John 2:13-16 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!"
Make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. These are good words for us to hear again, for we live in an age when everything seems to be for sale. We need to hear them, because it seems that few are outraged at all the marketing and selling that is going on. We need to hear them to remember why the church doesnít do fund-raisers. We need to hear them, so that we can help those who would plan benefits on Sunday morning, that this is not a good idea -- for if we fear and love God, so that we do not despise it, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it - then certainly we wouldnít want to be an obstacle, nor a temptation, or anything else that would entice people from gladly hearing and learning the Word of God.
You see, while we still need to be on guard, so that no one may start to market the Church, the Word of God, or the sacraments,Ö for the most part, thatís somebody elseís problem. After all our church doesnít have a stockyard or a bank operating on the premises. So our text must be raising another point, something that we all need to hear. We need to know why Jesus cleansed the temple. Are these things offensive to God? Yes, for all sin is offensive to God, but sin doesnít keep God away -- that is sin is not an obstacle to God, and proof of this is that even at the cost of the life of His Only Son, God dealt with sin. Iím certain God would rather not see sin, but it isnít an obstacle for Him. Sin is an obstacle for us. The point can be found in the opening of the Gospel of John, if the question is: Why did Jesus cleanse the temple? The answer is: John 1:23 "Make straight the way of the Lord." In other words, the obstacle is one that stands in the way of the people, it prevents them from coming near to God.
I think we know something about obstacles, we saw snow that blocked roads, and ice that made walking treacherous. Those are beyond our control. But there are things which we can control, and obstacles we can prevent, or remove. And perhaps the greatest obstacle is ignorance. There once was a man who had a snow blower, the nozzle was always pointing forwards, and the snow to be blown kept getting higher and higher, when will someone show him how to turn the nozzle? One thing all Christians can do is make certain that everyone knows the 10 commandments. Its a simple thing, by itself it wonít save anyone. But when people know that God expects, and what God expects, they will also know sin, and they will see a need for a Savior. If Iím not guilty, if Iím not under judgment, then why do I need a Savior, or forgiveness, and what difference does it make that Jesus shed his blood for me? But in the 10 commandments, I see my sins, and I see Jesus as a precious treasure that I need.
Often we look at the Scribes and Pharisees as outsiders and obstacles to the Gospel. Their obstacle wasnít the fact that they taught the law, the obstacle was that they added additional requirements to the law, and taught that man might be saved by doing these things. They were obstacles because they stood between men and God, telling men, that the only way they could approach God was through them, and their teaching. They spent so much time teaching a tithe on dill and cumin, that they neglected to fully teach the 10 commandments and the rest of Godís Word.
And I believe this is where we can learn something. For we can be somewhat like Scribes and Pharisees ourselves, and without thinking we can add things, and say about them "This is a commandment of God" when in fact it is merely a tradition. But perhaps the greatest danger isnít the additions, but the failure to make certain that all know the basics. When people know the 10 commandments, they know that they are sinners. When sinners know about Jesus and his blood, then by grace though faith, there is new life, and forgiveness, and salvation. The whole counsel of God is not just law, nor is it just Gospel -- but it is both law and Gospel, rightly divided, it is God coming to us, and bring us to Him. The cleansing of the temple always begins in our hearts.