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Great Zeal

John 2:13-22

The Rev. Jon Roberts

15 March

2009

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Venice, FL

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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Christ and the money-changers by Giovanni Paolo Pannini 1691-1765

It takes great zeal, determination, to defend something that is dear.
Sometimes, it may even be necessary to turn something over, and start anew if we truly intend to defend it.

Those that are dear to us, may be swept away. They may be given away, but they are never far away. It is only by our faith in God that our zeal to love others remains true. This great zeal to love is seen in the biblical stories. In Lent you may remember the ones told already. Week one, we heard about Noah and the Ark. It was a story about people starting anew after the flood. Noah was determined to build the ark. Noah had faith in God. Week two, we heard about Abraham and Isaac. It was a story about people starting anew after the sacrifice. Abraham was determined to sacrifice his son. Abraham had faith in God. Today, Week three, we hear about the Ten Commandments. Moses was determined to use these to lead Israel to the promised land. Moses had faith in God.

In each story, we learn about their struggles. Noah, the ridicule and shame. Abraham, the piercing heartache. Moses, the criticism and complaints. Each of us have had similar struggles. Within our collect today, we find from where our faith comes, to help us get through our struggles. “Almighty God we have no power to help ourselves. Keep us, that we may be defended from all adversities.” In our Gospel story today, it was zeal, through faith in God, that God himself took charge of the temple. Jesus took three cords and makes a whip. He drove out the money changers in the temple. He overturned their tables. He drove out the sheep and the oxen, so forceful for a man who supposedly is the icon of peace.

Preachers, in churches throughout the world will convince their congregations that Jesus was not full of zeal but rather he was outraged. They will preach, saying, “Look how human Jesus is. He got angry, just like we do. He got fed up, just like we do,” but I say to you that would make us all hypocrites, for why else do we pray in the Lenten preface, “[He] was tempted in every way as we are, yet did not sin.” And if anger is a sin, how therefore can this be true? We can all agree Jesus had great zeal to defend something in the temple that day. He was driving out the sinfulness of hypocrisy. He was overturning the false balances that cheated the poor. He was determined to clean up what had been made dirty.

In this dramatic illustration, the Prince of peace raises a commanding voice. Something was going to flow down from heaven and wash away all sin, sort of like the story of Noah and the Ark. Something was going to come as the perfect sacrifice, taking on the consequences of death, sort of like the story of Abraham and Isaac. Something was going to command and put things in order, just like those ten commandments Moses lugged down the mountain.

We don’t like change either and starting all over again, but sometimes God has to overturn what is broken in our lives because He is only defending what is dear. Through His son Jesus, He keeps those who have faith in Him close by, and he is determined to do so, with great zeal.

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