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Zeal Revealed

March 11th 2012

As Jesus attends the Passover near the beginning of His ministry, He is overcome by zeal for His Father's house. Do you have zeal for your heavenly Father's house? Read or listen to find out more...

Lent 3B – “Zeal Revealed” – John 2:13-22 – March 11, 2012

Our text for this third Sunday in Lent takes us back to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He has been baptized by John, tempted in the Judean wilderness, called His first disciples, and performed His first miracle at a wedding in Cana. Now it is time for the Passover celebration. For centuries, the Passover had been a key festival remembering God’s zealous love for His people. It was a 7 day celebration to commemorate the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. All Jewish males 12 years and older made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem at Passover to recall how the blood of the lamb of sacrifice had caused the angel of death to pass over their homes in Egypt. So Jesus, with His disciples also travels to Jerusalem to make sacrifice and worship at the temple and celebrate the Passover meal together.

Listen again to what He finds: “In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 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. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’” (vs. 14-17).

Now, some of these exchanges and sales during Passover were legitimate, as foreign currency was involved and some travelers found it impractical to transport animal sacrifices. God had provided for this in Deuteronomy. However, this useful service to worshipers, which was to happen outside of the temple, had probably been moved into the temple (closer to the place of sacrifice) in an area where Gentiles gathered for worship. Thus the Gentile believers would have been impeded in their worship.

Also, merchants had turned the Passover into a dishonest money making endeavor. They would charge high exchange rates for foreign currency and discard worthy animals brought by worshipers and require them to purchase expensive temple animal. The temple – the house of God had become a house of trade – literally an emporium or marketplace.

Jesus is consumed by the sin against the temple. So, Jesus filled with zeal – with a deep yearning passion for God’s house – acts. He fashions a whip and in probably a fearful and awesome display of zeal drives both man and beast out of the temple proper.

But Jesus’ zeal was misinterpreted by the Jewish leaders. “… the Jews said to him, ‘What sign do you show us for doing these things?’”(vs.18). He was not seen as THE Passover Lamb sent from God to deliver people from the bondage of sin and death. He was seen as trouble, someone to be silenced. He was seen as someone who wanted power and authority, someone who would cause trouble with the Romans.

We misinterpret people’s zeal at times. We see their excitement and passion and we are turned off by it. Or we suspect their motives and decide that they simply want power and authority. But it is good for people to be filled with Godly zeal, especially when that zeal is about the church – her mission and ministry – Word and Sacrament – worship – faith – and the like. Oh that the zeal of others was more contagious.

For you see, our bigger problem is that we often lack zeal. No doubt we often have a zeal/ a deep yearning passion for certain things – grandchildren, hobbies, the 2011 world series, the 2012 Big 12 Tournament. But what about zeal like Jesus – zeal for God’s house – zeal for the lost?

Our zeal is often lacking and instead we are like the merchandising Jews, as we use God’s Church for our own ends. We seek the glory and adulation of others. People are pitted against pastors and pastors against people all to achieve our desires. We often don’t seek to love and care for those in our family of faith. Worshipers seek a person-centered service of good feelings and emotional highs rather than a God-centered one. We worship with dollar bills rather than tithes. Or we give our tithes, but with tainted motives. Our thoughts wander while in worship. We treat His Sacraments casually, as if they were another chore to do.

But this does not describe Jesus’ zeal. Only God’s perfect Son can meet our sinful self. The “zeal of the LORD of hosts” (Is 9:7) meets us in the person of Jesus Christ. No bowing to decorum, if it means compromising God’s house. No polite, “Well, let’s see about this,” when it would rob God’s people of the comfort and assurance of forgiveness they should receive when they come into the temple. No playing it safe, blending in, keeping quiet, even though this sort of outburst will get him killed. No greater love, no greater intensity, no greater mercy, no greater humility could be shown us sinners than what we see in the person of Jesus Christ.

With all zeal, He was obedient and reversed the curse of Eden. With all zeal, He overpowered the devil and bound Him forever. With all zeal, He covers us with the drenching waters of Baptism. The zeal of His body and blood covers, cleanses, and cures us from our sin.

This person of the Lord Jesus Christ is authentic and genuine. Unlike the money changers and sinners like us, He offers more than a fair exchange. He exchanges our guilt for His acquittal. He exchanges our crosses of damnation for His cross of salvation. He exchanges our weaknesses for the strength of His resurrection. He exchanges the weak things of our world for the strong world of His heaven. He exchanges, on the Last Day, our vile bodies for His victorious, resurrected one.

And He exchanges our lack of zeal with His zeal. As forgiven, redeemed children of God, the Holy Spirit fills us, He gives us zeal, that inner yearning passion for the things God desires of us. He gives us a zeal for God’s house – a yearning passion/desire to gather in this place in His Holy presence – a yearning passion/desire to hear His Holy Word read and proclaimed and receive His Holy Supper for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

He gives us zeal to love and serve others – a yearning passion/desire to love and care for and serve those who gather here with you – a yearning passion/desire to love and care for and serve those in the world around us.

He gives us zeal for witness – a yearning passion/desire to speak the Good News of Jesus to those you interact with each day.

Jesus has zeal for sinners like you and me. He came to be our Passover Lamb to take all our sin – all the times we lack proper, Godly zeal for God’s house and for others – to take it all to the cross and suffer the punishment of hell we deserve. He came to cover us in His blood so that the angel of death would also pass over us so that we might pass over from death to life. And after our sin destroyed the temple of His body, He raised it after three days so that we might also be raised on the Last Day.

That is what Jesus’ zeal looks like. What does your zeal for God’s house and for others look like? Amen.

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