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Lent 3 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Hilbert Kamps 
March 6, 7, 2021
Exodus 20:1-17; John 2: 13-25

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† immanuelhamiltonchurch.com¬† ¬†click ‚Äúsermons‚ÄĚ
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

Our sermon text for consideration this morning/afternoon is the Old Testament Text of the Ten Commandments as we heard from the book of Exodus and with the Passover Celebration in full swing with the Temple being the setting of our Gospel Lesson where we read again at verse 15.  (John 2:15 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.  So far our text.

In order to get a sense of the events recorded  in today's Gospel, we need to review the layout of the temple grounds in Jerusalem.

A variety of court yards surrounded the temple itself.  These courtyards and the rooms of the temple itself followed a strict access policy.  Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies inside the temple, and even he could only enter on one day of the year....that being..... the Day of Atonement. Then there was the Holy Place that was reserved for priests offering a variety of incense sacrifices  and other duties.    Outside the temple was the area of the altar for animal sacrifices located in the courtyard of the priests.  Then came the Court of Men, reserved for Jewish males who had passed Bar Mitzvah. Then there was the court of women which was really for all members of the Jewish family.  Finally, there was the court of Gentiles which was open to all nations.

The tradition of setting aside a place for Gentiles goes clear back to the days of Solomon who built the first temple. The scribes recorded Solomon's prayer at the dedication of that temple.  Solomon's prayer of dedication includes these words:  1 Kings s:41- 43  "Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people

Israel, comes from a far country for your name's sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.

At the time of today's Gospel reading, in the Temple we have the Court of the Gentiles to be the place of prayer for foreigners from all over East Asia and all of the Roman Empire.  Meanwhile, people of Jewish ancestry and religion had also scattered to the far corners of the known world.  While it is one thing to bring a Passover lamb from other places in Israel, it is just impossible to bring a lamb from Spain or Ethiopia.  So Passover Pilgrims, both Jewish and Gentiles, had to bring along enough cash to  purchase a lamb after they got to Jerusalem.  Sooner or later, someone came up with the idea that it would be really handy to purchase your sacrificial animal right there on the temple grounds.

Now they are not going to set up a market in the Court of Men or the Court of Women, but who really cares about the Gentiles.  The man of the house could pick up his sacrifice in the Court of the Gentiles and then proceed to the Court of the Men and then slaughter  his animal and give it  to a priest to sacrifice.  This is all very convenient for everyone except the God-fearing Gentile.

The Court of the Gentiles had, in effect, become a sale barn.  While a person can always offer up a prayer at any time in any place, it is very hard to meditate or listen to the reading of God's Word in a sale barn.

This is the scene that confronted Jesus when He entered the temple courts on that particular Passover.  Gentiles were trying to pray while Jews were buying sheep, goats, oxen, birds, and other sacrificial supplies just a few yards away.  Oh, and besides all that!  There was also a currency exchange so that coins from all over the world could be changed into the temple Shekel.  It…was…turmoil.

So we are presented with an uncomfortable fact -- Jesus got angry; angry enough to cause a big, violent public uproar in the temple. This is a tough concept to wrap our minds around. We often try and explain it by saying that Jesus' anger was different. He didn't fall into sin when He was angered enough to grab a whip and chase everyone out of the temple. He was rightly and righteously angry at sinful things and sinful people.

The Court of the Gentiles had, in effect, become a sale barn.  While a person can always offer up a prayer at any time in any place, it is very hard to meditate or listen to the reading of God's Word in a sale barn.

While this is certainly correct, this is also precisely where our understanding inevitably goes off the tracks. It's at this point that our sinful ears filter this knowledge through our sinful hearts and minds, which, in turn, deceive us into believing that our many anger issues are also good and God-pleasing. We can look at everyone else around us and identify their anger issues as sinful. They lose their temper. They gave into temptation and allowed themselves to get riled up and angered.  But...when it comes to us and our anger issues, we're different.  Sure, we'll confess that there have been some occasions when we were wrongly, sinfully angry.  But there are also plenty of times when we deem our anger as right and righteous and necessary. And why is our anger over such things justified while our neighbor's anger deemed sinful? Because we're the ones who are angry!  No matter what is said about sinful anger versus righteous anger, we're always going to deceive ourselves into believing that our anger is righteous, when in fact it's not. It's sinful. It's selfishly focused ultimately has to do with our personal preferences and our desire to be in control, and not with God and His means of grace.

