As upset as they were, the religious leaders did not try to get Jesus arrested, or even try to publicly rebuke Him.
Perhaps the recognized in him the same zeal his own disciples were seeing, as Psalm 69:9 leapt to their minds.
His disciples were reminded that it had been written, “the zeal for your house will consume me.”John 2:17
Instead, the temple authorities—completely justifiably—questioned Jesus about what he had just done. Was there a sign, or something, he could show them to explain it?
Remember, these were the Bible experts, the religious ruling body. Right before their very eyes Malachi’s prophecy had been fulfilled. If the disciples thought of Psalm 69, you can bet many others, including the priests and Pharisees, could have thought of it too. Besides, everyone by now had heard John the Baptist’s testimony concerning Jesus.
Jesus answered with a mashal, a veiled remark in the form of a riddle, a very classical Jewish way of teaching, and a method rabbis used all the time.
“You all destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”Jesus, in John 2:19
Jesus used what is called the “imperative” voice when he said “destroy.” In other words, he was actually telling them to destroy the temple, and then informing them what he would do three days later. He would raise it up again.
Here is what Jesus’ mashal meant:
You leaders, through your unbelief, and your rebellion and wickedness, you are in the process of destroying the Messiah, the true sanctuary of God, and in that process you will also bring about the destruction of this actual temple and your entire religious system. In fact, it is God’s intent you do this. I command you.
However, in three days, I will raise up My body, and as a result I will establish a new temple, made of living people, and My church will worship Me in Spirit and in truth, and not in this complicated religious system you have devised.
The religious leaders chose to take this mashal literally in order to avoid allowing Jesus’ true meaning to come out—recall all the people crowding around them, listening in. Jesus had thrown down the gauntlet. They were pretending it was not there.
If the miracle of changing water into wine displayed the Lord Jesus’ power of creation by a mere spoken word, then this sign of fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy and cleansing his Father’s house displayed Jesus’ authority.
Which touches on the concept of God’s authority, power, and rule, what will often be referred to as the sovereignty of God. And it goes something like this:
God determines the outcome of all things according to our Lord’s wise purposes. Jesus was fulfilling a prophecy that had been made hundreds of years before. God intended that Messiah would be recognized by this very act.
God’s decree guides history. Our Lord does not adjust God’s plan according to the events of human history. In fact, God knew all along how the temple ministry would become corrupted, and God prepared for Messiah to cleanse the temple as a sign of what Messiah would ultimately do for each person, cleansing from all corruption, and restoration to a full and satisfying relationship with God.
God governs the universe, for there is nothing outside the scope of God’s rule. Our Lord oversees and supervises all events for God’s glory and for ultimate good.
But if God is sovereign, a person might ask, then how come
- God’s desires are not always realized, such as the salvation of all people, even though that would please God?
- God talks about being grieved over sin and death, taking no pleasure in it, yet everybody dies? Does that make Him less than sovereign?
- God’s Word is not always obeyed, even though God commanded it? Clearly, the religious leaders were not honoring God’s intent for the use of the temple, for the temple tax, and for the inspection of sacrifices. Even more so, they were not even obeying God’s actual Law about not burdening the poor, not stealing, and so on. Did the religious rulers not see God as sovereign over them?
There are long answers (shelves and shelves of books full of answers) to these questions, so I’m going to offer only a few thoughts, here.
Our Lord has granted human beings the power, or the ability, to transgress not only what God says, but also what God desires.
God is not surprised by evil, God does not approve of evil. But God has sovereignly decreed that people exercise their ability to make moral choices, to choose between good and evil. The fact that we choose evil—often unwittingly, often with mixed motives, often not realizing just how bad that choice was—is proof that God does not control people the way you and I would control a puppet.
But God is nevertheless all-knowing and all-powerful. Our Lord gives real choices and works out God’s will within them. Our Lord is able to work in, around, and through people to insure the outworking of God’s purposes. If our Lord were any less sovereign God would not be able to give people moral freedom because God would not be able to guarantee the Lord’s will would be done
After this, Jesus performed many miracles.
This first confrontation with the temple authorities had a huge impact on the people. Frankly, they believed in Jesus exactly because of the signs he was doing, the signs the religious ruling board had asked Jesus to perform in the first place.
But even though many people believed in Jesus as a prophet, and maybe even as Messiah, John wrote that Jesus did not entrust himself to them. I have spent a long time wondering about that, what that means.
What part of himself did Jesus not entrust with the people who seemed so swept away with him?
I am going to try to answer that question as we explore each of Jesus’ deep conversations with people, throughout John’s gospel. For now, the truth I take away from this is that
Jesus will entrust himself to me only when I entrust myself to Jesus.
Entrusting ourselves to Jesus is more than being part of a religious system.
A superficial faith reduces Christianity to a philosophy, a formula, a system of rituals. A superficial faith keeps worship on Sunday and has real life on the other six days. It says that religion is something private, a matter of opinion, a sidebar to the things of life.
Or, superficial faith says Christianity is good for business, let’s put a fish icon on it, or a cross. Superficial faith recognizes how to make good money in the Christian biz industry, how to get elected on the Christian ticket, how to build up recognition and influence.
Entrusting myself to Jesus is not about being religious, or following a formula, or subscribing to a particular philosophy of life. Entrusting myself to Jesus means believing he is Who he says he is, and receiving him into my life and my heart.
Entrusting myself to Jesus means being in a relationship with Jesus, a real relationship, an every day relationship where I listen as well as talk, I give and I receive, I go deep, I become vulnerable, and so does Jesus.
This is what following Jesus really means, and what Jesus’ disciples were beginning to understand.
[The Lumo Project | http://www.freebibleimages.org]