Today we are continuing our conversation through the book of John. We need to continually keep in focus the intention of John in writing this letter.
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The process of belief is complex. What do I believe? How do I believe? What are my doubts? What are the unknowns?
We’ve talked about how John starts with some belief frameworks: God exists. Jesus exists as God but is still distinct. Relationship with him gives life. He’s the Messiah, God with us. He’s the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Jump into this process for yourself. Read, study, have conversations. Our goal is not to just hear John, or hear the stories, or be told what to do or believe, but to jump into the process.
What pushes you to commit to process even when you don’t have all of the tools or information available?
I have seen God be so present to me in process. He’s in it with me. With us. And not just on the sidelines, though sometimes He lets us grow and some moments feel like He’s nowhere to be found. I’ve seen Him be an ever-present help in times of troubles in my own life.
As we process more of the text from John, we remember that this was a full letter written from John to anyone who would read it. It didn’t have any numbers or verse markings, though it was very intentionally written to include things like deep poetry and text mirroring.
There is danger in reading the book of John and seeing all of these stories as being independent from one another. None of these chapters we’ve been in are meant to stand alone. As we get toward the end of chapter 2, remember what we’ve read already and keep it in mind: John the Baptist, the first disciples of Jesus, Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine, and now our conversation on Jesus disrupting the temple at Passover. And there is much greater narrative on the way.
Think about one year ago. Pre-Covid. Before George Floyd was murdered. Before a capitol mob attack. Or any of the other things that have happened in the span of the past year.
What would be some of the challenges and some of the limitations in picking one day that represents your past year?
Today we come to the moment in John chapter two where Jesus walks into the temple on Passover and he clears the temple.
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 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. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”
Remember the complexity of defining yourself from a single moment. Here is a moment where Jesus was not really understood in the moment, but was understood later on.
But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 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.
We can read something and think “oh yeah, I get that,” and just move on. But part of process is being able to look back and gain understanding in retrospect. This is again, pointing us toward John’s objective: that we would read stories about Jesus and understand He truly is the Messiah and there’s life in Him. Because we could read stories and in a moment “get it” but completely miss the retrospective objective or purpose.
Think about time in the context of understanding. It could be regarding anything: the time it takes to learn and grow as you pursue a college degree; the time it takes to invest in a relationship; the time it takes to grow in faith; the time it takes to shift worldview.
Why is time an important part of understanding?
How can time complicate and/or simplify understanding?
Think about some things that have required time and process in your own life. Imagine, for a moment, a life without Amazon or Wal-Mart or grocery stores. Imagine that the clothing you wore was made by your own hands and took time to make. Imagine that the food you will eat today was grown or cared for and then harvested by you, and the time it would take.
Culturally I don’t think we have an appreciation for or experience of the time it takes for things to really happen, especially when it comes to waiting for good things. I can hardly wait for packages to show up at my door sometimes. What if I had to wait for their contents to be made or even more, make them myself?
Now go a bit deeper in the context of understanding and belief. Do I treat the process of belief as I treat the packages I’m waiting for to show up at my door?
If time is part of growing in perspective and understanding, what are some issues with expecting belief to be immediate?
Another thing we have mentioned several times in this series is the idea that John is writing with hyperlinks in mind.
He deliberately uses words, stories, repetition, and themes which are pointing towards other moments in Scripture, building perspective, building understanding, and building deeper meaning through inference, connection, and cross reference.
Here in this narrative, think about these things that are building:
Passover was approaching. What does Passover symbolize? Deliverance from slavery in Egypt. God’s remembering them. God’s recognizing them. Freedom. Moses. Struggle. Wondering. Covenant. Promised land.
What is the focus of Passover? Sacrifice. Deliverance. God’s wrath passing over.
What feelings would the people have as they think about Passover? Celebration. Anticipation. Excitement. Reverence. Tradition. And Passover in Jerusalem--how was that different? What was the tone of the city?
What did Jesus see happening externally in the temple? Internally? And then Jesus disrupts it, violently. He declares: This is my Father’s house. You have turned it into a market. And the disciples remembered Psalm 69:
For zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
In this built perspective, Jesus clears--disrupts--stops what was happening in the temple. He cleans out what was corrupted, and the intentionality of the moment nudges us to the cleaning of the home at Passover.
“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do not work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.”
Leaven (yeast) is mentioned repeatedly in the Bible (22 times in the Old Testament and 17 times in the New Testament). The repetitive theme is yeast’s impact, that while it is small, even imperceptible, when it is worked in, it has large impact.
In Matthew, Jesus uses this picture to illustrate the Kingdom of God:
He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Jesus also used it to describe the power of the religiosity of the religious authorities:
When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Paul uses the picture several times, for example in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Galatians 5:7-10.
Have you ever made bread? It really only requires a little bit of yeast to make a loaf of bread rise. But forget to add it, and you’re going to be left with a sad flat looking loaf. A little yeast makes a big difference. And there are some other things in life where small things seem to have the power to derail big things.
What gives little things the power to derail big things?
The thing about yeast that makes it so powerful is that its effect is much bigger in size than its presence in a package. The chemical process is a catalyst for growth that really blows bread up, and once it’s happened there’s no going back. Once bread is in the oven, that’s usually the way it’s going, yeast or no yeast. So if you want to keep yeast out of bread, you’ve got to keep it out on the front end, completely removing it from the process, rather than trying to get it out after you’ve already started baking.
What are the challenges in moving from realizing the power of little things to removing the little things?
As Jesus’ breathing is still heavy from His actions, the Jewish authorities question Him. Not why did you do this, but what gives you the authority to do this? What proof do you have that you are a person that can call us out?
Jesus answers: You want proof--destroy the temple and I will restore it in three days. They didn’t get it until the resurrection. The proof is in the resurrection. Jesus is declaring that He is the temple.
What was the temple? The Temple was a place of sacrifice. (2 Chronicles 7:12)
The Temple was a place of prayer and worship of God. (Isaiah 56:7)
The Temple was a place to remember the Law. (1 Kings 8:9)
The Temple was a place to hear from God. (1 Samuel 3:10)
The Temple was a place to celebrate and remember. (John 2:13-14)
In these things, the temple was connection and relationship with God. It was a place to find God, a place for clarity in relationship with God. It was a place to be forgiven, to grow, to find true identity.
Why are these things--connection, forgiveness, sacrifice, identity, celebration, and ritual--important in relationship with God?
When Jesus says they can tear down the temple and He will rebuild it in three days, He is making a declaration that was not understood until later. Jesus walks into the temple and sees that the system is not working. He disrupts it, and in that moment, it is demanded that He would give a sign to prove that He has the authority to disrupt the system.
They initially do not understand what Jesus is getting at; they need proof of these claims.
I could imagine even his disciples were a little uncomfortable at this moment. Your friend and teacher just goes into one of the most important places in Jewish culture and starts destroying and yelling and making claims. Has Jesus lost it?
But with time, their perspective grew. Understanding of this moment grew. Belief in Jesus’ claims grew.
Time seems to be fundamental to belief. Belief seems to require time. The disciples were not asked to raise their hands and commit, but simply to follow. The expectation was never to have no doubts. The goal was always relationship over time.
What responsibility do you have in a deepening understanding and relationship with God?
Take It Deeper Questions
Read John 2:12-25
When have you felt rage that led to action?
What set Jesus off?
What did the religious authorities demand from Jesus? What does that demand say about their understanding of what just happened?
What is the Old Covenant?
What is the New Covenant?
How is Jesus a reforming of the Old Covenant system? How is that reforming impacting you today?
Bible Reading Plan: