THE 3RD SUNDAY IN LENT AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
And God spoke all these words, saying,
 "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
 "You shall have no other gods before me.
 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,  but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
 "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
 "You shall not murder.
 "You shall not commit adultery.
 "You shall not steal.
 "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's."
1 Cor. 1:18-31
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written,
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."
 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  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."
 So the Jews said to him, "What sign do you show us for doing these things?"  Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."  The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?"  But he was speaking about the temple of his body.  When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.  Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.  But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people  and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
Whoa … what’s up with Jesus? Is this the same One who received tax collectors and prostitutes and ate with them? The same One who took the little children in His arms and blessed them? The same One who stretched out His hand to the little girl lying dead on her bed and raised her up to give her back to her father? A Whip of cords? Really? Whaling away on man and beast. Driving them all out of the temple? Extreme? Extremist? Yea. In our day they might even go right to the word terrorist.
Zeal … that’s what the prophet says, “Zeal for your house has consumed me.” That’s the passage that the disciples connected up with how Jesus was acting. He’s fired up. Really fired up. He’s consumed with zeal. He is filled to the brim with it. It’s taken over Him - almost to the point of losing control. Of course as very God of very God He can never really lose it, and as man, although He could, He doesn’t because He has no sin. But He does really care. He cares as much as you can possibly care. He cares so much that He just can’t sit still for it. He has to do something. He could have just raised His voice and thundered away. But He takes up the whip of cords and gets to work to show that the temple was His Father’s house and that as the Son He had the authority to do it.
This truth is made plain by the very fact that the Jews questioned Him on this point. They got that He was making a pretty big claim about Himself by doing what He was doing. They wanted proof from Him for this very reason. The meaning of the action was plain for all to see, which is why it is recorded for us. Jesus’ cleansing of the temple is a sure sign that He knew Himself to be the Son of God, as it is a sign to you that He is who He claims to be. He did after all provide the demanded proof, they tore down His body on the cross and He built it back up again on the third day. Christ had the authority to do what He did. In fact, it would have been wrong for Him not to do it. As the Son He could not turn a blind eye to what others were doing to His Father’s house.
And so too, beloved, as children of God you are called upon to have such zeal for the Church. You are called upon to care if people set up idols in her … if God’s word isn’t being taught in its purity … if the sacraments aren’t being administered rightly. You have a duty to know what the truth is and make sure that you’re hearing it, receiving it and supporting it. You are called on to put yourself out there, even if people don’t like you for it … even if they look sideways at you. Yes, you are called on to stand up for the Lord, even if it means people think you’re extreme or label you as an extremist. You are charged with being zealous for the Lord in a world where the slightest sign of zeal gets you labeled as a zealot. Yes, you are commanded to care and it is a sin not to. See no evil, hear no evil, won’t work here because the Lord is watching.
I know this isn’t easy, as a Pastor and a child of God,I am called upon to show such zeal and I’ve been on the front lines when it hasn’t been received well, which can make it hard to say what needs to be said. But if we remain silent before others because of what they might think, then we have made them our god, because we’ve allowed what they think to mean more than what the Lord thinks. If I’m afraid of how I will look if I speak up then I’m making my reputation into an idol that I’m worshipping rather than the Lord. If the chance of losing a family member, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a job, business or even my life tempers my zeal for Christ, then I’m choosing to bend my knee to it instead of Jesus.
Now we have no command from Christ to start whipping anyone. No command to use physical force. Jesus utters no “do this in remembrance of me” or “therefore go” to His disciples in connection with His action this day. We are called to zeal, and not a lukewarm zeal, but a consuming one. A zeal like Christ’s - a zeal motivated by love … love for God and love for others. Not a zeal to prove yourself right and others wrong. Not a zeal to have the satisfaction of winning. Not a zeal that revels in being a tiresome know it all. Not a zeal to showcase you’re knowledge and cleverness. No, a love-driven zeal for God’s truth that fears what it can do to others when it's gotten wrong.
Zeal, yes Jesus is consumed with zeal for His Father’s house. Out of the deepest of love He really cares about it. Which also means that He really cares about the Church and each one of you as a part of it. He is zealous for it. He is zealous for you. Which is why He calls out to you today from His Word to drive the idols out of your hearts … why He points out the things that you have or are willing to put before Him and says get these things out of here. He won’t be quiet because you might not like to hear it. He won’t tone it down because you might not like Him for it. He won’t tell you that you can have it both ways so that He doesn’t offend you. No, straight up, He’ll tell you. You can’t serve God and mammon or anything else for that matter.
Zeal, yes Jesus is consumed with zeal for you. In the deepest of love He really cares for you. It’s what brought Him down from heaven. It’s what led Him to the cross. It’s what moved Him to pick up all your sins and take them onto Himself. It’s what drove Him to suffer and die for you. Zeal, yes, that is zeal - zeal moved by love. A love we need to see today as we watch Him driving everyone out of the temple with His whip of cords. We need to see that the One wielding the whip with his hands is the One who has come to be bound with cords to be the sacrifice for their sins. We need to see that the One bringing that whip down on man and beast is the One who has come to have His own flesh torn with the scourge to pay for all their greed and idolatry. We need to see that the one driving the animals out of the temple is the Lamb of God who has come to be sacrificed on the cross to save His people from their sins.
This One who was scourged and crucified for us is also the One that we need to see disciplining us, beloved, when He allows trouble and trial to come our way, to deepen our faith and drive the idols from our hearts, so that we might worship and trust in Him alone. The Lord does not willingly afflict the children of man. As He took no joy in whipping man and beast today, He takes no joy in afflicting us. But there are times when that’s what it takes … times when that’s the only way for the sermon to hit home, because some idols aren’t just willing to pack up and leave on their own. Sometimes they can only be driven out of us by trial and suffering. Zeal. The Lord wants to reveal His zeal for you in all this today, so that you won’t doubt for a moment that it’s His love that moves Him to act in this way for you.
As there is only one time in John’s whole Gospel where Christ acts like this, so too, in our lives, the Lord shows how unwillingly He is to afflict us. Day by day He pours out far more blessing than discipline. But as He comes to us today in His body and blood, He directs our eyes to His nail marked hands and feet and His scourged back, that we might not doubt the love behind the hand that sends trial and struggle our way or question the good that it seeks to accomplish in us. “In these wounds,” He says, “See and know my zeal for you … my love for you. See how I have taken all your idolatry on myself to save you from it. “Now with your eyes on that love, only trust and believe, as I work to set you free from it.” Amen.