In this series, we are working through the book of John to make sure we really know what it looks like to follow Jesus.
American Christianity likes to paint this picture of Jesus as this super nice guy who was politically correct and never required too much of you.
Well, we’ve been duped, and it makes us quite ineffective when we don’t really know Jesus. But you are going to get to know the real Jesus through this series.
Last week, we discovered two things:
1. To follow Jesus, I must embrace grace and truth.
We have a tendency to embrace one or the other. Some are on the grace side and think that you should never try to lead people out of sin. Others are on the truth side and use the Bible to beat people up.
But to follow the example of Jesus, we must become masters at bringing grace and truth together.
Here’s the second thing we learned last week:
2. To follow Jesus, I must use spiritual gifts to reach people.
The problem we face today is that we think we are so sophisticated that we don’t need spiritual gifts. We have all our technology and fancy buildings and great kids programs. Who needs spiritual gifts?
On top of this, we are obsessed with being normal. Spiritual gifts aren’t normal – they’re different – so we tend to neglect them in order not to run people off.
But, we are actually running people off by not using spiritual gifts. If Jesus needed spiritual gifts to reach people, then we need spiritual gifts to reach people.
They are not even as weird as you think. To give you an example, I remember a time when Noah was a newborn. We just wanted some quiet, but he just wanted to be fussy.
We had tried just about everything and nothing was working. Then, a picture dropped in my mind of him sitting in his chair placed next to our bed.
I thought, “That’s a terrible idea”, so I almost didn’t even try it. Then I remembered about spiritual gifts and thought, “Hm. This might just be a word of knowledge.”
I put his little chair next to our bed, sat him in it, and guess what? He calmed down and laid there quietly until he was ready to eat again.
The Holy Spirit wants to do this for you, too. Spiritual gifts aren’t just for church services. They are for every day of your life. And they’re there to help you reach people, even your newborn.
Jesus: Different than Expected
So we’ve already discovered that Jesus is not quite what American Christianity makes Him out to be. And today, we are going to take it a step further.
There was a time when Jesus ran people away from church with a whip. Quite shocking, to say the least. So, let’s dig in and see what’s really going on.
John 2:13-22 NLT – It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money.
We no longer have to sacrifice animals for the forgiveness of sins, so the significance of this story is hard to understand until you know the difference between then and now.
Back then, people would sin just like us. They would lie, cheat, steal, participate in sexual immorality – the whole bit. And as we all know, sin separates us from God and also leads to the destruction of our community.
I mean, if everyone was stealing from each other, how healthy do you think our community would be? We are seeing firsthand how destructive widespread sexual immorality is on a nation. It’s unfolding right before our eyes.
But God. God loves us. He wants to be close to us. But He also knows we are not very good at living without sin, so He had to make a way to save us from our own pitiful choices.
Before Jesus, God made a way through animal sacrifice. Those who sinned would have to kill an animal to cover their sin. The death of the animal was representative of how sin leads to death.
It was also a substitute for what should have happened to the person who sinned. The animal died in their place.
We deserve eternal death because of our sin. But God loves us too much to just sit back and let it happen. So, leading up to Jesus, God made a way of restoration through animal sacrifice.
So, animals were regularly sold at the temple for people to use to cover their sin. That is what is going on in this scripture. Just normal, everyday activity in the temple back then. And it was necessary to fulfill the requirements of the day.
Jesus Makes a Whip
Let’s take a look at what happens next:
John 2:13-22 NLT – Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
Ok. This is perplexing. First of all, this is not the calm, politically correct Jesus that American Christianity makes Him out to be.
Secondly, animal sacrifices were provided by God for the atonement of sin. Why is Jesus so upset?
It’s tempting to oversimplify this scripture and say, “Jesus just didn’t want people buying and selling things at the temple. After all, money is evil, right?”
This sounds good, especially when we have a warped perspective on how God sees money – which is very common. So most people will accept this thought as the meaning of the story and just move on.
The problem is, animal sacrifices were mandated by the Law of Moses and designed by God. Not everyone back then had their own animals, so they had to buy and sell animals for sacrifices or people would be doomed to eternal death because they couldn’t get the right animal.
So, I don’t think Jesus is really upset about the fact that people are buying and selling animals for sacrifices. There has to be more to what meets the eye.
If you do some research, you discover two interesting points:
- Animals had to be without blemish, so they had to be inspected.
- Secular coins were not accepted, so they had to be exchanged for Jewish currency.
Here’s the problem. The inspectors and money exchangers charged high prices for their services. They took something that God required of everyone and used it as an opportunity to price gouge.
This is just like when the Roman Catholic Church monetized indulgences. With a generous donation, you could buy an indulgence which was simply a printed letter that supposedly reduced the penalty of your sin.
There was even a time when you could purchase indulgences not just for yourself, but for your dead relatives as well. If you’re worried Uncle Fred went to hell when he died, worry no more. Just buy an indulgence.
How do you feel about the Roman Catholic Church taking advantage of people by exploiting their grief over their dead relatives?
How do you feel about the inspectors and money exchangers taking advantage of their own people by exploiting something God had provided?
I imagine you’re ready to go make your own whip and overturn some tables yourself. And that’s why Jesus was so upset. His family, the Jewish people, were being taken advantage of.
The next verse ties it all together and reveals something about following Jesus.
John 2:13-22 NLT – Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”
To follow Jesus, I must passionately protect my church family.
Back then, the temple was considered God’s house because it’s where God’s household – the Jewish people – gathered together. Just like your house is where your family gathers.
Let me ask, if someone tried to break into your house, would you be passionate about protecting your house? Yes. If someone tried to hurt someone in your household, would you be passionate about protecting them? Yes.
We learn from Jesus that we should see our church the same way. This is our household of faith. This is our family. And we should be passionate about protecting each other.
If someone is taking financial advantage of somebody here at church, we make a whip and turn over the tables.
If someone comes in and bickers, gossips, and works to destroy unity, we run them off with a whip.
This is no different than when a virus is trying to destroy your body. Are you going to sit back and say, “Well, you know, the virus is a living organism and I’d hate to get rid of it or hurt its feelings.”
No. You are going to do everything you can to get that virus out of your house. We are the body of Christ! We cannot tolerate things that come in and try to destroy us.
Passion for God’s house consumes me.
You need to be a part of the team
All this reminds me of a very destructive trend in Christianity over the past decade or so. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say, “I don’t need to be a part of a church. I have my own relationship with God.”
This is equivalent to saying, “I don’t need my body. I just need my head.” Oh really? Let’s separate your body from your head and see how that goes.
The church is the body of Christ. Jesus is the head of the body. You can’t have one without the other. The head needs the body and the body needs the head.
You know, when you get rid of your body, your brain can no longer get oxygen. That’s why every Christian who separates themselves from the body of Christ goes a little crazy. They can’t even think straight anymore.
Maybe you’ve been there, done that, and know exactly what I am talking about. I’m not trying to make you feel bad. But I hope you learned not to do that again.
I get it. The body of Christ isn’t perfect. Your feelings are going to get hurt. You are going to disagree with people. You are going to be let down.
But let me ask you this. When you hurt your toe, do you think “That’s it. I’m getting rid of this body.” No. You give your attention to the part that is hurting and help it out.
That’s how it should work in the body of Christ. The reality is, hurting people hurt people. So, when someone here hurts your feelings, find out what’s going on with them.
God Heals the Hurts
Reminds me of last week when we examined the story of the woman at the well. She said some things that could have hurt Jesus’ feelings. He said some things that could have hurt hers. But in the end, the woman found freedom.
Every story in the Bible is so rich in meaning. Last time, I pointed out how Jesus used grace and truth to lead this woman to salvation. But today I want to point out something else.
