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Zeal for Your House

Mar 04, 2018

Passage: John 2:13-17

Preacher: Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa

Category: Sunday, Lent


The Text: “13The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’ 17His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”

In the Name of Jesus. Amen. Zealous! Are you? The word from the Greek is zelos <dzay’-los>. In a positive sense it is ardor or enthusiasm, passion, and energy for something. This positive and good zeal can sometimes be described as “jealousy” in the holy sense of the word: as in loving something so much that you would do anything to protect it. Hopefully, every husband here in church today has zeal for his wife so that he would do anything to protect her; and every mother here today would have zeal for their children to do anything to protect them; and every Christian here today would have zeal for the LORD to stand up for and defend the Name of the LORD! This is a holy “jealousy” or zeal that will stand up for the other person even if it comes at great personal cost or sacrifice.

The negative sense of “zeal” is a sinful jealousy or malice, when the expression of zeal flows from a self-serving heart; one that cares only for selfish desire and the need to try to control other people. Such zeal is power-hungry and manipulative. This is sinful zeal and sinful jealousy. This is not God’s zeal, so God is jealous according to the first kind of zeal, but God is never jealous according to the second kind of zeal.

Positive zeal can energize you to do great things, but negative zeal will lead you to do destructive things. As an example of zeal going astray were the members of a Jewish sect called after the word zeal. They were known as the Zealots. You can see the word zeal in their name Zealot. These took matters into their own hands against the Roman government and were so zealous in their passionate hatred that they had an extreme sub-group called the Sicarii (from the Latin, sica, that means dagger). These were religious terrorists who would assassinate political enemies with – you guessed it – hidden daggers. These were very, very zealous, but this isn’t the kind of zealousness that the LORD commends.

So, what was Jesus doing in today’s gospel recorded in John, chapter 2? At first glance it seemed sort of destructive: He made a whip of cords, he drove people out of the temple, he poured out the coins of the money-changers, and he overturned tables! Someone might say, “Well, this is an example of zeal getting out of hand.” But that wouldn’t be true, and we know this for good reason: 1) because the LORD was impeccable and could not sin; and 2) sometimes holy zeal – the very good and positive kind of zeal – will express itself exactly in such a way as this.

What is perhaps the prime Old Testament example of such good and holy zeal that might seem extreme, but really isn’t, is the example in Numbers chapter 25. Let me just describe what was going on. God’s people were on the verge of entering the Promised Land, but some of them were very foolish and began to compromise their faith (to put it mildly) by worshipping the false gods of the land of Moab, including the hideous false god called Ba’al. When this happened, there was a man of Israel who took a woman from Moab back to the Israelite camp and was effectively bringing false teaching and practice into Israel. This would have been effectively the first step in destroying the faith of the Israelites and completely demolishing God’s people. So, we have the account of Phinehas who would eventually become the high priest of Israel, for a moment in time, becoming a warrior and he was filled with Godly and holy zeal. This is what the Scriptures record:

When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw [the compromise], he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman…Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped (Numbers 25:7-8).

In response to this, the LORD said, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy…(verse 11).”

That is, Phinehas was so zealous for God in a holy way, he did whatever it took to protect God’s people from being destroyed. In this way, he honored God with a holy zeal that God more than approved of. In fact, the Scriptures say that the zeal of Phinehas was God’s zeal.

Now, let’s not get carried away and view Numbers 25 as being prescriptive as to how Christians should respond to the enemies of God! In all seriousness, there are some fundamental considerations that must be kept before us. For example, God led His people Israel in the Old Testament to live in a theocracy, a government or society immediately ruled by God. God spoke to Moses face-to-face and He dwelt with the people of Israel by the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. That doesn’t happen anymore.

We live in a republic and God says in Romans 13 that even our government – with its myriad of problems – has nevertheless been established by God. He has in the past and will continue in the future to work His good and perfect will even through its imperfections. So please don’t go out looking for any daggers any time soon.

