourselves. We will be somebody.

Perhaps we try to find our identity in our relationships. One popular song proclaimed, “You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you.” Well, someone has loved you.

Romans 5:8 ESV but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We have a hard time understanding how people who have reached the pinnacle of success will end it all. We learn of the tragic endings of people like Robin Williams or Whitney Houston and wonder why.

For all their searching, they did not find life.

“Learning to love yourself” is not “the greatest love of all.” The greatest love of all is loving the “Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind,” Jesus said (Mark 12:30).

Mark 8:35 NLT If you try to hang on to your life, [Jesus said,] you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.

We were created for God. We were created to serve his purpose. We were created to know him, and to love him, and to glorify him by enjoying him forever.

But this is not simply some abstract notion of God. Jesus said that if we give up our lives for his sake and for the sake of the gospel, we will save it. We find ourselves in serving others, in loving others, in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with others.

Whether you are a father or mother, or carpenter or plumber, or secretary or company executive, you will find your life in letting Christ set your agenda. Let him be the King of your home, your work, your community service. Let his principles dictate how you conduct your business for then your business will be the King’s business. Certain activities will stop. You will no longer be engaged in those activities which destroy lives. You will give yourself to those things which promote good rather than evil, righteousness rather than wickedness.

If your agenda is the end, then Jesus is just the means; you’re using him. But if Jesus is the King, you cannot make him a means to your end. You can’t come to a king negotiating. You lay your sword at a king’s feet and say, “Command me.” If you try to negotiate instead, if you say, “I’ll obey you if . . . ,” you aren’t recognizing him as a king. But don’t forget this: Jesus is not just a king; he’s a king on a cross. If he were only a king on a throne, you’d submit to him just because you have to. But he’s a king who went to the cross for you. Therefore you can submit to him out of love and trust. This means coming to him not negotiating but saying, “Lord, whatever you ask I will do, whatever you send I will accept.” When someone gave himself utterly for you, how can you not give yourself utterly to him? Taking up your cross means for you to die to self-determination, die to control of your own life, die to using him for your agenda.[5]

5. The Infinite Value of Your Soul

Mark 8:36-37 NLT And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul?

Jesus tells us that the man who has traded his soul to gain the world, has made a poor bargain indeed. Nothing compares to the value of your eternal soul. Nothing but God himself. Lose your soul for his sake, entrust your personhood, your identity, your eternal existence to him. Lose it all for him. He will preserve it for you. It is in denying ourselves, dying to ourselves, and following him, that we find out who we were really meant to be. It is in dying to ourselves, and living for Christ, that we find life.

The Apostle Paul said it like this,

Galatians 2:20 ESV I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

C. S. Lewis closes his book Mere Christianity with this:

Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, the death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and the death of your whole body in the end: Submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.[6]

Jesus invites you to follow him on the way of the cross:

Mark 8:34 NIVO … “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.


[1] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 95). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[2] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 102). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 10585-10587). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[4] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 102). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[5] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 104-105). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 106). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

 

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John 02:13-25, “Christ Cleanses the Temple”

Jesus-Cleansing-the-Temple-Carl-Heinrich-Bloch

Scripture: John 2:13-25

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”

21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:13-25 ESV).

The temple was supposed to be a place of worship, a place to meet God, a place where people could say,

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand (Psalm 95:6-7 ESV).

SONG: FERNANDO ORTEGA – COME, LET US WORSHIP (Psalm 95:6-7) – 12 sec lead – 3:40

Context

John’s purpose in writing this Gospel is that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing, have life in his name (20:31).

So as we consider this event in the life of Jesus in which he cleanses the temple at Jerusalem, we want to especially consider how it demonstrates that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

John’s Gospel is like a piece of cloth where one strand or one thread of the cloth touches many other strands to make the whole piece. Already in the first chapter, Christ’s deity and humanity are tightly sewn together. Jesus is the Word who in the beginning already was, the Word that was with God and the Word that was God. And yet, the Word became flesh—the Son of God became the Son of Man who is like a ladder that links earth to heaven.

