The Gospel of John #5

Whip that Jesus Wields

John 2:13 - 25

Good morning, everyone.  While we were busy dealing with COVID-19, half the year of 2020 has already gone by.  While we have to be careful still of the COVID-19 virus, we need to watch out for heavy rainfall, too.  I pray that God will keep everyone’s health and livelihoods safe. 

Now, today, I would like to look at the latter half of the Gospel of John chapter 2.  It is the scene of the clearing of the temple by Jesus that you well know. 

Actually, there were two occasions in which Jesus drove out people doing business in the temple.  The first time was during the first Passover after Jesus started his public ministry, and the other was the Passover right before going on the cross.  In the Gospel of John that we will be looking at today, is the first cleansing of the temple.  The cleansing of the temple right before the cross is recorded in each of the other three Gospel Books.

In each of those scenes, unusual for Jesus, he showed strong emotion.  That Jesus drove out the merchants revealing his emotion so strongly is symbolic of the perfectly holy God never being able to accept human sins, and the purpose for which Jesus coming to this world to take away that human sin. 

For the ministry of Jesus, the Passover is depicted in the Bible as an extremely important scene.  That is because the Passover itself is symbolic of the substitution of Jesus on the cross. 

The Passover was a festival that was extremely important to the Jews.  It is the festival to remember that God freed their ancestors, the Israelites, from four hundred years of slavery in Egypt in the past.  On the night before leaving Egypt, by putting the blood of the lamb on the sides and tops of the doorframe of the house, God “passed over” the judgment on that house.  The origin of this festival is recorded in Exodus chapter 12.  This Passover in Egypt, that was following God’s direction, sacrificing a lamb, and only those who put that blood on escaping God’s judgment, is symbolic of Jesus shedding blood on the cross in atonement for the punishment for human sins.  The Passover was a precursor showing that Jesus was the lamb prepared by God, and those who believe will escape judgment.  It was later that the Jews at the time of Jesus’ clearing of the temple would come to know it. 

At all events, it was an extremely important festival for Jews.  During the festival, many Jews living in other countries, too, gathered in Jerusalem and to worship there.  Jesus, too, with his disciples, came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and to worship. 

Then, inside the temple in Jerusalem, in addition to the worshippers, it was crowded with many merchants and money exchangers, and it was like a market. 

For the Passover, worshippers offered animal sacrifices.  Sacrificial animals had to be without any defects.  For people coming to Jerusalem from afar, it was difficult to bring animals without hurting them.  Also, the worshippers had to pay temple taxes at the time of worship.  Those taxes had to be paid with Jerusalem currency, so money exchangers also did business in the temple collecting commission. 

The religious leaders who were the managers of the temple had allowed these businesses to be conducted in the temple.  The religious leaders were lining their pockets by collecting money from the merchants in exchange for allowing them to do business in the temple. 

It was convenient for the worshippers to be able to buy the sacrificial animals and exchange currency within the temple.  However, the animals sold in the temple and the commission for currency exchange was unreasonably high.  The religious leaders and merchants were conducting business on the pretext of doing it for the worshippers, but in reality, their priority was on how to make money. 

Seeing the scene, Jesus showed his intense indignation.  I will read 2:14 to 16.

14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

As Jesus says in verse 16, he showed his indignation at the fact that the temple being the place for worshipping God was completely forgotten, making it a place to make money. 

In verse 15, Jesus drove away animals and merchants wielding a whip he made out of cords.  It is very different from the gentle image we well have of Jesus. 

However, here, Jesus is not condoning violence for God of course.  Looking at the Bible, we see that Jesus used the whip to drive out the animals, and not wielding it in angry impulse.  We can also see that he overturned the tables and money for exchanging money, but did not hurt people. 

Whips were tools used by shepherds.  A whip was a tool to lead the sheep to places where nutritious grass grew.  Also, it was used to scare animals like wolves that came after the sheep.  Sheep are said to be wandering animals, only able to see what is right in front of them.  Jesus is the good shepherd sent to lead the people of this world who have wandered out of the loving hand of God.  That is expressed symbolically here.  Also, in this extremely important time for Jews at the festival of the Passover, Jesus wielded the whip in order for their hearts to turn to the essential issue of the meaning of the festival and the temple being a place to worship God.  

Furthermore, by driving out the animals, Jesus is alluding to the purpose for which he came into the world.  The animals sold at the temple were sacrificial offerings to atone for human sins.  However, that was a kind of a precursor format for Jesus himself becoming the sacrifice on the cross to atone for human sins.  By driving away the offertory animals from the temple, Jesus was implying that in time there would be no need for animal sacrifices for believers of Jesus as the savior after the across. 

