Advent 18 (2013): Traditions

John 2:12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days. 13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”

This is one of those pictures of Jesus that doesn’t quite jibe with the Jesus who loves little children and the Good Shepherd who carries little baby lambs on His shoulders.  Yet this picture of Jesus is recorded in all 4 Gospels (although admittedly in different places).  I like this picture of Jesus because it’s thoroughly Messianic.  The Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a revolutionary figure…just not the variety of revolutionary Jesus was sent to be.

John’s Gospel specifically points to this as being a second Christological sign, Jesus’ displaying His divine glory.

The Jews of Jesus’ day probably compartmentalized their lives into religious and secular/political just as many of us do today, reserving our spiritual lives for Sundays and keeping that part in a drawer Monday through Saturday while we go about our daily lives.  For many Jews, Jerusalem was far away from daily thoughts.

At the time of the Jewish Passover, tradition would awaken and men would travel from far away lands, coming to Jerusalem to go to the Temple to participate in the annual sacrifices there.  Rather than try to bring and preserve one’s own sacrificial animal in good shape on the long journey, they took a short-cut and bought one there on-site.  Of course, it involved exchanging money and paying a premium for the convenience of a suitable sacrificial animal.  Consequently, the courts became more like a theme-park than a place to offer devotion to God.

Of course, it had been a long time since God’s glory left the former temple known as Solomon’s Temple, famously ornate and opulent.  We read about the glory of the Lord departing in Ezekiel 10:1-18 and His doing so because of the spiritual corruption of the covenant people.  Later, Solomon’s Temple was destroyed and it was many years before two other temples would be built on that same site (the Temple of Zerubbabel followed by Herod’s Temple which is the one in existence at the time of Jesus).

God’s glory didn’t come back to dwell simply because structures were rebuilt.  God wasn’t waiting for a temple extravagant enough before He’d come back in all His glory and dwell among His people.  That said, the practices of sacrifices went on, the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary, the Court of the Israelites, etc.

Never mind that God’s glory wasn’t there.  Until Jesus…

So Jesus, who is the very glory of God—the One and Only, looks at what is going on.  He is Emmanuel (God With Us) and LOVE showing up in-person.  He sees the buying and selling and exchanging of money and all the commerce going on in the courts that were supposed to be places of prayer.  Prayer was the way God met with His people even when His glory could not dwell among such a corrupted covenant people—but now even this place of prayer had become something far less than holy.

It had become commercialized.  God wasn’t at the center.  Ritual had become the center.

Now in Jesus, the Word made flesh, God was making His dwelling among us.  The glory of the LORD is in Jesus and shows up at the temple built by Herod and what does He see?  People going through the motions.  People who preferred convenience over devotion.  People who would rather have salesmen hawking goods and changing money for a convenient sacrifice instead of keeping this place of prayer sacred (as it ought to be).

Jesus displays His glory—in a Messianic revolutionary way—by overthrowing the status quo of theme park religiosity and by calling people back to genuine worship of God. 

Worship that involved true devotion, honest and humble prayer, and truly committed personal sacrifice.  He called them to personal holiness as His revolutionary act in this Christological sign.  He does this as the glory of the LORD back at the temple, the glory of the LORD who dwells among His covenant people in Jesus Christ.

Questions for pondering:

  1. In what ways do we turn Christmas into a bunch of rituals and traditions and forget (conveniently) about God and His demands of personal holiness upon His followers?
  2. What kinds of conveniences do we substitute for a relationship with Jesus?
  3. How do we overlook the glory of the LORD dwelling among us as we surround ourselves with competing images of Christmas trees and angels and reindeer and Santa, etc?
  4. If Jesus looked at your Christmas celebration, would He see God at the center or that it had become a commercialized ritual?  Pray and ask God to reveal what He’d like for you to change.

christmas center

Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on December 18, 2013

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