John the Baptist had pointed his own disciples to Jesus as the true light. John’s disciples Andrew and John (the son of Zebedee) followed Jesus and rejoiced in finding the Messiah (which means Christ). Philip told Nathanael that Jesus was the one that Moses and the prophets had written about. And Nathanael was amazed to realize that Jesus was the Son of God, the King of Israel.

Now in the second chapter, Jesus’ disciples were with him at the wedding in Cana when he changed the water into wine. They saw his glory and believed in him.

They were also with him in this episode when he cleansed the temple in Jerusalem.

John the Baptist had testified that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Now John the Evangelist, the author of this Gospel, neatly frames Jesus’ act of cleansing the temple by placing it between two references to the Passover, the feast when the lamb was slain on the Day of Atonement:

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem (John 2:13 ESV).

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing (John 2:23 ESV).

We need to understand that this story is not just about cleansing the temple. It is not about unfair and abusive business transactions taking place. It is not just some isolated story about Jesus getting angry at what he found in the temple precincts. The whole point of this story is to reveal Jesus’ identity and his mission.

Cleansing the Temple

In chapter 2:13, John tells us that the cleansing of the temple took place just before the feast of Passover. There were three main Jewish feasts that all Jewish males in Israel were obligated to attend in Jerusalem: Passover, Tabernacles, and Pentecost. Three times a year, Jerusalem would be crowded with men from all over Israel. Even Jews living outside of Israel often travelled to Jerusalem for one or more of these special feasts.

The Feast of Passover was also a time when sacrifices had to be offered. It would have been difficult to travel from distant places with an animal of sacrifice such as a lamb or an ox. So, many people would wait and buy an animal in Jerusalem instead of bringing an animal from their home. An entire industry specializing in animal sacrifices grew up around the temple. At first, the animal merchants had set up their stalls in the Kidron Valley on the slope of the Mount of Olives a short distance from the temple, but now they had set up their shops in the temple, in the Court of the Gentiles.[1]

There were three courts in the temple in Jerusalem. There was the inner court for only male Jewish worshipers. The next separated area was for Jewish women only. Finally, there was the outer court for all non-Jewish people, the Court of the Gentiles. It was in this outer court for the Gentiles that the animal merchants were now carrying on their business.

There were also moneychangers in this part of the temple. During these high feasts, Jews came from all over the Roman Empire. They had to pay a temple tax, but that tax could only by paid with coins of the purest silver coming from Tyre. The moneychangers converted money to the approved currency and charged a percentage for their service.

This was big business. The animal merchants were there “because everyone offered a sacrifice for sins.”[2]

This was convenient worship. You could go to Jerusalem, change your money, buy an approved animal that was “without spot or blemish,” and take it to the priest. No worries!

All this was done for the convenience of the worshipers. You didn’t have to come to worship prepared. You could take care of the necessities at the last minute, and maybe, if you were sharp enough in haggling, you could get a good deal.[3]

This is what Jesus found in the temple in Jerusalem:

In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money (John 2:14 NLT).

This is what was going on in God’s house! Can you imagine the noise? People haggling over prices. Cattle lowing. Sheep bleating. How could anyone worship God with all that going on? Furthermore, there was no place left for the Gentiles at all.

The outer court was the only place where Gentiles could go to worship God, and Jesus called his Father’s house “a house of prayer for all the nations” (Mark 11:17 NRSV). The place of prayer had become a confusing, squabbling, stinking, shrieking mass of people, animals, and business deals. No one could pray.[4]

Worship Distractions

Worship should be an experience of entering into the presence of God, of conversing with God. But there was too much noise and distraction to hear anything from God.