Continuing on, I will read verse 18.  Please look in your Bibles. 

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

Suddenly, the Jews who were interrupted snapped at Jesus’ behavior.  We would think it to be normal response if they did not know who Jesus was.  However, they did not say anything about the reason why Jesus acted in that way.  The Jews did not even try to find out the reason behind Jesus’ action, only looked at what Jesus did in front of them. 

To that, Jesus tried to show them something important.  I will read verses 19 to 21. 

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”

21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

The temple in Jerusalem in those days was the one that King Herod had had expansion work done, and it had been forty-six years since construction had started, and even then, it was still incomplete.  It was another few decades before construction was completed. 

However, Jesus said if they destroyed it, he would reconstruct it in three days. 

Actually, the Jesus we know has the power to rebuild however great a building not in three days, but instantly. 

However, what Jesus was referring to here was not the physical place of the tmple in Jerusalem, but was indicating himself coming to this world to be the temple where people would be able to worship God anywhere.  He was saying that to be the savior to restore the relationship of humans with God, that in time, he would go on the cross, and that those who believe him to be the savior would come to worship God through Christ. 

So, as it says in verse 22, the disciples recalled what was said at this time when they met Jesus three days after the cross. 

After this discussion about the temple, how the Jews responded is not written in the Bible, but it would seem that the Jews who confronted Jesus probably did not believe Jesus.

On the other hand, during this Passover, Jesus performed many signs in Jerusalem, and among the people who saw them, were those who believed Jesus.  It is in verses 24 and 25. 

It says that Jesus did not entrust himself to them.  There must have been people among the believers who believed rightly that Jesus was the savior.  However, probably, many people believed him to be just a person who did amazing signs, or since he had amazing powers, he was fit to be a political leader.  And actually, people who believed in this way cried out to put Jesus on the cross a few years later.  So, Jesus did not entrust himself to them or allowed to be carried by them. 

On the side, it says in verse 23, “many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name”.  As a characteristic of the Gospel of John, when “believed” is used, in most cases, they do not believe Jesus in the right way, that he is the savior.  They only believe him to be a person who performs miracles having amazing power.  On the other hand, when it says, “believe”, they believe Jesus to be the savior.  The words are differentiated in that way.

Now, what can we learn from today’s passage?  Let’s look at that next.

What we can learn from today’s passage is that if we believe Jesus and are made a part of Christ’s body, we need to keep ourselves pure as a place of worshipping God. 

We believed in Jesus’ sacrifice and were saved.  And were called to be a part of Christ’s body.  Because of the substitution of Jesus’ cross, the punishment for our sins is already atoned for, but we need to be pure before God, and keep that purity.

What defile purity is our sin.  The fact that we who are already saved being sinners hasn’t changed.  Every day is a battle with sins.  Sin enters into our hearts even with the smallest of compromises. 

“It’s what everyone does,” or “It can’t be helped because I was asked to,” or “It’s okay because it’s for a good cause.”  Even if we think so, we need to always determine with our minds and heart if that is what God really wishes, if it is not sin.  If we think it may be sin, it is necessary to think of another way, or have the courage to say no to it.

What the merchants and money changers were doing in the temple was formally allowed by the manager of the temple at the time, and was in the interest of the people who came to worship from afar.  However, the viewpoint of whether or not it was appropriate to conduct business in the place of worship was missing.  And somewhere along the way, how to make money had become more of a priority than worshipping God, and led to raising the prices of the animals and commission for more profit.  The religious leaders, too, saying it was for the worshippers, had ignored how a temple should really be, and prioritized lining their pockets. 

A small compromise of not thinking with your mind and heart to get to the essence of things may have led to excuses like everyone’s doing it, that you were asked, or that it was in the interest of others. 

We were recreated to become a part of Jesus’ body, so we need to show God’s glory.  I think we need to make an effort to judge the essence of what we are doing now, and reconsider several points if they are really revealing God’s glory or not. 

In thinking of doing a better job, being better at serving, are you not criticizing or judging someone else?  In order to work and serve together, I think God has gathered people of different characteristics.  You may feel some difficulties in working together.  However, in an effort to create something better, there may be cases in which you unwittingly are forcing your own ideals onto other people.  I do not think pointing out where a person is lacking in itself is a bad thing.  However, there may be a need to reconsider your attitude or how you communicate that to others.  

When we try and determine such things, we need to be helped by God.  Because we sinners cannot judge in a completely righteous way without God’s help.  To do so, we need to obey the whip like that of which Jesus wielded in the Scripture passage that we looked at today. 

