You can find this week's sermon here: Jesus' cleansing of the temple. The "sign" that Jesus gives the Pharisees for disrupting all their temple activities is his death and resurrection. Now, "death" has always surrounded temple activities: the slaughter of innocent animals offered as sacrifices, for example. But in Jesus' day there was "death" of a different kind in the temple. Communion with God, fellowship with him, had been replaced with rituals, power struggles, and innocent people offered as sacrifices on the altar of religious people's pride and self-satisfaction. In short, worship of the one true God was "dead". And Jesus would not stand idly by while it continued.
And so the temple himself, Jesus, walks right in and makes a mess of things. Why? Because he has come to make worshipers out of all of us; and the only way to do that is to challenge the accepted norms of what qualifies as "worship". Many people today have the unfortunate view that becoming worshipers of God means going to church on Sundays or reading their Bibles on occasion. The reason I say it's unfortunate is because they only think of worship as adding a thing or two to their lives. But there are beliefs and practices that may first need challenged, poured out, or overturned before Jesus would be welcome in such a place.
His actions enraged the religious people of his day because they liked their practices more than they actually wanted to be worshipers of God. This will always be the challenge for religious people; people like me. And this is why I want to let you know that every time Jesus works toward making you a more complete worshiper, he will first address things in your life that are out of sync with that. Every. Single. Time. There are always things within us that need to be challenged, poured out, or overturned. But we don't have to respond to him the way religious people do. Instead, we can freely admit to the faults that lie beneath the surface of our lives and come into the light with Jesus, whose only reason for bringing these things to our attention is to free us from them.
And this is why Jesus alludes to his death and resurrection in the temple. He will take upon himself the curse for all wrongful worship and then bring back to life what worship of God was always supposed to be. True worship is found in him. True worship is all about him. And true worship is all about putting to death in our lives the very things responsible for Jesus' death. And the parts of ourselves (and only those parts) that we willingly allow Jesus to pour out and overturn are the very parts he will bring his resurrection life into.
Come, Lord Jesus! We invite you into the center of our so-called "worship". Deal with us as you see fit. Remake us into real worshipers. Amen.