August 18, 2002

Anger For The Glory of God - Part One

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Righteous and Unrighteous Anger Scripture: John 2:12–22


Anger For The Glory of God-Part One

John 2:12-22
Sunday, August 18, 2002
Pastor Randy Smith

At the Grace Tabernacle we uphold the authority of the Word. We believe that that Scriptures come to us under the inspiration of God and thus without error and without contradiction. Therefore when we come to a passage that appears to be in opposition with another portion of Scripture, it is the responsibility of the interpreter to discover how the accounts agree pertaining to the whole counsel of God.

Take for example our text from last week. Both the Old and New Testaments are replete with verses that warn against the dangers of alcohol. We are aware that alcohol usage could present a stumbling block to another believer. We are aware of the sins of underage drinking, driving under the influence, alcoholism and drunkenness. And we are aware of the potential damage it brings to one's body and one's family. The Apostle Paul even went as far to say, "drunkards…shall (not) inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:10). Biblically speaking, a case could be made that the Christian should just avoid the stuff altogether. But then last week we learned that Jesus produced approximately 180 gallons of wine at a wedding and the Bible speaks of His miracle in a favorable light. What gives? How are these accounts concerning alcohol reconciled?

Last week we sought to clarify this apparent contradiction. You'll remember we began by studying the customs of first century Palestine. During that time water was scarce and the small amounts of water to be found were polluted. To purify the water, the Jews would often add 1 part wine to 3 parts water. Therefore their "wine" back then was diluted and could better be classified purified water. Those who drank unpurified wine, similar to our wine today, were viewed as Barbarians.

Additionally, wine brought with it tremendous imagery foreign to our 21st century mind-set. Back then, wine pointed to the arrival of the Messiah and the coming of His kingdom. Wine was also a symbol of joy, festivity and celebration. Therefore, when Jesus produced this wine as a "sign" (Jn. 2:11), the miracle pointed beyond itself to verify His claims of Messiahship and the coming kingdom that had arrived. It symbolized the joy that we now share as members partaking of the New Covenant.

Contradiction resolved

Another apparent contradiction comes in our text this morning. When we think of Jesus Christ, we think of humility and meekness and gentleness. We think of the sacrificial Lamb of God whom we studied a few weeks ago. We think of One weeping at the death of Lazarus and One pleading with the Father to forgive those nailing Him to the cross. We think of the One who reinstated Peter after his denial and the One patiently bore the disciples' spiritual immaturity.

With all these true facts imbedded in our minds, what are we to make of this gentle Messiah who supposedly creates a whip and drives both people and animals out of the temple? What are we to make of the tender Lamb who supposedly empties the coins of the moneychangers and overturns their tables? What are we to make of the meek Servant who condemned anger, but met those in the temple with fierce hostility? Can this text be reconciled or is there a clear contradiction? And even if we believe that this text is true, how does it fit John's purpose to manifest the Messiah? And finally, is there anything from this account that we can specifically apply to our lives?

The title of this message is "Anger for the Glory of God-Part 1." This morning we will begin to answer the questions that I just presented. Similar to last week, we will start with an analysis of these 11 verses. We will conclude next Sunday with some related application that will be very practical for this church.

Let's begin by walking through verse 12-22 of John 2. As you can see on your sermon outline, I have divided our study today into two main points, "Explication (or clearing) of the Temple" in verses 12-17 and "Explanation of the Event" in verses 18-22.


In verses 12 and 13 we read that Jesus and His mother and His brothers and His disciples went up to Jerusalem for the Passover. Two points need to be mentioned before we proceed. First of all, linguistic gymnastics are required to insist that Mary was a perpetual virgin. Verse 12 and other biblical texts clearly state that Jesus had younger siblings, notably 4 half-brothers named James, Joseph, Simon and Jude (Mt. 13:55). As of now, none of them believed He was the Christ (Jn. 7:5), however we know that at least two of them exercised faith after the resurrection. Second , the text says that Christ's entourage was going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. It was a customary pilgrimage for most Jews to go the temple in Jerusalem to participate the annual Passover festivities. As you know, the Passover was a grand event that commemorated the deliverance of the Jews in Egypt, when the angel of death "passed over" the homes marked with blood. Their first-born was spared, but tragic death was brought to those of Egyptian descent.

