John 2:13–25: Hearts Prepared by Him, For Him (from Sunday, 12/14/08)

(Every Monday, I try to post my notes from our youth group’s Sunday School lessons. This is primarily for both the youth and their parents, but everyone is invited to join in. By clicking “youth studies,” you can catch up or review. We are currently going through The Gospel of John.

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hat was the point of Jesus turning water into wine? It wasn't a "public" miracle. The key reason we discussed in class was that the miracle would cause His disciples to believe in Him, as well as to demonstrate His mastery of creation.

Another question we asked is this: was Jesus lying when He made the water into wine? Wine suggests that seeds were planted, vineyards grew up, workers plucked grapes, grapes were pressed, and grape juice fermented. Yet, here is Jesus making wine with only water... doesn't that denote deception? Of course not, as the wine served the dual purpose of showing who He was and blessing the wedding party. Therefore, if He created a mature universe in Genesis 1, where light has already reached the earth, Adam is a full-grown male, and plants and animals are doing their thang, Jesus is not being deceptive in that creation.

We left off last week in John 2:12 with the Jesus, His family, and disciples going down into Capernaum. His brothers are do not know what to think of Jesus yet, but later they will reject Him for the rest of His earthly ministry. They will not believe until after the resurrection.

From verse 13 throughout the rest of the chapter, Jesus and His disciples are visiting Jerusalem for the Passover. This is the first of three Passovers mentioned in the book of John. The dramatic scene in the temple we will read about today is the first of two; this one at the beginning of His ministry, and one at the end that is mentioned in the other Gospels.

There are some insights we get a chance to see into the person of Jesus through this account, as well as key clues as to how our hearts should be before Him. There are three things we will discuss as a result of this passage: we are to be believing with (1) a clean heart of faith (vv. 13–17), (2) a true heart of faith (vv. 18–22), and (3) an assured heart of faith (vv. 23–25).

And just to warn you: we are spending much more time on the first point than the others because the others build off the first.

Lets turn to Hebrews 10:19–23. There, we read:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
Our outline comes from both passages (Hebrews' and John's). We will see the apparent connection as we proceed.

What's the dealio, yo?
To begin, why are there moneychangers in the temple? Who are they?
Lightfoot quotes a Talmudic rule: ‘It is necessary that every one should have half a shekel to pay for himself. Therefore, when he comes to the exchange to change a shekel for two half-shekels he is obligated to allow him some gain…’…the discount charged buy the money changer for exchanging a shekel into two half-shekels.
---Bernard, ICC, 90.
Alright, so the idea here is that though many foreigners would have come to worship, only Judean money (pure silver) was allowed to be used in the temple. Thus, currency had to be exchanged. Plus, it was okay for the moneychangers to charge for this service (the Bible is not against capitalism). It is possible that they were overcharging, ripping folks off, but that does not seem to be the problem Jesus has with them at this point.

I. Believing with a clean heart of faith (13–17)
Imagine that you are going to the temple to pray to God. You are a Gentile, so once you enter, you have to remain in the outer courts. (Jewish women were allowed to enter one court further in to pray, and Jewish men were allowed one court beyond that.) You are on your knees, crying out to God, and there is the sound of commerce around you. You hear sheep bleating in your ear. You hear folks haggling over price. This is worse than trying to pray in Starbucks!

This was the main problem Jesus had with those gathered in the temple selling and changing money. That business could occur in the marketplace outside the temple. Inside the temple, there should only be prayer. Carson records Jesus as exclaiming, "How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!" (179). The noise was a testimony to the Jews’ selfishness, not to their concern for godly worship.

There are a couple of OT verses that seem to speak prophetically of Christ's actions. Zech 14:21 reads, “And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day.Mal 3:1,3 reads, “Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple… He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.

This is the image of Christ driving them out with whip in hand. While I don't read in this passage that Jesus struck anyone with the whip, this kind of Jesus is very different from the feminine Jesus of Roman Catholic paintings (heart aglow and soft hands in awkward positions). Many people want a Jesus who is only kind, only loving, who only wants your "best life now." However, there is no love in this passage; only a fiery Jesus purifying His Father's house.

This Jesus hates pretenses of religion. He does not honor those who give lip service to Him. He was not impressed with the convenience of having money changed in the temple. He did not admire the services the temple provided within its walls.

As we already said, it seems that many Jews were not interested in genuine worship, meaning the people inside were simply making money off of God. We are not so different today. Many people capitalize on God, using the name of Christ to make a profit. And some of what is produced is not only silly, but down-right blasphemous.

For instance, did you know that you can purchase a safari nativity scene for Christmas this year, bringing more joy this season than a barrel of angelic monkeys? Or maybe a frog scene would be get your spirit hopping? Or, perhaps, chickens break you free each year to the world of worshiping Christ?