We need to be careful about our worship today. We can be guilty of creating our own distractions. Please allow me to say a few things as a trained musician. Sometimes the music is simply too loud. If the sound system and the keyboard and the drums and the guitars and the singers are so loud that the people in the congregation cannot even hear their own voices, they will not be able to truly enter into worship. Worship is not for a few people up front. This is not a performance. Worship leaders are not the focus of our attention. Worship leaders should lead the congregation into the presence of God. But they must be careful not to drown out the congregation by having the sound system so loud that people cannot hear themselves. The people who run the sound equipment have a very important responsibility to set the sound system so that it does not distract or overpower the worshippers.

Another distraction is music when someone is speaking to the congregation. When the pastor is speaking to the church, everyone including the musicians should give him their full attention, even if he is only making announcements. There is a time for everything. There is a time to make music, and there is a time to refrain from making music. When someone is addressing the congregation, he should not have to compete with a keyboard or a guitar.

Musicians need to be very careful not to draw attention to themselves. In worship, there is an audience of One, and that One is the Lord God. In our singing and in our preaching and in everything we do, everyone’s attention should be on Him.

Jesus the Man

So Jesus came upon this scene in the temple: merchants selling animals for sacrifice, moneychangers sitting at their tables.

Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables (John 2:15 NLT).

Jesus was no wimp! He was no namby-pamby. He was as courageous as a lion! He is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Can you imagine him driving out the merchants and moneychangers, the sheep and cattle charging out of the temple area, the coins rolling all over the floor, and people scattering in every direction?

Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (John 2:16 NLT).

Jesus does not charge them with corruption. He does not charge them with unethical business practices. He says that they should not be in the temple area at all.[5] This is a place of worship.

Jesus the Messiah

This is not the first time that Jesus has been to the temple. Luke tells us that Jesus had gone to the temple when he was a 12-year-old boy. But now he goes not as a boy, but as the anointed Messiah of God. And the first thing that he does is to cleanse the temple. He will cleanse it a second time in the last week of his life.

These are the first words that we hear him speaking in the temple:

“Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (John 2:16 NLT).

The temple is his Father’s house. “My Father’s house,” he says. The next time that he calls God his own Father is in 5:17,

But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I” (John 5:17 NLT).

In the very next verse, John explains what it means when Jesus calls God his own father:

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because… he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

When Jesus ordered the merchants to stop turning “my Father’s house into a marketplace,” he was claiming equality with God and the right to purify the temple.

In seeing this,

His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17 ESV).

Just as the disciples had seen his glory and believed in him when Jesus turned the water into wine, they now see Jesus fulfilling Old Testament references to the Messiah. Passion for God’s house and God’s glory consumed Jesus.

Demand for a Sign

Recognizing that Jesus was the Messiah was not the response of all the Jews. John has already told us:

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:11-12 ESV).

The Jewish leaders did not receive him. They demand a sign:

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” (John 2:18 ESV).

Note that they do not try to defend the sale of animals and the currency exchange in the temple itself. This has become a convenient way to make money for the temple, and perhaps for themselves. But they do recognize that Jesus has made a Messianic claim. He has claimed the right to purify the temple and they understand that this is what the Messiah would do. Four hundred years before, Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, had said that the Lord would “suddenly come to his temple” to purify it.

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi… (Malachi 3:1-3 ESV).

Suddenly Jesus has come to the temple. Suddenly he is chasing out the moneychangers and animal merchants. He is purifying his Father’s house. This is exactly what the Messiah would do. But there were two different reactions to this cleansing of the temple:

  1. Jesus disciples remembered that zeal for God’s house would consume the Messiah. They recognized that Jesus was the Messiah.
  2. The religious authorities saw the cleansing and demanded a sign.

They did not dispute the rightness of his action. They disputed his right to take the action

… “What miraculous proof do you show us to justify your actions?” (John 2:18 MIT).

God does not give signs on demand. He cannot be tamed. He is not our lapdog, called on to do tricks whenever we want. Again religious leaders will demand a sign but his response will be:

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah (Matthew 12:39 ESV).

