When you picture Jesus, what do you picture? A nice guy? A good teacher? A Misunderstood religious leader? In this message Stephen introduces us to the real Jesus . . . and He is a lot different from the one you've seen in pop-culture.
The Lion Roared
6:30 last Sunday - after a difficult and uniquely painful labor, Charity was born. I'll never forget that - and I'll will never forget her mother's pain. It's a helpless feeling for me as I stood there and heard Marsha cry out. . .all I could do was say absolutely meaningless things like, "Hang in there honey..." What she'd like to hang is me! I am glad to report however that in the height of labor Marsha didn't say anything that jeapordized my ministry...
But I'm glad to be back again . . . I'm glad to be here with you -in light of our baby's schedule, I'm very glad to be here with you.
If you'd like to see Charity, feel free to come by our home...the best time to see her, she's fairly alert between 3 and 5 in the morning...call before you come!
Seriously, we have so appreciated your joy over the birth of our daughter.
The Chronicles of Narnia are a series of children's books by C.S.Lewis. The books portray the classic struggle of good versus evil in a fantasy world where animals talk and children are referred to as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. If you have never read them, you must. The first, and most famous of the series is the fantasy entitled, "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe." The wardrobe is a closet in a home in England where some children are visiting relatives. Upon entering the wardrobe, they actually enter this fantasy world called Narnia. In one scene, some talking beavers are describing Aslan to Lucy, Susan and Peter who have only recently stumbled through the wardrobe into Narnia. Aslan, the lion, is C.S.Lewis' representation of Jesus Christ, and he, the lion is engaged in combat with the witch - and we know who she represents.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you this morning to a different Jesus . . . a terrible lion who delivered a terrible roar for the sake of holiness and for the sake of worship.
The incident is recorded for us in the Gospel by John, chapter 2. This startling show of authority and power occured in the month of April, in the city of Jerusalem.
John 2:12. After this He went down to Capernaum. He and His mother, and His brothers, and His disciples; and there they stayed a few days.
13. And the Passover of the jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Stop here for a moment.
The Passover was a 7 day feast which commemorated the freeing of the slaves in Egypt. If you remember the Old Testament story, Pharoah had been given several plagues...death angel...national day of remembrance. . .
It was the dream of every Jew to someday celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. Josephus, the Jewish historian who lived in the first century, recorded that during Passover, AD 65, 255,600 lambs were offered. If there were as many as ten worshippers per lamb - that would mean that nearly 3 million people were celebrating in Jerusalem.
Now get this! Jesus Christ's first public act would take place in the capital, in the temple itself. The one who was declared to be "The lamb of God" would attend the feast where the death of the lamb was celebrated becuase it brought about life. So here is the Lamb, attending the celebration of the sacrifice of lambs...
But all is not well in Jerusalem...14. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the
Now, at first glance this may not seem to us to be out of order...but in reality, it reveals unbelievable corruption in, of all places, the house of worship.
Annas was the vile, corrupt high priest during the lifetime of Jesus; the same man, who along with his son in law Caiphas, instigated the crucifixion of Jesus.
Annas had used his position as a means to personal power and wealth. . .in fact, the business enterprises in the temple court had become known as the "Bazaar of Annas."
How was a non-profit temple system bringing in millions of dollares from relatively poor people? I'm glad you asked.
Every male who attended Passover in Jerusalem could not enter the temple campus until they had paid a "temple tax" - a half-shekel. Today, the equivalent would be about $25.00. That would have been in that day, two days sages - so it was no light sacrifice.
Trouble is, in Palestine all kinds of currency were used. Silver coins from Rome and Greece and Egypt and Sidon were in circulation and all were valid . . . except in the Temple. These currencies were considered unclean and the Temple would only accept tax paid in Galilean shekels or "shekels of the sanctuary".
That's where the good ole money changers come in -
look back at 14b.
"and the moneychangers seated..."
These supposedly religious men charged all sorts of fees which brought in lots of money.
It can be a little confusing. . .I need a volunteer. Nick Sennert -would you take out your wallet please.
For Nick to get into church it's going to cost him $10.00.
That was the standard temple tax. That's nothing for money bags here. . .do you have a $10 dollar bill? Of course not. Likewise, there was no such thing as a half-shekel! It requires change.
Nick gives me a $20.00 How much do I owe you? Help him out folks - $10.00. (Hand him a two $5) BUT!
I've got to charge you $5.00 for the exchange? Then I'm only giving him back - $5.00 right? (Hand him the $5.00) Sorry,
I'm got to charge you on your change - you've given me unclean money, I'm giving in exhange sacred money - that's going to cost you . . . guess how much? You guessed it - $5.00!