However, when the party reached the temple prepared for worship, much to their surprise they found anything but a reverential environment. John in verse 14 says they found oxen, sheep, doves and moneychangers right there in the confines of the temple. DA Carson commented, "Instead of solemn dignity and the murmur of prayer, there was the bellowing of cattle and the bleating of sheep. Instead of brokenness and contrition, holy adoration and prolonged petition, there was noisy commerce."

Put yourself in the predicament of Christ. How would you feel if you were greeting with this sight when you arrived to worship at The Grace Tabernacle? Imagine the stench of the animals meeting your nose the moment you walked in the doors. Imagine sober quietness replaced with the bleating of sheep and the lowing of oxen. Imagine viewing the huckstering and bartering of the moneychangers. You would think this isn't a place to worship God; it's a religious circus! It resembles a stroll down the Seaside Heights boardwalk on a Friday night!

From our perspective these events would have been atrocious and offensive, however those tending the animals and the money back then saw things from a different viewpoint. The farmer would have said, "You're outraged? I'm providing a valuable service for the people! You know that according to the law those coming to worship must provide an animal sacrifice. Do you expect those journeying from afar to bring their sacrificial animals along? Thanks to my assistance here in the temple, they have one-stop shopping!" The moneychanger would have said, "I too am providing an invaluable service for the people. Jews coming from all over the Roman Empire are bringing with them a variety of currency. However, the temple tax required of every male over 20 years must be paid in Tyrian coinage. I am grateful to chance their currency so they can make the appropriate offering to God at only 12.5% commission!"

Who is right? What's more important to preserve…solemn undivided worship or the invaluable services of the farmers and moneychangers so the incoming Jews could adequately fulfill the prescribed requirements of the law? How would you feel about such a scene? What would you do? Maybe the better question is…how did Jesus respond and what would Jesus do? Verse 15-16 says, "He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the moneychangers, and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, 'Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a house of merchandise.'"

Now there is no historical evidence to suggest that these groups were corrupt. Jesus' anger did not burn against their dishonest business practices, rather His anger burned against their outright presence in the temple as they disrupted the reverential worship of God. The temple was designed as a place where people could meet with their God. That was its purpose and priority. It was never intended as a "house of merchandise."

Just as people attempted to soften last week's account by saying that Jesus only produced grape juice, they also attempt to soften this account by saying that Jesus wasn't really angry. And the whip He made, well, He never used it. Though I can appreciate individuals who seek to preserve the tenderness of Christ, I reject those who twist Scripture to justify their conclusion. Based on a literal reading of this text, there can be no doubt that Jesus Christ was infuriated with what He saw taking place in the temple. Motivated for the glory of God, His righteous anger caused Him to drive those businessmen out of the temple in a forceful manner. One commentator said, "It was surely the blazing anger of the selfless Christ rather than the weapon He carried which cleared the temple courts of its noisy, motley throng."

Christ's anger was justified on the account that God's glory was being defamed. As One who truly loved the Father, He could not sit back and watch people make a mockery of the temple worship. Though anger no doubt is a sin, righteous anger, when appropriate, becomes a sin if it is not exercised. Once again, Christ, the sinless One, did what was right by being internally provoked over such blasphemy and then vindicating the glory of God.

Before we move on to the second point, the symbolic significance of this dramatic event, similar to last week, must be understood. First of all, in clearing the temple, Jesus promoted not only worship that was pure and without distractions, but also worship that was proper. In Ezekiel 11 we read that the glory of the Lord departed from the original temple that Solomon build. His glory never returned to occupy the third temple, the one in our account build by Herod. God's temples served a vital purpose for a time under the Old Covenant, but the whole system would be replaced in the New Covenant. Under the New Covenant, God would no longer manifest His glory in the presence of one building made with human hands. Now, He would take up His dwelling and manifest His glory in the very human beings He created where He would reside in the presence of the Holy Spirit. God would no longer be worshiped in one centralized location. We no longer need to make a pilgrimage to the temple; rather all His children can worship him anywhere at anytime in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:23). In the New Covenant we can worship God from the heart without the clamor and disruption that was experienced in the temple.

