Sun, 28 February 2016
The Jewish Temple was the heart and soul of Judaism. Solomon's Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The second Temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel in 520 B.C.; it was not nearly as grand as Solomon's. Then, in 20 B.C., Herod the Great began the work of expanding and remodeling the Temple mount and Temple proper. The scale of this project was such that it would not be completed until the early 60's A.D.
The Temple mount was greatly expanded with much of the area dedicated to a paved court to which both Jews and Gentiles had access. It was named the Court of the Gentiles. The Court of the Gentiles surrounded the Temple proper.
A number of tunnel walkways and arched bridges connected the Temple complex to the city streets to the south, west and north. In the days of Jesus the majestic beauty of the Temple was the source of both national pride and spiritual security for many Jews. Here the priests offered the morning and evening sacrifices and facilitated the burnt offerings, sin offerings etc., of worshippers all through the year. At Passover, the national Passover Lamb was sacrificed here. On Yom Kippur the blood of a bull and goat were sprinkled on the Mercy Seat above the Ark of the Covenant for the sins of the High Priest and the nation. The Temple was the central focal point for the Jewish faith. The Temple and its ceremonies brought many in Israel a sense of security.
Jesus had something very different to say about the Temple.
Sun, 21 February 2016
Before we take up the actual story, let's consider circumstances surrounding this event. First, Jesus was at the end of a long journey which had begun many months before zigzagging through Galilee, Samaria, Perea, and finally Judea.
During this final journey he had ministered, according to one Bible teacher, in at least thirty-five localities, timing the journey so he would end up in Jerusalem for Passover. In the course of this journey He had come to Bethany previously and raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11). News of this miracle spread and many believed in Him. But the Pharisees, chief priests and members of the Sanhedrin reacted by counseling together how they might kill Jesus (John 11:45-53; 12:9-11). After raising Lazarus, Jesus withdrew from the area until He returned in time to celebrate this Passover in AD33. So the tensions were already high between Jesus and the religious leaders before Passover AD33.
One estimate places the number of worshippers in Jerusalem to celebrate this Passover at 2.7 million. The Passover was only a few days away. People were wondering if Jesus would make some kind of move? And if He did, what would their leaders do?
As we discover, Jesus indeed made a move that was very calculated and clear in its meaning.
Sun, 14 February 2016
One of the characteristics of true heroism is courage and determination in the face of certain danger. We have heroes in our church family; combat veterans of our armed forces, law enforcement officers, fire fighters and others who run towards danger.
For me, one of the most powerful moments in the movie Saving Private Ryan is the sound of German bullets pinging off the landing boats of the Allied soldiers storming the beaches of Normandy. Facing a wall of machine gun fire they pushed forward and won the day and war; every one a hero.
Jesus is a hero in the same way.
Sun, 7 February 2016
Children are a living illustration to us of the essential attitude necessary for salvation - helpless dependence.
Self-sufficiency, the opposite of helpless dependence, is the attitude often engendered by wealth. This is why wealth is so often a barrier to salvation in the lives of the rich.