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A Mighty Clean

John 2:13-22

The Rev. Jon Roberts

11 March

2012

Grace Episcopal Church

Monroe, LA

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

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Jesus Cleansing the Temple by Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337), Cappella Scrovegni a Padova, Veneva, Italy

"Cleanliness is next to Godliness."
There is more to it than meets the eye with this ancient aphorism. For the Christian, it has more to do with that which is both seen and unseen. It may be better put, “Cleanliness is Holiness” and that is next to Godliness. The life of the Christian is a continual effort to be made clean; to be made holy, and one must give it their "all" in order to be made mighty clean.

A young boy, about eight years old, was at the corner grocery picking out a pretty good size box of laundry detergent. The grocer walked over, and, trying to be friendly, asked the boy if he had a lot of laundry to do. "Oh, no laundry," the boy said, "I'm going to wash my dog." "But you shouldn't use this to wash your dog. It's very powerful and if you wash your dog in this, he'll get sick. In fact, it might even kill him." But the boy was not to be stopped and carried the detergent to the counter and paid for it, even as the grocer still tried to talk him out of washing his dog. A week later the boy was back in the store to buy some candy. The grocer asked the boy how his dog was doing. "Oh, he died," the boy said. The grocer, trying not to be an 'I-told-you-so,' said he was sorry the dog died but added, "I tried to tell you not to use that detergent on your dog." "Well, the boy replied, "I don't think it was the detergent that killed him." "Oh? What was it then?" "I think it was the spin cycle!"[1]

Is it possible that one can go over the top? Can someone be too zealous to get something clean? Going to the corner grocery to get some detergent you come across one that gets your attention. Reading the side of the container it says, "Your clothes can now look newer and cleaner. It gets out those tough spots and lifts difficult stains; ground-in dirt, chocolate, even blood. It makes your clothes smell so fresh, they are mighty clean. What if there was something that could clean more than what meets the eye? What about something that can clean the soul?

The reading from the Gospel this morning is titled, "Jesus cleanses the temple."[2] Instead of a bottle of detergent, he used a whip. There is great debate over this episode in the life of Jesus. Many Christians will preach about the righteous anger of Jesus, that personifies God's deity much the same way as He was portrayed in the Old Testament. God's wrath and vengeance were trademarks for punishing the unfaithful; those who were not striving to be holy and to follow His will. There is a problem with this. One thing we know is that God redeems, that is He cleans. If anything, God acts with great zeal to restore the world when it goes and gets those tough ground-in stains. That is why He sent His son Jesus; to penetrate and lift when nothing else would do. The other point to make is this. If anger is a sin, and Jesus knew no sin, how then could he be angry. If there be any righteousness to his overturning the money-changers and driving out the livestock from the temple steps, it was because he was determined to restore what had been made dirty. His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for my house shall eat me up."[3] Jesus goes into the temple and doesn't like what he sees. He is basically going to take care of business. He grabs some cords and makes them into a whip. With a fast-acting motion and no-nonsense determination He drives out the money-changers. He drives out those selling doves. He drives out the oxen. He drives out the sheep. This is a healthy reminder for our places of worship today. We are not to be consumed with setting up multiple venues to make profit in order to justify our need to pay things off.

What about sending a youth group on a mission trip? What about affording a new roof for the Church? What about stewardship campaigns? Is it possible that we can go over the top, making them into something that is not pleasing in the sight of God. Everything we do is to make things holy. These pursuits are to complement what God is doing in the temple. They are not to become objects of our worship. We do not worship our young people. We worship God by presenting to Him our youth. We do not worship our building. We worship God by making and maintaining a Holy space. We do not worship our resources of time, talent and treasure. We worship God by giving Him, not a portion of us, but "All" of us.
If you give God your all, you are being righteous. You are being zealous. Jesus Christ intends to visit your temple, which is your soul. What will He find on the steps leading in? Will there be venues cluttering the entrance? Will there be sins that are intended for personal profit? Will there be oxen and sheep? By his sacrifice, by being scourged himself by a whip, by being hung on a cross, He has shown you the lengths to which He will go. He went above the top in order to save you. Jesus will act upon those things in your life which are seen and unseen. He intends to make you mighty clean.

[1] http://www.joke-of-the-day.com/jokes/laundry-detergent
[2] John 2:13-22
[3] Ps 69:9, John 2:17

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