Second , in clearing the temple, Jesus Christ also symbolized the access that the Gentiles have in directly approaching God. Under the Old Covenant, Gentile followers of Jehovah-God were required to ascribe to a Jewish nationalistic law and worship primarily in a Jewish town. Sure, the Gentile could be saved, but in many ways, he needed to become a Jew first. And even then, he was often viewed as second-class citizen in the household of God.

However, in bringing the New Covenant, Jesus gave all men, women and children equal access to God. All humanistic dividing walls have been abolished. All may approach God through Christ on the basis of faith, regardless of their culture, color or gender. All are equal in Christ regardless of our many distinctions. There are no longer any dividing walls.

Physical dividing walls segregated the temple. Deepest inside was the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place. Surrounding these rooms were the Court of Priests. In the middle was the court of Israel. And finally on the outside was the Court of Women. Then if one descended 5 steps to a walled platform, went around that wall came to another wall 14 steps later. Beyond that dividing wall was the Outer Court. On that 1.5-meter barricade were warning signs written in Greek and Latin, which forbid any foreigner to go further in the temple confines under a pain of death. The only place within the temple precincts that was allotted for the non-Israelite to worship was this outer most court, often called the "Court of the Gentiles."

As we read in verse 14, when the Israelites sought to provide animal sacrifices and moneychangers for the Passover, they housed them in the Court of the Gentiles. Therefore nobody would be permitted access to the services. Furthermore, they did not wish to crowd their own section, but saw little concern for foreigners who wished to worship God. The Court of the Gentiles is the area that Jesus cleared, symbolizing His desire to give equal opportunity for all the nations to come to Him for worship.


Therefore it's important to see beyond the actual event and realize through the eyes of faith what this event actually symbolized. Possibly the most symbolic event in this account is about to come, a symbolism totally missed by the religious establishment. The unbelieving Jewish leaders in our narrative knew that Jesus was more than a madman. They never disputed the righteousness of His actions. They rightly assumed that His actions were pointing to something significant. They expected the Messiah to perform mighty signs when He arrived. However they were spiritually blinded and ironically asked Jesus for a sign to validate his authority in taking on such a bold deed. In verse 18 they said, "What sign do You show to us, seeing that You do these things?"

Jesus responded in verse 19, "Jesus answered and said to them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.'" Jesus had already given them a sufficient sign of His Messiahship by clearing the temple but since that was insufficient, He proposed another wager. He suggested they destroy the temple and then promised Himself to rebuild it in 3 days.

Naturally, the Jews took this comment pertaining to the literal temple in which they were standing and said to Him in verse 20, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" In other words, "Jesus we are looking for a sign, but you are suggesting the impossible. It took 46 years to build the temple and you (emphatic in the Greek) are planning to reconstruct it 3 days? No Jesus, your suggestion is blasphemous. We refuse to call you on your preposterous bluff!"

Unfortunately the Jews, now for the second time (first in clearing the temple and now in Christ's comments), missed the spiritual significance of the situation. John clarifies Christ's true intention by his own commentary in verse 21. "But He was speaking of the temple of His body." Since the Jews were focused on this present world, their minds naturally assumed the material, the physical temple in Jerusalem. However Jesus' comments transcended this present world and pointed to a tremendous spiritual reality. He was not referring to the physical temple in Jerusalem, rather He was referring to the temple of His body.

As I mentioned earlier, the presence of God, the Shekinah Glory, never filled this temple as it did the one built by Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians. It never filled the temple, that is, until Jesus arrived in the temple. Christ was the living abode of God on earth. His body was the temple of the living God. Colossians 2:9 says, "For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form." Therefore the closest encounter this third temple ever had with God was when Jesus Christ walked in the door.