I have been really angry since November with the way the election was determined.  Then I became incensed watching those thugs storm our capitol on Jan 6th. Then came the "detrimental executive orders" undoing policies which had been making life better for so many of us.  Also finding out what type of "detrimental Laws" that are being contemplated  against us?  I say us....because WE are 75 million strong...RIGHT?  Or, could it be that some of you are right now becoming angry at me? Or at the very least, angry of what I  am now saying?

Let's pursue the issue of anger from a Lutheran perspective.¬† How many of you read the Lutheran Witness?¬† Specifically the January issue? Where our countries directions are challenged in articles like Male & Female He Created Them and And Such Were Some of You. More specifically in the article Why the Nations are Raging?¬†¬† Dr. Gene Edward Veith begins his response as follows:¬† "The nations are raging, the peoples are plotting and the rulers are taking council together.¬† Hostility against Christianity is intensifying.¬†¬†¬† Psalm 2 explains why and tells us what God is doing about it.¬† King David asks the perennial question: "Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain?¬† The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed.¬† Psalm 2:1-2¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Veith goes on:¬† "The political and cultural elite are angry at God, at Christ and at God's people. They say, "Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.‚Ä̬†(PSALM (2:3)

With His 10 Commandments God put limits on our behavior...people naturally resent these constraints.  So they strike out against Him. And His Church.  God's response is simple. From Psalm 2:4:

He who sits in the Heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision

            But...here's the thing: This text isn't really about our anger issues-righteous or unrighteous. I know that's how this text is so often preached, but  that's not what it's about. This text is about God's righteous anger over sin-all sin-yours and mine included. This is why we meditate on this text during the Lenten season.

Foreigners had come all this way to be in the place where God promised to reveal Himself to His people.  They were in a place where the Holy Spirit would shower them with His gifts.  And at the same time there were cattle sales going on just a few yards away.

From today's Old Testament lesson, we see that the merchants in today's gospel were violating every commandment that had to do with loving God.  The livestock sales and the money changing were not the problem in and of themselves.  The problem was that these activities were disrupting  the prayers and meditations  of the faithful.  The commercial activity was disrupting the spiritual activity.

Of course ... when we point one finger at others, three fingers point back at us.  What about us?   When the Holy Spirit works faith in a person, that person becomes a temple.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians [1Corinthians 3:16-17] Do you not  know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.    [l Corinthians 6:1-20] Or do you not  know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.  What does the Lord find when He comes into the temple of our hearts?  What distractions block our relationship with God? What causes Jesus to enter our heart, get out His whip, and start cleaning the heart -  the place that  should belong to Him?

Today's Old Testament lesson contains a list of characteristics that describe God's children.          Jesus unpacks many of these commandments in the Sermon on the  Mount. [Matthew 5:21-22] "You have heard that it was said to those of  old, 'You shall  not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with  his  brother will  be  liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will  be liable  to  the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hellfire. [Matthew 5:28] Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed  adultery  with her in his heart. [Matthew 5:44] "Love your enemies and pray  for those who persecute you."      These are just a small sample of Jesus' teachings concerning the Commandments.  When you hear what Jesus has to say about the commandments, you  realize that you have broken them all.  You realize that the temple of your heart is much worse than that temple in Jerusalem.  Jesus cleared out the temple with a whip made of cords.  He uses something much more precious to cleanse our hearts from sin. He allowed the authorities to abuse the temple of His body.  They arrested Him, beat Him, and then nailed Him to a cross.   They did everything  they could to destroy the temple of His body.             In this way He produced the cleansing agent for our hearts -- His holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.

Where is the sign that this cleaning agent of His body and blood are effective?  It is the sign that He gave to the temple authorities. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I  will raise it up."  It is in His resurrection from the dead that we have the sure and certain hope of the cleansing of our hearts.  As the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts, we know that Jesus has moved into our hearts and made them His temple.  He has carried away all our sins.

Those who believe in Jesus Christ are already part of the family of God.  God the Father is our dear father and we are His dear children.  He speaks to us in His word and we speak to Him in our prayers.   Those of us who have had our temples cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ can boldly walk into the Holy of Holies, crawl up onto God's lap, and tell Him anything in prayer.  The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, but then brings the comfort of continuous forgiveness to us.  All these blessings are ours because Jesus has cleansed the temple of our hearts with His blood.  We know that we are His and He is ours forever.           Amen