The point here is that there is a kind of zeal or being zealous that might not go along with the crowd and in fact will often be decidedly counter-cultural. What Jesus did was very disruptive – He didn’t attack anyone – but if we had been there, we would have seen a powerful, powerful display of holy anger and zeal for the house of God. He was speaking up for the holiness of His Father’s Name and reputation and He would not put up with any kind of compromise of the true faith. It just wasn’t going to happen under His watch. In this way, the LORD Jesus was extraordinarily zealous!

His zeal was in application to the temple of God, where God came to meet His people, but as you know dear Christians, that temple has changed. When the LORD died on the cross, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, and a new temple was raised. On the third day the LORD’s predictive prophecy came true: He said in three days He would raise the temple of His body and that is what happened.

Christ is our new temple and we are the body of Christ, the temple of God. And as you are in Christ and Christ is in you, your zeal is now for Christ and His Holy Bride, the Church!

Zealous! Are you? In sin, we are not. In sin, we allow the world to creep into the Church in such a way as to demean and compromise Her sanctity and holiness; in sin, we permit the world to creep into our lives to demean and compromise the temple of our bodies as members of the Church. We have much to confess on this Sunday in Lent. We are called as the Church to keep the Church distinct from the world, but how often churches are eager to permit the world to define the Church? We have freedom when it comes to the services and forms that we employ on Sunday mornings, but the reason we hold to our traditions of the sacred liturgy as we do is because the forces that are going the other way are devastating. The Church is losing her sense of reverence; her aura of mystery; and the message that comes with this trend is that Jesus is your buddy or your homeboy. Then people make Church whatever feels good to them, replacing the hymnody with back-beat songs that lead you to consider how a song makes you feel over and above what the hymn confesses based on the Word of Christ. And if the temple is compromised here, then it will be further compromised in how we live in the world: when a hook-up culture calls us to treat our bodies as trash, contrary to the Word of Christ that asserts: “Flee from sexual immorality…Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body (1st Corinthians 6:18-20).”

In the ancient world, when the worship in God’s temple was compromised, bodies were compromised; but when God’s temple was kept sacred, people lived to honor God with their bodies. The correlation is not random. Where the worship of the temple is in accord with God’s Word, then the members of the temple are more likely to live in accord to Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

But most importantly is that the zeal of the LORD Jesus has not gone anywhere dear Christians. He is still zealous for His temple; that-is to say, He is zealous for you, the Body of Christ and every, single one of you, the members of His body. When the disciples recalled the Scriptures that say, “Zeal for your house will consume me,” they were thinking of Psalm 69:9. Here is the full passage: “For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.” That is, Jesus’ zeal was not merely a consuming emotion from within (this is a much too tame an interpretation), but it was a zeal that would eat Him up; eat Him alive. It was a zeal that was about to get Him killed. The LORD knew this full well, and He wasn’t going to let the threat of death stop Him. And that is how great His zeal is for you.

His zeal for you is so great that not even all sin, all the powers of darkness in the world, nor even death itself could stop Him from giving all His righteous and Godly jealousy poured out for you. That is, His love for you and His Godly-anger towards your enemies of Satan and death led Him to give everything for you. He poured out His life for you. He was zealous to go through the crucifixion for you. He was zealous to die for you. He was that zealous for you. And with this holy, burning, righteous, holy jealousy He said: “Nothing, but nothing is going to take you my child from my hands; nothing, but nothing is going to take your life; nothing but nothing is going to cancel God’s redeeming love and mercy for you. Not on my watch! So, I accept being consumed by the fire of the cross; I accept the reproaches of those who falsely accused me and mocked me. I accept them, because you – yes, you – are worth it. Because you are holy to me, you are my Father’s temple, you are the Body of Christ, and so I make a whip and drive out sin, the devil, and death, I overturn the tables of darkness, and for you, yes for you, I am very zealous so that you – yes you – will live.

Now, live for me. Be zealous for me. Be zealous for my house, be zealous for My Church; and be zealous for yourself as a member of the Body of Christ to make your very bodies holy temples for the Holy Spirit so that you go forth sharing my light, sharing my love, sharing my gospel…be zealous for me because I am zealous for you! See how I am still zealous for you: I give you my Word of a jealous love for you; and I give you my Body and Blood the enduring Sacrament of my zealous once-for-all sacrifice for you. Be zealous for me, because I am zealous for you!