The historians record that it cost an average of $20.00 to simply get into the temple on Passover day.
Now if you multiply 20.00 dollares times 1 million + worshippers you can only imagine why the religious leaders got excited...
It was nothing less than extortion in the name of religion.
BUT THERE'S MORE! - - - - - God had originally instructed the people of Israel to bring from their own flocks the best animals for sacrifice (Deut. 12). But the priests instituted a market for buyin sacrificial animals - undoubtably, this made it more convenient...what began as a convenience turned into religious blackmail.
You see, the law required that any animal offered in sacrifice must be unblemished. Therefore, the temple had to inspect the animal before it would be admissable for sacrifice.
By the time of Christ, the Temple had appointed inspectors (mumcheh) who examined the animal. They charged a fee of $5.00. In addition, it was widely known that the Mumcheh were dishonest and as a practice rejected the animals brought by the pilgrims. Why? So that the pilgrims would have to buy their sacrificial animal from the Temple livestock . . . one major problem - outside the Temple, a pair of doves would cost as little as $20.00. Inside the Temple, in the court of the Gentiles where they were being sold -they could cost as much as $375.00.
So the Temple system, corrupt and vile as it was is practically blackmailing the poor pilgrims into buying their animals from the Temple livestock...Here again was bare-faced extortion in the name of religion.
It's not a new thing - Martin Luther/Tetzel indulgences: "every time a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs"
Send in your prayer request with $100. . .to be saved or spiritual you must join this church, do those deeds, sign that pledge. . .
Religion creates an enviornment that in essence puts a price on access to God - it's not for sale.
One look of it all brought the righteous indignation out of Jesus Christ - the lamb of God who now reveals that he is also the Lion of Judah.
And His roar will reverberate around those massive corridors and pierce the hearts of the Jewish system that had corrupted worship in an unbelievably cruel and heartless fashion.
v. 15. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and He poured out the coins of
the money changers, and overturned their tables
16. and to those who were selling the doves He said, "Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a house of merchandise."
Philips translates this, "So he made a whip out of cords and drove the whole lot of them, sheep and cattle as well, out of the Temple. He sent the coins of the money-changers flying and turned their tables upside down. Then he said to the dove-sellers, "Take those things out of here. Don't you dare turn my Father's house into a market!"
Now you need to understand the deeper implications of Jesus' actions:
This is what I am referring to as the Lion Revealed!
First of all Jesus is revealing His authority over the religious headquarters
He claimed that the temple, the headquarters of Jewish religion was actually his Father's house! Did you catch that in verse 16? "Stop making My Father's house a house of merchandise."
There's something interesting here though!!.
During the Passover, it was the duty of each family to clean their homes - while they were especially to rid their homes of leaven (which most believes was a Biblical symbol of evil) - they usually cleaned house - it was the month of Apirl - this was spring cleaning.
Here's Jesus Christ going into the temple and he calls it, "My Father's house!" and what is he doing - he's cleaning house!
Jesus is declaring ownership and authority over the temple which was nothing short of declaring himself Messiah!
!Second - Jesus reveals His anger over religous harassment
This event reveals some interesting insights into organized religion.
Organized ("man-created - hand-made") religion will consistently:
Orgainized religion will consistently:
!view people for how they can give rather than how they can grow
In other words, what can this person contribute to the corporation rather than how they can serve the King.
Church becomes a machine managed by tired people who often are used up.
Mary had a little lamb
Twas given her to keep;
But then it joined the Baptist church,
And died for lack of sleep.
Now make no mistake - I happen to believe that 80 percent of the work is accomplished by 20% of the people. If we had more people on the team, less players would collapse from exhaustion.
Secondly - organized religion will consistently:
!find more interesting its spreadsheet than its spiritual message and mission.
Money is often the bottom line and many organizations and churches find themselves in an all out effort to raise money.
Unfortuantely the church, like the Temple has become a bazaar, a flea market, a stockyard for bartering and deal making. It has become a place for anything but worship.
Our challenge is not to make money, but to make disciples.
And we've adopted a posture in this church that we will never enter any debt that will cuase us to restructure our ministry objectives - that will make us stop thinking about people...
Thirdly: !more interested in form instead of substance.
Do you have your sacrifice. . .good! Did you show up on the Sabbath? Good. Do you follow the Torah, read the Mishna, repeat the Shemah. . .good!
I should be - do you know God?! Are you walking with Him?! Are you developing spiritual fruit?! Do you know Jesus Christ - have you recieved His gift of eternal life?! Have you been forgiven by the blood of the Lamb?!