That is the same sign that he gives them here in John 2.

Destroy This Temple

“All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” (John 2:19-20 NLT).

At the end of his ministry, Jesus is falsely accused of saying that he would destroy the temple. Yet, he never said, “I will destroy this temple.” The religious authorities asked for a sign. He gave them one. “Destroy this temple,” he said, “and in three days I will raise it up.” He invites them to destroy the temple.

But what temple was he talking about? Later he would prophecy that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed. Not one stone would be left standing on another. That did happen in AD 70 when the Romans invaded Jerusalem.

But that is not what Jesus is talking about here. John explains,

But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body (John 2:21 NLT).

Perhaps he even made a gesture to refer to his own body, but the religious authorities would not have anyone upset their way of doing things. The loved their position and power.

“What miraculous sign will you perform to show us that you have the right to purify the temple? Prove to us that you are the Messiah.”

As Messiah, Jesus had come as the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world. He had come to be the Passover Lamb. He had come to die on the cross for your sins and mine. He would prove that he was Messiah by dying and rising again!

“Destroy this temple—destroy this body—and in three days I will raise it up.”

But he was speaking about the temple of his body (John 2:21 ESV).

As Michael W. Smith says in this song, “Nobody knew his secret ambition was to give his life away.”

SONG: MICHAEL W. SMITH – SECRET AMBITION – 8 second lead in – 3:41

Even the disciples failed to understand at that time what Jesus meant. It was only after the resurrection that they understood what Jesus was talking about. John explains in v. 22

When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken (John 2:22 ESV).

  • They remembered.
  • They believed the Scripture.
  • They believed the word that Jesus had spoken.

The disciples saw more than signs. They saw the glory.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14 ESV).

When Jesus changed the water into wine, his disciples saw his glory and believed in him (2:11).

Notice the contrast that John makes between the disciples and others in v. 23:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:23-25 ESV).

The religious authorities demanded signs.

Others believed because of the signs, but Jesus did not trust them because their belief was based not on his word but on signs. True faith comes not through signs, but through the Word.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17 ESV).

The spoken word remains. It does not pass away. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Word will never pass away. Faith based on the word remains. Faith based on the Word does not change because the truth does not change.

But faith that is based on signs is in need of continual support.

Like the Jewish leaders, people today constantly ask for signs. They say, “Show me a miracle and I will believe.” Others say: “I read about Jesus’ miracles in the Bible, but I wasn’t there; I didn’t see those things with my own eyes. I’m not going to believe in Christ until I see Him with my own eyes, hear Him with my own ears, or see a miracle done in His name today.”

…The resurrection of Christ is the supreme sign. God will only do it once. God will not send Christ to die and be raised every week. By raising Christ from the grave, God established His church. Christ is the temple, and all men are commanded to come to Him in order to worship and serve the one true God.[6]

The disciples believed the Scripture.

They believed the word that Jesus had spoken.

Jesus came to the temple as Lord of the temple. He came to cleanse it and at the same time replace. Destroy this temple, he said, and I will raise it. As the Lamb of God he would take away the sins of the world. As the Lamb of God he would die for your sins and mine. Here in this second chapter of John, Jesus announces already his mission as Messiah: he would die and rise again.

SONG: MICHAEL W. SMITH — THE WONDERFUL CROSS

You must put your trust in Jesus. Let Jesus cleanse your temple, your heart, your mind. He alone is the only hope for your salvation. He calls on you to receive him as your Lord and Savior. Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Find a Bible-believing church where the Word of God is preached and believers are instructed in how to be disciples of Jesus Christ. And follow Jesus every day.


[1] Carson, John, p. 178.

[2] Comfort and Hawley, Opening the Gospel of John, p. 36.

[3] Comfort and Hawley, Opening the Gospel of John, p. 37.

[4] Comfort and Hawley, Opening the Gospel of John, p. 37-38.

[5] Carson, John, p. 179.