Jesus was not referring to the destruction of the physical temple in Jerusalem; He was referring to the destruction of His body, the true spiritual temple of God. A destruction in which the Roman soldiers would nail the Son of God to a cruel wooded cross. And on that cross He would suffer greatly, die and be buried. However as He predicted in this verse, in the span of 3 days, He would rise from the dead and appear to many in bodily form. In many ways those Jewish leaders did fulfill His prophecy when they handed Him over to Pilate to be crucified. They did destroy His temple, but true to His promise He raised the temple Himself on the third day. In referring to the participation in His own resurrection, Jesus said, "No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again " (Jn. 10:18).

Interestingly, in referring to the destruction of the temple, Jesus (in verse 19) used the word naos instead of hieron. Hieron is a word that described the whole temple complex, whereas naos is a word used only of the inner sanctuary, the supposed dwelling place of God. Therefore Jesus in referring to His body as the naos, was naturally implying that God dwelt within Him in a very special way. Jesus wanted both His opposition and His disciples to see that God was no longer dwelling within the material temple in Jerusalem, but now had taken up residence within the temple of His body.

With the coming of the New Covenant, the old temple and the old sacrifices are passing away. And God totally leveled the Herod's temple in AD 70 to make sure everybody got the point! The temple and the sacrifices are no longer to be esteemed, but rather they are to be viewed as sign posts which point to the finality of the new temple and the new sacrifice, Jesus Christ.

To a degree, Christ's words regarding the destruction of the temple were not only misunderstood by the Jews, but also misunderstood by His disciples as well. It took the illumination of the promised Holy Spirit and the fulfillment of the event 3 years later, before they could realize the significance and meaning of His words. Look at verse 22, "When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken." This verse is a literal fulfillment of John 14:26, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you."

Be careful not to miss the meat contained in the ending of verse 22. They believed "the word which Jesus had spoken to them." Jesus said His temple or His body would be destroyed and then reconstructed or resurrected back to life in 3 days. After the event took place and the Spirit illuminated their minds, they remembered His words and realized the truth of what He had said.

But placed on the same level as the words of Christ in the proceeding clause is "Scripture." The verse says they also "believed the Scripture." The disciples equated the words of Christ with Scripture. In other words, when Jesus spoke, His words were not viewed as the words of man, but rather the words of God. Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God. All in the Bible points to Him. And there is no knowledge of Him apart from the Bible. I think the late James Montgomery Boice captured this thought well. "Some persons think they can know God by means of their own human reason. But reason is a blind ally spiritually. It has always been the great minds exercising their powers apart from the Word of God who have produced the great heresies. Some think they can discover God by listening to a so-called 'inner voice.' But the voice is often nothing more than an expression of their own inner desires. Quite a few think that spiritual truths can be verified by supernatural events or miracles. But the Bible everywhere teaches that even miracles will not lead men and women to understand and receive God's truth unless they themselves are illuminated by the Bible (see Luke 16:31). I believe that we can state categorically that there is no knowledge apart from Jesus Christ and that there is no knowledge of Jesus Christ apart from a knowledge of the Bible."

At this point you may be wondering, what Old Testament Scripture did they better understand in light of Christ's resurrection? What passage predicted these events that had just transpired? Possibly it was: Psalm 16:10, "For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay," or Isaiah 53:12, "Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors, " or Hosea 6:2, "He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day That we may live before Him."

The disciple's faith was strengthened and again the author closes this section by showing Jesus Christ to be the Messiah. He is the Son of God, whereas people might believe on Him for eternal life.

Praise God that we can worship the Lord in spirit and truth in the quietness of our own heart without distractions. He abides within us. We are now His temple under the New Covenant. We should jealously guard His sanctuary to keep it clean and devoted. Praise God that we as Gentiles are given full and equal benefits of sonship in the family of God. We are no longer second-class citizens and may approach God solely on the basis of faith. The dividing walls have been removed. Praise God that Christ, as predicted in the Scriptures and by His word, rose from the dead on the third day. He proved Himself victorious over sin, death and Satan. We too, because of union with Him, can likewise share in the promise of resurrection.

What a great Covenant! What a great Messiah! What a great God!

other sermons in this series