Whip seems painful.  We would feel fear.  If possible, we would not want to feel it.  However, the whip that Jesus wields will certainly lead us in a good direction.  It is a loving whip.  If we keep in mind that Jesus, the shepherd who leads us, is the one who throws away his life for us sheep, we would be able to obey the whip of Jesus.  I will read Psalm 23.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Jesus will never steer us wrong.  He will lead us to nutritious green pastures.  And will right our way if we go astray.  Even if we are tossed and turned going through trials, and feel our lives are threatened, he is always with us.  We need to trust in Jesus’ whip and guidance, keep on making the decision over and over to obey. 

Since it is a whip, at times it might actually hurt.  It hurts to be pointed out our sins.  However, it is important for us to admit to sinning forthrightly, confess it before God, and pray to be able to do away with that sin.  That is what it means to obey the whip of Jesus. 

Also, I think it will be of great encouragement to share at times with other Christians how you are trying to obey Jesus’ whip. 

Because of the COVID-19, small group fellowships at church has greatly been reduced, but it is also a fact that online fellowship has started being used through this crisis.  The risk for infection is still something we need to be wary of, but it is very important to keep having fellowship even by using such online tools, too.  The important thing then would be not only to catch up on each other’s news, but to share your walk as Christians on how you are trying to obey Jesus’ whip, and how you are battling sins.  Through such fellowship, we get to know how God is guiding that person, and ourselves, too, in different ways. 

It would be wonderful if it didn’t just end up being a group of good friends, but if possible, build a trusting relationship in which you can share about your sins, too.  If you wish for such fellowship, and are in need of one, Jesus will guide you to meet such people. 

Jesus will never abandon his sheep to be left all lone.  Let’s ask for and trust that Jesus will lead us to a group of people with whom we could encourage each other. 

Today, we looked at the scene of the clearing of the temple by Jesus.  Jesus showed us through this occurrence that he himself became the sacrifice to atone for our sins.  Also, he showed us that he will make us believers a part of his body.  Let us renew our decision to obey the whip that Jesus wields, and be righted in our walk.  And let’s keep our walk pure by being thankful that we have been made into the body of Jesus.

Let’s pray.

God, just as Jesus drove the merchants out of the temple, we thank you that by the substitution on the cross, You have removed Your wrath towards our sins.  Please help us to always remember and be appreciative of Jesus becoming the sacrificial offering to forgive our sins.  Let’s pray individually in our own words. 

(individual prayer)

God, even though we think we are obeying you, unwittingly, there are times we are forcing our values onto other people or judging them.  At those times, please right my path.  Let’s pray in our own words asking to be helped in admitting our sins forthrightly at any time, and be able to obey the whip that Jesus wields. 

(individual prayer)

I think there are people here who still don’t understand what human sins are, or the cross of Jesus.  

The Bible teaches that all human beings have sin before God.  What are sins that we have before God? 

Lies, talking behind someone’s back, deception, taking it out on others, assuming others are at fault, are sins before God, the Bible points out.

Why do even such small things be considered sins?  God in heaven is perfectly holy, is just righteous, and will never commit a single sin.  Also, He will never make a mistake or do wrong.  Since God is so perfectly holy and righteous, God could never accept sin.

The Bible says sins beget severe punishment.  After humans with sins die, they have to keep on suffering for eternity.  Eternity, so there is literally no end to it.  The Bible teaches that because god is perfectly holy, we sinful humans have to go to a place far away from God’s love, where God’s love does not reach, a place where there is only eternal suffering. 

However, God in heaven is not just righteous and holy, but also of love.  God prepared a way for us humans to be forgiven of the punishment for sins and be saved.  That was the cross of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the Son of God, and had not a single sin.  That Jesus became our substitution to receive the punishment for our sins on the cross.  He received the severe judgment and wrath of God towards sin in our place. 

Then how can we receive the salvation from the punishment for sins that God has prepared for us?  

In order to do so, we have to believe Jesus to be the savior from the punishment of our sins.  It is to just believe Jesus as the savior.  There is no need for it to be after understanding everything about the bible, or promise to never sin anymore.  Just by believing Jesus to be the savior, you can be completely saved from the punishment for sins. 

I will now pray a prayer to believe Jesus Christ as the savior.  I will pray in short segments.  You do not need to pray out loud.  Please pray after me in your hearts.

“Heavenly God.  /  Before you /  I realize that I too have sins.  /  Today,  /  I believe Jesus Christ  /  to be my savior.  /  Amen.

Those of you who prayed this prayer now have been completely forgiven of sins by God and have received salvation from the punishment for sins.  Please continue coming to worship.  Let’s study together the wonderfulness of Jesus’ cross from the Bible.