2018 MAR 4 “This and That”

SCRIPTURE   John 2:13-22

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 hangers 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!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”  The Jews then said to him, “What sign

can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

MESSAGE   This and That”  Rev. James Renfrew

This.

That.

This and That.

He this, they that.

He said this, they heard that.

Jesus said this, the others heard that.

Jesus said this:  I will die, my body will be torn apart, limb from limb, bone from bone, I will die.

A terrible prediction, a horrible image, a devastating defeat.  No one wanted to hear this. I think, I know, they didn’t. They tuned him out.

But because they had tuned out they missed the last part, the best part, of what he said, that after three days things would change in ways they could barely imagine.  Three days.  Three days and it would all be clear.  Three days, he said, but they missed it.

This death will not be the last word, he told them.  This death is for the sake of life, for the sake of your life. Death, then life, in just three days.

My death will not be the end, it will be the beginning.  Listen carefully.  It will just be the beginning.  Because life is stronger than death.

But they had already tuned him out, they changed the channel, they heard what they wanted to hear and ignored what they didn’t want to hear.

Instead of hearing what he said, they thought they had heard something else, something that sounded like a threat, they heard Jesus threaten to tear down the holy temple in Jerusalem.  And make no mistake about it:  they heard Jesus utter the blasphemy of all blasphemies, the heresy of all heresies.

There was nothing holier in Israel than that temple, built on King David’s Mount Zion, in the heart of Jerusalem, representing the everlasting covenant between God and Israel, the eternal intersection between the chosen people and God, a temple built to perfection by the wisest man of all, King Solomon. The temple was the destination of faithful Jews on pilgrimage from all over the world. The great kings of the past, David and Solomon, were long gone, but the temple still stood strong, a reminder of God’s amazing promise to Israel.

But then they heard Jesus promise to tear it down, nail by nail, rock by rock, brick by brick, stone by stone. There could be no greater provocation, no greater threat to tradition, no greater threat to their identity.  He wasn’t just criticizing or mocking the temple, he was promising to tear it down.

When stories spread about what Jesus had said, it sealed his fate: he was accused of being a corrupter of children, denier of tradition, betrayer of the nation, destroyer of hope, hater of God, wrecker of the Temple.

Made up charges, false allegations?  No, witnesses heard him say it.  He promised to tear down our Temple, the temple of God. What other proof do you need?  Such a man deserves to die. And if others do the dirty work of killing him we won’t mind, we won’t stand in their way, we might even applaud … we might even help.

He said this: I will live.

They heard that:  I will destroy.

He said this, they heard that.

He this, they that.

This and That.

This.

That.

 

This is what he says about himself.

That is what you heard.

What have we missed?

What have we tuned out?

What is Jesus saying that we are missing?

Over and over, generation by generation, what we think we hear is that Jesus is on our side, he promises salvation and heavenly rewards to people just like us, that he judges and condemns all of the bad people.  And so we conclude that the solution to the world’s problems is that other people should become more like us, or be pushed away.

He said this, they heard that.  Some of us have been listening to Jesus for our whole lives. But have we missed something?  This is our Lenten task, to hear Jesus for what he says, not what we think he says or what we want him to say. And definitely not to tune him out, or change the channel!

What have we missed, what have we misheard, what have we ignored, what words have we put in Jesus’ mouth.

One day two parents brought their two sons to our church in Rochester to attend Sunday School. The parents had no intention of staying for the service.  They just dropped the boys off.  This happened several times. One time I met them at the door.  I asked, “What are you hoping your boys will gain through our Sunday School?”  Their answer was simple, that they wanted their boys to learn to obey.  It all came down to that one word “obey”.

Let me tell you right off that teaching to “obey” was not our purpose in offering Sunday School.  It easily could have been because the kids we had were from families fighting to survive poverty, and their children brought their family fighting skills right into the Sunday School room, arguing, fighting, cursing the teachers, and even breaking windows.  Learning to obey our struggling teachers would have made things much easier.

But the deeper truth is that we had a different purpose, far beyond that one word “obey”: encourage curiosity about God, out of that curiosity create some room for the Spirit to get to work with Jesus’ words, and out of that Spirit’s work and Jesus’ words, hope and possibility for children living in a very poor community.

I was astounded that what the parents had heard about Jesus was that single word “obey”.  Nothing about love, patience, sacrifice, justice, healing, peace or hope?  I concluded that the parents had spent little time in a church themselves.  As a result they had a very limited understanding of Jesus, a one-dimensional Jesus.

But rather than criticize those parents for such a limited understanding, instead I take this my memory of this story as a reminder to examine my own understanding.  What have I missed, what do I think I have heard from Jesus’ words?   What have I missed?  How have I put limits on Jesus because of my own limitations? So, yes, I need to hear this story from John’s Gospel one more time.

So let’s all hear this story again.  Take note of the flow of the story, pay attention to key words, most important listen for something you haven’t heard before, and also important to note that your questions that will probably require you to read it again … and again … and again.

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 hangers 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!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”  The Jews then said to him, “What sign

can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

What we’ve heard up until now: that.

What we’re hearing today: this.

What we’re hearing today – this – like never before.

Right from Jesus.

To you.

Moving – together – from that to this.

That.

This.

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