Get this. He told a woman who was rejected by everyone else the most important thing we all need to know. Then she went and told all of her friends and family and many believed because of her testimony.
You know, Jesus probably could have accomplished the same thing by walking into the village like a boss, working a bunch of miracles and healing everyone who came near. But no. He’d rather partner with this woman.
Instead of doing it all by Himself, Jesus reached out to a woman that most of us would probably look over, and partnered with her to reveal Himself as the Messiah to an entire village.
This is a good time to back up a little bit in the book of John when Jesus and the disciples were baptizing. We find out that Jesus didn’t actually do any of the baptising. His disciples were doing it all.
Once again, Jesus could have done it all Himself. And people were probably pressuring Him to do so. But he’d rather partner with the disciples and let them do all the baptising.
The Parable of the Harvest
This is incredible! Now, I am going to turn it over to Jesus to tie this all together in a parable.
After His conversation at the well with the Samaritan woman, the disciples were worried because Jesus hadn’t eaten in awhile. Some of you can fully identify with the disciples here. I mean, if we miss a meal, we might not make it, right?
While they were urging Jesus to eat, Jesus used the opportunity to teach them something. He said, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”
You have to love these perplexing one-liners from Jesus. I call them a hook. He says something that makes you go, “Whattt?”, which causes you to lean in for what comes next.
Of course, the disciples responded in a way that we probably would too. They looked at each other and said, “Did someone bring Him food while we were gone?”
I’m sure Jesus had a good laugh about this. But then He explained it to them:
John 4:34-38 NLT – My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.
Notice that Jesus wasn’t here to elevate Himself. No, He was here to do the will of God. He wasn’t here to do His own work. He was here to finish God’s work.
John 4:34-38 NLT – You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!
Jesus is comparing farming to salvation. Just like farmers have to plant, and wait, and then harvest, when we lead people to Jesus, we also plant, wait, and then harvest. And He goes on to explain:
John 4:34-38 NLT – You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.
Notice He didn’t say, “One plants and the same one harvests.” No, He is making a point here that we have to work together to lead people to Jesus.
Some are responsible for planting the Word of God in the hearts of others. Other’s are responsible for harvesting by leading them to eternal life.
There you have it. The word the Holy Spirit gave us for 2022 has been revealed to you today. Here it is:
To follow Jesus, I must pursue team.
This isn’t about me. It’s not about you. It’s about what we can do together.
You know, every time we gain clarity on following the way of Jesus, it sheds light on Satan’s attempts to kill, steal and destroy.
This is why there is so much pressure to be more important than those around you; to be the boss; to develop a following. It’s because Satan doesn’t want us working together. He wants us off doing our own thing.
Many of us often think, “No one could do it as good as me, so I guess I’m just going to have to do it myself.” I’ve been there. And all I can say about this attitude is pride comes before a fall.
Y’all, God has spent years trying to get this across to me. Not too long ago, I never asked anyone to do anything because I either thought I could do it better, or they didn’t want to do it anyways.
And you know what that got me? Overwhelmed. Burnt out. Full of myself. Lacking relationships. I got to a place where I couldn’t go any further on my own. So I was also dissatisfied.
This is what life looks like when we don’t pursue team.
God designed us to work together. We are the body of Christ. We each have a specific function. We are to discover it and develop it and then bring it alongside others to make it complete.
Ephesians 4:16 NLT – As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
You have a special assignment in the body of Christ. And when you engage in your assignment, you help everyone else grow.
We can’t do this without you. This can’t just be the leaders in our church and no one else. This can’t just be 50% of our church. No, we all need to engage in what God has called us to do and bring it all together.
We can’t allow ourselves to be jealous of someone else’s gift or assignment. We can’t fall into the trap of thinking some gifts are more important than others.
No. Every person in the body of Christ is equally important.
We need you. If you choose to take a back seat, this church will never become what God intended for it to become.
But if we all fully engage in our own special work and then bring it all together, this church will accomplish infinitely more than we could ask or think.