What Would Jesus Do?

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John 11: 54 – 57

54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.

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Verse 53, the last verse before this section, clearly marked the “point of no return”.  It reads, “So from that day on they plotted to take his life.”  The religious leaders had had enough.  It was undeniable that Jesus had worked a miracle (no one disputed the fact that Jesus had caused Lazarus to rise from the dead).  Clearly God’s power was behind all that Jesus did, but the religious leaders could not tolerate the competition nor the threat that he posed.

Jesus was aware of this plan to kill him, and so he moved northward out of the Judean province and into a remote area on the edge of the province of Samaria.  He still had some final teaching and preparing of his disciples to do.  They did not know that Jesus would only have a few more days with them, but he knew.  And so he withdrew from the region around Jerusalem.  It was not his time to die yet.

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The story then moves toward the time of the Jewish Passover.  This was the time to remember how the blood of a pure young lamb sprinkled over the doorposts of their houses when they were slaves in Egypt 1500 years prior to this, caused the “Angel of Death” to pass over their houses and bring death only to the first born sons of the people of Egypt.  Their freedom from slavery to Egypt was bought by the blood of that lamb.

This event, the Jewish Passover, contained within it the hope of a new freedom for the people of Israel at that time, for their country had been conquered and ruled by the Roman Empire for some time.  They longed for freedom once again, and with the Old Testament promise of a coming Messiah/Savior, many people at that time were wondering if perhaps Jesus was that man.

While their hopes were justified, the expectations were not.  The people had the wrong idea about the role and character of their coming Messiah.  He would not come on a human level to free people just from slavery to other humans.  No, much more imporant than this (in eternal terms) was the need to free people from slavery to sin, and its consequences, namely an eternal separation from God and punishment as the penalty or payment for their sins.

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And so the words that kept on being whispered all over Jerusalem were, “What will Jesus do?  Will he come (to save us) or not?  What will Jesus do?”  As much as many people truly wanted Jesus to come, they were also fearful of what would happen if he came, for the word was out from their religious leaders that they wanted any and all citizens to cooperate with them and report it when Jesus would come, so that they could arrest him.  (And we know from the bigger story, that an arrest would only be the preliminary step to his death.)

And this is a good question at the end of chapter 11 of John.  This was the pivotal point in Jesus’ life and ministry.  He had done many great things over the previous 3 1/2 years.  He had taught the truth of God’s Word, revealed the heart of a loving Father God, and gave us all great insight into the nature of God and His rulership over those who love and obey Him.  Jesus had certainly touched many lives, by kind words, acts of compassion, and incredible healing miracles.

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But we will need to turn the page over (check our next article), to see just exactly what Jesus chose to do.  For those of us who are familiar with the Gospel story, we know that Jesus chose to come back to Jerusalem and square off against his enemies, challenging them face-to-face, knowing the whole time that it would lead to his death.

But Jesus knew, even as He would make that decision to turn to Jerusalem and die there, that his death would not be an empty death.  Just like the spilled blood helped to protect the people of Israel so long ago and bought them their freedom, so also Jesus would spill his blood to be the human sacrifice who would pay the penalty of death for sins for all people.  It would be through his voluntary act of sacrifice that would buy for us the choice to accept Jesus as our representative who died for the sins of each and every one of us.

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That leads us to a final obvious question, considering that Jesus would let himself die in order for God to be able to forgive you all of your sins, and thus be acceptable in God’s sight: what kind of response should you give towards Jesus?  He doesn’t ask you to “do” anything to earn your salvation.

He wants you to be sorry for your sins (to repent of your sins), to accept that Jesus death was enough to pay off your sins, and to accept Him into your life by faith, calling on Him to be your personal Lord and Savior.

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What Is Wrong With This Picture

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Jesus Clears Out The Temple

John 2:13 –  17

13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. 15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”

While growing up, I loved to do all kinds of games and puzzles: logic problems, crosswords, find-a-word, hidden objects, etc. Even today I enjoy working on these kinds of mind games. One of them was called, “What’s wrong with this picture?” You compared two pictures side by side and you tried to see what the difference was between them.

As I was looking over the verses for today’s study, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something terribly wrong with this picture, and I think there is much that we can learn from it. In fact, there is a lot wrong in what happened when Jesus went into the Temple area, but to appreciate what was going on, we will need a little background information.

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 In the Old Testament period, during the period of the kings, according to the Laws and Regulations handed down by God to Moses, the people of Israel were to come to Jerusalem at least three times a year to hold a celebration feast that honoured God for what He had done for them in the past. The Temple was seen as “God’s dwelling place among men”, and so Jewish people from all over the land would come to the Temple to offer their sacrifices and thanks offerings.

Certainly one of the greatest Festivals was the “Passover”, which was a time to remember how God had sent a “Destroying Angel” to kill the first-born sons of every Egyptian family for their enslavement of the Israelites. But God would spare the sons of the Jewish people if they killed a perfect lamb and put its blood on the doorposts of their house. Seeing the blood, the angel would “pass over” their house and spare their family. (See Exodus 11 – 12)

Thus, when the people came each year to Jerusalem to remember God’s grace and mercy that delivered them from the Angel of Death, it was to be a time of great joy. And part of that celebration was to offer sacrifices to God at the Temple. The only problem was that it was a long journey for most, and so it would be difficult to bring an animal with you on the trip. Instead, you would just buy an animal for sacrifice when you got to Jeruselem.

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Now here is where the picture really starts to go wrong. Over time, the religious leaders had determined that only animals that they considered to be “perfect” could be purchased for the sacrifices. They ended up having a monopoly on “sacrifice animals” and sold them in the outer courts of the Temple.

These leaders further considered that Roman coins (the currency of the day) were not “sanctified” and could not be used to purchase these animals. Instead, people had to use Jewish Temple money. And to assist travellers with this, the religious leaders approved currency exchanging “money tables”. And of course there was a mark-up on the exchange rate which resulted in even more profit for these religious leaders.

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No wonder that Jesus was so upset when he came into the Temple area on that Passover. Not only were the religious leaders “scalping” the people by having a monopoly on the sacrifice animals, but they were gouging them too with excessive exchange rates so that worshippers made sure they had the right currency to buy the animals.

This is one of the few times that show Jesus being outraged by the evil intentions and hypocrisy of the religious leaders of His day. He demonstrated what we call today “righteous anger”. But note that His anger is not on account of what the leaders or others did to Him. He is angry at how they were abusing God’s Name and His House, and he was angry at how they were defrauding the people of God who had come with the intention of honouring and worshipping God.

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So here is my question for this study: Are there churches and leaders among us today who have used religion to bring profit to themselves, instead of bringing glory to God? Sure! We can think of a handful of televangelists and money schemes done in the name of God that were in it for what they could gain. And we ought to be “righteously angry” against such practices.

But let me bring this a bit closer to home for some of us. Haven’t we built some churches in North America that go beyond presenting God to the people to merchandising God for the people? We have bookstores in our lobbies, and we sell the sermon series on DVDs, and hold sell-out crowd performances, all in the name of “feeding” the people spiritually.

Jesus said that God’s House was to be a “house of prayer”. What has happened to good old fashioned prayer meetings, where people come to lay their lives before the Lord in confession and in worship? Have we perhaps gone too far in our western capitalism and commercialized God too much? Jesus gave His life to fight against this. What are we prepared to do to return to true and honest worship of our God?

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