Sermon – October 7, 2018
John 2:13-22 – Sacrifice and the Worship of God (mp3)
Our God is gracious and merciful, allowing sinful people to come to him through the work of his Son without accomplishing any merit on their own; yet he is also holy and righteous, desiring us to recognize that we cannot come to him on our own terms. We ought to feel that tension each time we walk into a worship service. We know that we may come to him free of charge, so to speak, but also must come in spirit and truth. These realities are not new to us but existed since the first time God called his people to him. Today, as we think through Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, let us reconsider the nature of our worship of God.
1. Our focus on God
There are many reasons that Jesus might be as upset as he is about the money-changers and those selling animals in the Temple. Perhaps he is upset about opportunistic capitalists trying to make a dollar off of put-upon travelers. Perhaps he is upset that such practices are clogging the court of the Gentiles, keeping them from freely accessing God and praying to him in the Temple complex. But John hints at neither of these things. Instead, John seems to imply that Jesus really doesn’t have a problem with either practice – his problem is the location. There are many things that are good, but do not belong in the house of God. We at Crossway design our worship services in such a way to make sure that we are worshiping God as he has called us to, and avoiding many good things that are not truly a part of worshiping God. Therefore, we try to avoid entertainment, but focus fully on the God of our salvation. This means that individuals must also work hard, and sacrifice much, to have their attention focused solely on God during worship.
2. Our foundation in Christ
As the Jews ask Jesus for a sign, Christ seems to try to call their bluff, by telling them to tear down the Temple so that he can rebuild it in three days. That is quite a sign indeed! They refuse, they think, to take Jesus up on it. But John mentions that Jesus was not just referring to the Temple itself – but to his own body. It is one thing for someone to be resurrected, but it is another thing for a man to claim to be so full of life, to be life incarnate, that he could resurrect himself. Yet, Jesus here claims just that! Jesus has the authority to tell everyone how to worship because he is God himself. Our foundation for what we do in all things is Christ. But Christ is also our foundation, not just in his authority, but also in his sacrifice. We come to God to worship only because Jesus has laid down his life for us. Let us worship God with passion, conviction, and truth, for Christ has died for us that we might worship God in spirit and truth!