03.08.15 Laws and Love John 2:13-22 Sermon Summary
Some of us are looking for signs. Some of us are looking for wisdom. The New Testament reminds us that everything we need is found in Jesus Christ.
- Observing religion versus loving God
- Jesus’ exemplification of being spiritual and religious
- The Temple versus the household of faith
- Questions for discussion and reflection
Imagine the scene. There were Jewish pilgrims, up to 100K, descending on Jerusalem for Passover. It was high season for the Temple, and good for all the hospitality businesses. People came making sacrifice and praying. It took weeks of preparation. They had to gather as many priests as were available, bring in animals for sacrifices, and the bankers had to provide money-changers.
There were many political and religious tensions forty-six years in the making, for the scene was the second temple of Herod the Great, a man appointed by Rome to be King of the Jews, but who took on the task of rebuilding and expanding the Temple to a scale never before seen.
Forty-six years is a long time. Forty-six years of religious hope, of waiting for deliverance, of sacrifices and prayers. Forty-six years in a row of waiting for next year in Jerusalem. Forty-six years of trying to keep the faith. Maybe you have spent forty-six years, or longer, trying to make religion work. . .
What the Temple cleansing in John teaches us is to not confuse religion with relationship.
The law required Passover. It included sacrifices, and required purity. That means that animal venders and money-changers were necessary. As Jesus watched, people’s devotion was marginalized by religiosity. They came to pray, to make sacrifice, and to remember Passover, but they were distracted by commerce. To get a sense of what he felt, just think back to Christmas. . .
Where there was supposed to be temple, Jesus saw a marketplace. Religion is supposed to be personal; it is supposed to be relational. The “spiritual but not religious” crowd gets this. But Jesus was both: he was spiritual and religious. It can be done; Jesus shows us how.
He refers to the Temple as “his Father’s house”: “Stop making my Father’s house into a marketplace.” To Jesus, the faithful gather in a house, we are family; we are siblings of the same parentage. Jesus invites us to the household of faith, not just to the Temple. The Temple is church attendance; the household is worship. The Temple is only law-keeping; the household is love for one another. The Temple is religion only; the household is relationship.
Lent is traditionally observed with fasting, alms-giving, and prayer. I am fasting lunch—spending the time praying and donating the saved money to a charitable cause. But this week I broke my fast to eat lunch with my children. This is in the spirit of Jesus, who invites us not just to the observance of laws, but also to love. He said the greatest law is love. Relationships trump religiosity—it is better to have lunch with one’s children than to fast.
If our religion doesn’t love, it isn’t Christian. It might be lawful. It might even be scriptural. But if it isn’t loving, it’s a Temple in need of cleansing.
If you’ve spent your whole life building a Temple, Jesus is inviting you to his Father’s house. If you’ve depended on religion and religious observance for your salvation, Jesus invites you to relationship. The Christian life is one of laws and love, religion and spirituality.
Questions for Discussion and Reflection
- In what ways has your Christian life been more characterized by Temple religion than household worship?
- In what ways have you been “building a Temple” in your religious life instead of being part of a household of faith? What do you need to do to dismantle the Temple?
- Is your Christianity more about observing laws, or showing love to others? How can you bring balance or perspective to the relationship between laws and love?