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His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.' (John 2:17 ESV) During this season of Lent, our Gospel readings have been mostly from the Gospel of Mark. But for the next two weeks we shift our focus to the Gospel of John as we contemplate further the cross and its meaning for our daily lives. There are a couple of important things to consider about the relationship between these two unique messages.

First, in John’s gospel the event of Jesus cleansing the Temple and driving out the money changers comes at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (John 2:13-22). In Mark’s gospel and the other gospels, this event is recorded as the culmination of Jesus’ ministry (Mark 11:15-19), perhaps even a kind of “last straw.” Second, while Jesus’ words “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19) are certainly known to the reader of Mark’s gospel, we never actually hear Jesus say them. However, at the trial before Herod (Mark 14:58) and at the cross (Mark 15:29), we hear people report that Jesus said He would destroy the temple and raise it in three days.

To the first point it is entirely possible that this event happened more than once in the life and ministry of Jesus. His presence at the Temple was an annual event even from a young age. Like the different healings with the same illness, or the events of rough water, large catches of fish, or great multitudes of people feasting on a few loaves and fish – there is nothing to say that Jesus didn’t more than once walk into the temple courts and see how God’s House was anything but a place of prayer and contemplation of God’s grace and mercy. It had become instead a place to buy and sell and make money.

There is of course nothing wrong with earning a fair wage or being compensated for services rendered. But when the gift of God’s grace is turned into an opportunity to enrich ourselves, then something has gone wrong. The reset button needs to be hit. Even the Reformation was ignited by a debate over whether “selling forgiveness” had a place in the church. Our work and wealth are a blessing of the LORD. Lord keep us from turning goodliness into great gain! For John, Jesus’ actions make a theological point. Jesus’ ministry was all about restoring the House of God as He came to be the very Temple of God, the very Lamb and sacrifice of God, the very mercy of God.

Now, as for the second observation, we have four gospels and they each give us a different perspective. We need to know them all and see how they collectively give us a fuller picture than just one version that tries to say it all. For John, the “sign” that Jesus offers points to the truth of His coming. When questioned for a sign to show His authority to do such things, Jesus points us to the heart of His work and the sign of all signs. Jesus tells us plainly that in our effort to keep control, we would raze the Temple, the very House and Body of God by sending the One and Only Son of God to the cross. In our rejection of Him our very sin would be put on Him, and we would see Him accursed and cut off from God’s presence. While we may sometimes feel that we are “going under” as we cry out like David did, “Delivery me from the sinking mire!” (Psalm 69:14-16), only Jesus truly did “go down” for us. He went under, that our sins would be completely swallowed up in His death. His zeal for God’s House literally swallowed Him whole on the cross. God did not respond to Jesus’ cry but left Him to die the death we deserved. But Jesus raised that Temple on the third day so that we would always know that our bodies, too, will be raised as we are now in Him.

This is good news for us! Jesus’ zeal is for you and me. We see the passion and zeal of our LORD and His plan to raise us up! When we struggle to see the presence of God in our lives, these words remind us of how Jesus’ zeal for God’s House is His zeal for you and me. His zeal now consumes us as we seek to share this Good News into all the world!

Pastor Carl