Every week I go out and many times, like these past past few weeks I have had the thrill of hearing people bow their heads and pray to receive Christ as their personal Savior - people who were raised in the church - organized religion failed again, Why? becuase it focuses on external ritual and works rather than an internal relationship and trust.
Finally, organized religion will consistently:
!create a hinderance to worship rather than a path for worship
You see, in that day, only Jews were allowed access into the Temple proper...so if a Gentile wished to come and pray and meditate - he had to do that in the Court of the Gentiles.
Where is all of this hubbub taking place? In the outer court - properly called the Court of the Gentiles.
The Temple authorities and Jewish traders were making the Court of the Gentiles into an uproar where no one could ever pray. The lowing of the oxen, the bleating of the sheep, the cooing of the doves, the shouts of the hucksters, the rattle of the coins, the smell of manure, the voices arguing over bargaining disputes - the court of the Gentiles was the furthest place on earth from worship.
To have a time of worship and meditation in the court of the Gentiles would have been about as possible as having devotions 4 bleachers up on the 50 yard line during yesterday's N.C. State, Duke football game . . . Duke got lucky!
There was a lot of praying going on - but not worship of God.
One author defined worship - "To quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpse of God."
Boil it down - "Worship is pre-ocupation with God"
One final revelation of Jesus's act in the temple !Jesus is revealing His answer to religious hunger.
Note v. 18. The Jews therefore answered and said to Him, "What sign do You show to us, seeing that You do these things?"
When Jesus cleared the temple, revealing his authority, the Jewish leaders knew that the only person with that kind of authority was the Messiah. . .so Jesus was in effect offering Himself to them as their Messiah.
So they demand proof of His claim - 19. Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up."
The Gospel by Mark gives an additional clue - "I will destroy this Temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another
not made with hands. (Mk. 14)
Now the Jews had long been looking for the Messiah. In fact, by the time of Christ, no less than a dozen Jews had stepped forward with the claim that they were the long awaited Messiah. After Christ had ascended, the nation still sought after false Messiahs.
Like Simon ben Koseva of the 2nd century. A man who was delared Messiah by the famous Rabbi Akiva; given a title that translated was "star out of Jacob". Simon was looked upon as a great warrior who would remove the Romans from the land of Israel. In fact, in the year 135 A.D. he actually recaptured Jerusalem for a short time, but finally was defeated by the Romans in battle and killed.
Then a man by the name of Zevi started the most organized and momentous messianic movement in Jewish history . . . he created an incredible Messianic fervor - thousands of Jews followed him, believing that he would lead them back to their promised land. In the year 1666, Zevi was captured and imprisoned by the sultan of Turkey and while in prison, this Messiah did the unthinkable - he converted to Islam.
Have the Jewish people stopped looking . . . stopped hoping? No!
Today a rabbi named Schneerson is being hailed by many as the true Messiah. He is said to have healed the sick, and many of his predictions about the future have come true. He currently lives in Brooklyn and his followers have actually built an identical brownstone house in Israel - an exact replica ... They say of him, "Moses was the first redeemer, the Rabbi is the last. And what does Rabbi Schneerson have to say? Nothing, becuase he can't. . .you see this past March, this 91 year old Rabbi suffered a stroke and is now paralyzed on one side - unable to speak. Elwood McQuaid of the Friends of israel estimates that nearly 300,000 Jews believe this soon to die Rabbi is the Messiah.
What makes Jesus' claim valid? Look at verse 22. When therfore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.
No wonder they were decimated when Jesus died - he's another false Messiah! No wonder they turned into crusaders - Jesus Christ indeed rose from the dead!
This is why Jesus Christ didn't come to planet earth to revitalize religion, but to re-invent it. It wouldn't be a place - it would be a person!
And He would not offer people a complicated system, he would offer them a vrucified Savior.
A Savior who would be crucified and buried and then three days later - who would rise from the dead.
!Do you hinder worship or help it to happen?
In fact, if Jesus Christ physically visited the temple of your body and lifestyle today; your mind, home...would He need to do spring cleaning? What would He throw out?! What would be left?
!Do you inspire and encourage those who know you to walk with God, or do you stand in the way?
!Is your life filled with such noise and activity that you can do anything other than worship your Lord?
I could reword that - "This past week. . .did God ever cross your mind? Did you think of Him? Did you talk with Him?"
Perhaps you need the Lord to clean off some debris that's cluttering the path to pure and wonderful worship.
So that you can become again:
pre-ocuppied with the Messiah;
the risen coming Savior;
THE LION OF JUDAH~
As the Beavers describe Aslan to the children, Susan says, "Is he safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion." That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver, "If there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly." "Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy. "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn't safe. But he's good...He's the King I tell you."