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A Cleansing Beyond the Cleaning of Hands

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Title:  A CLEANSING BEYOND THE CLEANING OF HANDS

Text:  John 2:12-25

Introduction:

            Tradition has a way of creating layers.  The first generation to establish a pattern does so to mark a special event or to make significant something they don’t want to forget.  The next generation usually doesn’t have the same intensity of feeling for the event, but out of honor to their parents will repeat it.  The third generation, though, is out of touch with the event and it’s significance, so they will alter the tradition slightly to make it more relevant.  Thus, as the years pass, layer upon layer of adaptation.  Traditions that stem from laws are less likely to change, but the intensity of feeling or appreciation of the event will wane. 

            Traditions that originate from a profoundly spiritual event and have lost their impact, are soon to become the victim of worship by rote and the absence of their spiritual significance.  Without that spiritual significance, the tradition is wide open to corruption and abuse.  This must have been the case with the Passover in the Temple in Jerusalem, our subject of this study.  Read Text.

1.      What do you imagine to be the intensity of feeling and significance of those who were initially instructed to celebrate the Passover?     How significant would this event be for the children of those where in Egypt at the time?     How significant would it be for those born in the wilderness wandering and thereafter?

2.      How do you imagine the significance of the Passover in Jesus’ day?  (It probably became a festive event that became an occasion to get together with family and friends if it were convenient to your schedule; the merchants capitalized on the influx of travelers; but most assuredly the wonder and awe of God’s rescue out of Egypt was lost.)

3.      Only through John’s gospel do we get the insight that this is the first of two cleansings Jesus made of the Temple…this one and the one in His final week of passion.  Why do you think the Pharisees and Scribes did not react as harshly to Jesus’ actions this time as they did three years later?  (They were caught off guard and perhaps did not think Jesus as a threat at this point.)

4.      Since Jesus and to make an additional cleansing (Mk. 11:15 ff), what does this tell you about the sincerity of the merchants to change?  Or of the Pharisees as spiritual leaders to allow it to go on?

5.      Does this tell you whether they thought Jesus’ words were authoritative about such a radical change to their practice?     What can we expect if we don’t view Jesus’ words as authoritative?   Jn. 12:46-50; 14:21; 1 Thes. 4:1-2; 1 John 2:3-6

6.      What light does this incident shed on the nature of Jesus and what’s on His heart?  (He abhors corrupt worship and desires purity in our motives when we come before the Father.)

7.      Do you think this event is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Malachi 3:1-3?

8.      Why were there merchants in the outer courtyard of the Temple?  (To offer for sale animals without defect for their sacrifices.)     Why were there moneychangers there?  (The Temple had it’s own coins because the priests did not want their hands to touch Roman coinage, who’s emblem on it was Caesar, a god in the eyes of the Romans.  Thus money had to be exchanged.)

9.      If moneychangers were essential to the exchange of funds and thus sacrificial worship, why was Jesus so irate about what they were doing?  (Some believe that the exchangers had rigged their balances in their favor to exchange gold for gold, silver for silver when they weighed the coins.)     Do you think Jesus was seeking to reform the old system or to abolish it?  (V. 16 He wasn’t denouncing the fraudulent moneychangers, but objecting to any business at all being transacted in the Temple.)

10.  As John records the event, he then remembers a verse from Ps.       69:9; 119:139.  What is “zeal for Thy house” all about?  (Righteous anger; Jesus was challenging their tradition of the sacrificial system that could not cleanse the soul of the worshipper…only His own blood could do that.  Jesus’ zeal for pure worship ultimately led to His own death.)     When does zeal become abuse?  (Sinful anger; when someone unloads on others because they aren’t getting their way; thus the Pharisees in killing Jesus out of zeal to protect their form of worship.)

11.  Since Jesus was altering their tradition, they demanded to know by what authority He had the right to do so.  Jesus countered with prophecy about the resurrection of His own temple when they (the Pharisees & Scribes) destroy it.  From the discourse that follows, did the corrupt leaders understand Jesus’ spiritual meaning?     Did Jesus’ own disciples catch on then or did that understanding of His revelation come later?  (Later – v. 21-22)
Comment:  This is the first mention of Jesus’ death and resurrection to the disciples.  Many more were to follow, and some not as obscure.  Yet the words of Jesus went right over their head.
When do you think the light finally dawned upon them about what Jesus was referring to?  (After the resurrection.)

12.  What was the intended use of the God’s house, the Temple?  (For prayer.)  Isa. 56:7; Mk 11:17
Insight:  Think of it…church is the place where the murderer, adulterers, thieves and the like are to find cleansing of their sin, and indeed, not just major sin, but all sins you and I commit.  Cleansing comes from asking forgiveness.  If we distract the seeker from being able to find the freedom from sin they seek, then neither of us will find acceptance before God!
In your opinion, what can we do better in our worship services (or if need be, change) in order to facilitate the repentant seeker finding freedom from the sins that enslave them?

13.  Where do you draw the line in what is or is not pure worship?

14.  What was better about the worship Jesus had to offer man than what the Pharisees offered?  (He offered a more direct approach to God in worship, an offering that is acceptable to the Father, and was sufficient to atone for sin.)  Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 3:17

15.  Compare Jn. 2:19 with Mk. 14:58 and Matt. 27:40 and see if you see any inconsistency.  (Jesus did not say He would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days; but that if they destroy the temple {referring to His own body}, He would raise it up in three days.  They all inaccurately quoted Him, even though they did not understand what He was referring to.)

16.  Jn. 2:23-25  What do you think these verses are about?  (Their belief in Jesus was only superficial, not deep enough to commit themselves to Him.  Jesus, who knows the hearts of men, understood this, and thus did not entrust Himself to them.  Superficial belief that does not make you aware of your need for forgiveness and that Jesus is the One to go to for that forgiveness…is not a sincere belief.)

 

Conclusion:

            The development of faith ultimately leads to commitment.  John wrote so that we might believe and have life in His name.  When Jesus sees the insincerity of the heart, He does not entrust Himself to that seeker until they are willing to commit themselves to Him.  Like James says, faith without action is dead.  Fruit of the Spirit follows His presence…thus evidence of belief is seen in commitment.  Just remember that only Jesus can see into the heart of man.  We are left to watch and listen for the signs of commitment.  Only then can we discern whether the belief is genuine.  All of us fall short…so our duty is to lend a helping hand to one another as we seek our way to the Father.  I would hope that none of us would hinder someone’s search as a modern-day Pharisee or moneychanger.

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