March 04, 2018
By John Partridge*
Exodus 20:1-17 John 2:13-22 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Have you ever gotten some advice from your parents as you went out the door for an evening with your friends?
Of course, most of us have. And for most of us, our parents said things like, “Be careful,” “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” “Stay with your friends and don’t go off alone,” and other advice that often boils down to simply saying, “Don’t do anything stupid.”
All of those things are good advice because our parents loved us and cared about our well-being. But what if God gave us advice? What would God say to us? But of course, we know that God has done exactly that. God gave his people plenty of advice and has been trying to teach us how to live, and how to live alongside one another, for thousands of years. Among the earliest instances of God’s teaching is also among the most famous and well-known, the Ten Commandments, which we find in Exodus 20:1-17.
20:1 And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
The commandments that we remember best are the big ones: do not murder, do not steal, and do not worship other gods. But among all of these there are also some gems that are more commonly forgotten.: make your parents a priority, take one day a week to rest and think about something bigger than yourself, don’t lie in ways that hurt others, don’t behave in ways that hurt your spouse, and be content with what you have. The coming of Jesus didn’t take away any of these commandment. In fact, Jesus dedicated his life, not only to living in obedience to them, but to teaching how human beings, even church leaders, sometimes tried to cheat God by manipulating the meaning of his commandments. We see that in John 2:13-22 where we find Jesus kicking butt and taking names because the leaders of the Temple forgot that God cared about outsiders.
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people 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 courts, 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! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
By the time Jesus drove people from the Temple courts, he had already gathered his disciples, had already been preaching for a while, and people knew who he was, even in Jerusalem. But Jesus took issue with all the buying and selling that was going on, but not because it was unnecessary. You see, the animals that were being bought and sold were animals that people needed to take to the priests to offer sacrifices. If you lived in town you probably didn’t own your own sheep or goats, or even your own doves and so, when you needed, or wanted, to offer a sacrifice, you had to buy an acceptable animal. Likewise, the moneychangers were necessary because people came to Jerusalem from other nations and needed what we would call a currency exchange to change into local currency. But there was still another reason because Greek and Roman currency often had the images of emperors or kings or other people on them, the Jewish faith prohibited such images from the temple courts and so the moneychangers offered an exchange of that currency into an acceptable Temple currency. Even worse, all of these systems were rife with corruption that lined the pockets of the chief priests and their friends.
But, even knowing that these things were necessary, there was one thing that probably set Jesus off. The Temple itself was laid out in concentric squares. The innermost section was for the priests alone, the next outer section was for Jewish men to pray, the next for Jewish women and children to pray, and the outermost section was designated, by God, as a place for outsiders, unbelievers, and non-Jews to come to God’s house and pray. It is likely that this was the place where all of the animals were being sold and where the moneychangers had set up shop, and in doing so, they had taken up all of the space that God intended to be a welcome place of prayer for the outsiders. And so, Jesus singlehandedly drives out the entire crowd, and the response that he gets from the Temple leadership was, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Rather than refer back to their own scripture, which they most certainly knew, rather than admit that Jesus was the one who was obeying scripture, they instead ask Jesus to give them a sign to prove that God sent him.
Instead of being shaped by scripture and by the will of God, the leaders of Jesus’ church had allowed their values to be perverted by culture, greed, and power. And with that in mind, as we read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, we can better understand how the people in the world around us might think that we, and our faith in Jesus Christ, are weird.
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Paul understood how the priests and the temple leaders had their values twisted and he understood that Christianity, from the outside, looked weird. Just like the Temple leaders, the Jews wanted to see signs that proved that Jesus’ message was real and the Greeks wanted an answer that used logic and philosophy as proof. To each of them, the message of Jesus Christ is foolishness and idiocy. While those of us on the inside have come to understand that this is the truth and the message of God to his people, to those on the outside we are often seen as fools and what we preach as dangerous. Scripture reminds us that this sort of foolishness can be dangerous. Paul and many of the disciples were executed, murdered, or exiled because of the message they preached. Jesus was hung on a cross for teaching the foolishness of scripture by people who had devoted their lives to studying it.
Jesus, the priests, the teachers of the law, and the other leaders of the Temple all knew the Ten Commandments and the teachings of scripture, and yet, some of them allowed themselves to be shaped by their culture, by their greed, and by their lust for power than by the scriptures. We all run that same risk. We all run the risk of being deceived by our own selfishness, or by the culture of cynicism that surrounds us.
This foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom and this weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
To everyone on the outside, what we do, and what we believe, is a dangerous foolishness.
But to us, it is the way, the truth, and the life.
For no one can come to God except through his son, Jesus Christ.
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at email@example.com. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.