Of course, for those dark, holy nights, don't dare use one of those nasty "secular" flashlights to guide you: shine the Gospel in the dark corners of your household. Or, when the sun comes out, you have to wear some shades that prove you're a true disciple of Christ because the Bible commands us to "live in the light" (ugh!), shades with an inspirational verse on the inside arm, so you can… umm… read it… while wearing them…. Okay, well, maybe you could be "strong in the Lord," and nothing says be strong in the Lord like a multi-tool. And since you are such a cool Christian, show people your true feelings toward the cross this holiday by kicking it around.

Now, these things are silly, and I think all believers who have walked into a Christian bookstore have felt the urge to buy some "sanctified" merchandise. However, the more searching question is what kind of merchandise do you treasure in your heart that grants you lip service to The King, but not actual worship? If Christ would enter the temple of your heart with a whip, what would He drive out?

Christ wants a clean heart worshiping Him. That does not come automatically, but through a continual seeking Him through the Good News of His glorious Gospel.

II. Believing with a true heart of faith (18–22)
As stated before, this is only the first cleansing of the temple. There is another one at the end of Christ's ministry, and with that one Christ announces the destruction of the temple. Instead of anticipating their Messiah, the religious elite were focused on making things "business as usual" in the temple. Their hearts were not leaning toward Yahweh even though everything they did seemed to be centered around Him.

The true heart of faith is not found in much religion. Just as the Jews of the first century had to be looking toward the Messiah, we, too, must be looking to Jesus Christ. The true heart of faith is the one that rests in the resurrected Christ!

How does one gain this heart? I'm glad you asked. Call upon Jesus for a clean heart of faith, for a true heart with which to worship Him. Don't rest in religious trappings to accomplish some worthy merit within yourself, for Christ will only come in the end to overturn the established tables of your inner man. Repent of the path on which you have been walking, and ask for your heart which is stone-dead to God to be replaced with a heart of flesh that can beat for His glory (cf. Eze 11:19–20).

Consider Christ, who challenged the thinking of the Jews of His day. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (v. 19). They were confounded, thinking of the physical temple which had been under construction for the last 46 years (and would not be completed until ad 64). Well, had Christ been speaking of the physical temple, His words would have still been true enough: could not the Being who made water into wine create a temple from earth and rubble within three days time? However, He spoke of His body, and He fulfilled His prophesy. This Christ who raised Himself from the dead is able to breathe life into your soul.

It is this breath that kick-starts a true heart that beats after God.

He has the power and the authority. Even His crucifixion was under His control. Here, He says "destroy." That is an imperative, a command, meaning the subject is "you"; "you destroy." The Jews did nothing without Christ's permission. No one took Him into custody without His consent. Remember the scene at Gethsemane (John 18:2–11)? “Whom do you seek?” Christ asks. "They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” … When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground" (18:4-6). He allowed them to get back up and arrest Him. He hung on that cross because He believed it needful, not because He was the victim of some tragic circumstances.

The best thing to do, then, is to get on the other side of His whip of authority by obtaining a clean and true heart.

III. Believing with an assured heart of faith (23–25)
We desperately need to be honest with ourselves, because He is going to be honest with us. That doesn't mean there is not love and compassion, because there is by the truckload. But it is not extended to those content to be about the business of mere business rather than the business of prayer and devotion.

These remaining verses speak of Christ's omniscience (all-knowing nature) and deity. Many came to Christ on incorrect terms. We don't know what those terms were, and there were probably such a variety of cases that John's ink well would run dry trying to record them. We do know, however, that Christ looked into their hearts and saw nothing seeking God, but everything seeking a man.

Calvin writes that Christ probably saw them as “volatile and unsteady” (Calvin, 102). Would that describe your heart toward Christ? It may not be "a true heart in full assurance of faith." MacArthur writes:

But such faith was shallow, superficial, and disingenuous. It was not true saving faith, as John’s play on words indicates. Believed in verse 23 and entrusting in verse 24 both come from the same Greek verb, pisteuō. Though they believed in Jesus, Jesus did not believe in them; He had no faith in their faith…. Although many claimed to believe, Jesus knew that mere intellectual assent proves nothing; even the demons have such faith (James 2:19). Like the seed that fell on rocky and thorny ground, those who possess such faith hear the Word, and initially receive it with joy (Matt. 13:20). But because their hearts are never truly changed, they fall away when affliction comes (v. 21), or when worldly riches beckon (v. 22).
---MacArthur, 95.

Therefore, I pray that "by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain" you would "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith," with your heart "sprinkled clean from an evil conscience" and your body "washed with pure water." Hold fast to "the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."

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