“Who Is The Real High Priest?”
Text - JOHN 2:13—22
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
On this First Sunday of the Season of Lent we see Jesus and His disciples joining the people of Capernaum on a pilgrimage. As their journey ends, we discover Who The Real High Priest is and to Whom does God’s Church belong?
Passover - the most important holy days - of the Judeans was at hand and Jesus went up to Jerusalem – beginning with an inspiring walk from Capernaum to the east side of the Mount of Olives with His neighbors. Traveling together in groups, they sang Psalms befitting the season, spoke of dreams being fulfilled by their pilgrimage to Jerusalem and asked questions of the Rabbi. At the top of the Mount, they drank in the splendor of the temple across the valley.
Jesus, His disciples and neighbors went down the west slope and across the Kidron Valley moving ever closer to the huge stone steps that would take them to the portico entrances. And there the mood that had been so spiritual and uplifting changed abruptly.
Appearing more like entrances to a Cleveland Indians game than the entryway to the holiest spot on earth, their path was cluttered with merchants at makeshift tables or carrying their wares in baskets - miniature temple models as reminders of this visit to the holy city – prayer shawls with temple labels – the newest spices and incense for sale in Jerusalem before becoming available elsewhere. Today we would call it a tourist trap. It was.
Lining the valley, there was a score of pagan temples offering miracle cures for all manner of illnesses to pilgrims willing to test a little pagan remedy for their ills making the proper contribution.
In the temple, Jesus found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. There was wall to wall livestock for sale. All purchases had to be paid with temple currency and the temple agents at their tables set the exchange rate for each of the world’s currencies and their commission as well.
The sellers of souvenirs, prayer shawls and spices were by law restricted to the valley below and the pagan miracle cure priests were in their own temples nearby – all replaced by the temple officials’ cadre of merchants and money changers. It was the sounds, the smells and the refuse of a farmer’s livestock sale in the narthex of a cathedral in the midst of moneychangers seeking their piece of the action. Animal smells permeated the air and the noise level in the portico was deafening. What Jesus saw and heard in God’s magnificent temple broke His heart.
And making a whip of cords, Jesus drove them all, with sheep and oxen, out of the temple, and He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.
Jesus took the cords being used to tether the larger animals and braided them into a whip with which He herded the livestock out of the porticoes. Then He threw over the tables of the money-changers – scattering the coins in every direction. And He told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; You shall not make My Father’s House a house of trade.”
In the magnificent temple built to be the holiest place on earth, the sound God sought to hear was the sound of His Word being proclaimed, of Psalms and hymns being sung, of praise and thanksgiving in prayers and creeds. The fragrance God most cherishes is the incense of prayer. The sight God cherishes is the joyful expression on the faces of people celebrating the wonderful relationship God has given each of us.
The temple merchants challenged Jesus, “What sign do You have for doing this?” How do you claim this Moral Authority? We are part of the organization that runs this place and are authorized to conduct this business by the high priest himself – by the CEO of the temple. Who are You to interfere in our work?
Jesus attacked an obvious abuse in the practices of temple leaders – but Jesus – in His words and actions – is talking about something as basic as “Who does the temple belong to? What is The Church?”
“Destroy This Temple, and in three days I will raise It up.”
Jesus answered them, “Destroy This Temple, and in three days I will raise It up.” The Judeans then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” Jesus knew the temple authorities did not understand – they rarely did.
A temple is “a place that is occupied by God where people worship Him”. That certainly would include the Jerusalem temple and other modern and ancient edifices throughout the world. And certainly the body of every believer in Jesus Christ is “a place that is occupied by God where people worship Him”. The ultimate Temple - the One Jesus was speaking of - is Jesus Christ Himself.
God is everywhere – no place could possibly exist without the Presence of God – but nowhere is the Presence of God more meaningful to our own relationship with God than in Jesus Christ – God as The vulnerable flesh and blood Christ is the ultimate place occupied by God. Jesus is God’s Ultimate Temple.
Jesus said, “Destroy This Temple, and in three days I will raise It Up.” On the cross as The Lamb of God, Jesus is The Perfect Sacrifice for our sins and alienation from God. As Jesus breathed His last, the veil between the Holy and the Holy of Holies where only the high priest could enter and only on the Day of Atonement was ripped open from the top down. On the cross, Jesus is The Ultimate High Priest offering the only Possible Sacrifice for our Salvation.
When therefore Jesus was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this and they believed The Scripture and The Word Jesus had spoken.
At no time in my half a century as a Christian pastor have I seen groups like the ones today that seek – and too often receive – the endorsement of Christ’s Church for their own sinful behavior. “Tourist trap” theologies seeking converts by promoting sinful and faithless lifestyles - regardless of what God’s Word says - offer no salvation. Truth cannot be traded for politically correct falsehood.
On the cross, all of the world’s evil was unleashed upon The Christ, The Son of The Living God and The Temple of His Body was destroyed – but in three days Jesus rose from the dead and raised The Temple that is His Body with the proclamation of Victory for us all. In 70A.D. the temple in Jerusalem was totally destroyed and the high priest and other temple priests were no more and the ritual sacrifices were no more. Jesus The Ultimate High Priest had offered Himself as God’s Perfect Sacrifice. No other is needed or ever will be.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS – OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR. AMEN.
First Sunday In Lent
March 10, 2019
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio