Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Third Sunday in Lent

Third Sunday in Lent (B)

March 8, 2015
Text: John 2:13-25

            Jesus knows what is in man (John 2:25).  He knows that what is in man is not good.  It is unclean.  It is destructive.  It is deadly.  Jesus knows that out of man’s heart come evil thoughts: murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander (Matt. 15:19).  Jesus knows that what is in man is all that is opposed to the Ten Commandments, which we heard in our Old Testament reading (Ex. 20:1-17).  Jesus knows what is in you.  And it isn’t pretty.  Contrary to the culture that tells you to follow your heart, go with your gut, that you are beautiful, that you should always feel great about yourself, that you are a good person, Jesus knows the black hole of your enmity and rebellion against God.  He knows the filth that pours forth from your soul.  And He has come to clean house.  Far from the Jesus proclaimed by our contemporaries, the Jesus who accepts you for who you are apart from Him, who wants you to do whatever makes you happy, the Jesus we encounter in our Holy Gospel is in your face, confrontational, a man of action, violent even.  He uses force.  He is not someone you want to meet in a bar fight.  He cannot tolerate the filth that surrounds you and comes out of you.  Not even if that is what makes you happy, not even if that is who you are.  Jesus fashions a whip of cords, His holy Law, which kills and utterly destroys, to drive out all that is opposed to His Commandments.  Jesus cleanses His Temple.  Jesus cleanses you.  Zeal for God’s House, Zeal for you, consumes Him (John 2:17). 
            Don’t for a minute think that this undertaking will be pleasant for you.  It hurts to be slain by God’s Law.  When we look into the Ten Commandments, as in a mirror, the Law points its accusing finger on every count.  For in each case, even if you have kept the Commandment outwardly, you have not kept it in your heart.  It may be that you have never murdered, but you have despised your neighbor.  It may be that you have never fornicated or cheated on your spouse, but you have looked lustfully upon another who is not your wife or husband.  You have not always been chaste and decent in your thoughts and your words.  Perhaps you’ve never stolen so much as a cookie from the jar, but you have coveted what is not yours.  You have envied your neighbor.  It hurts to admit it.  It hurts even more to confess it out loud.  But the Lord must do His alien work of showing you your sin in the mirror of His Commandments, condemning and killing you by the Law’s accusations, that He may then do His proper work, showing you your Savior in the Holy Gospel, forgiving your sins, pouring out His own righteousness upon you, giving you new and eternal life.  The Lord cleans house by His perfect Law, to fill you with all that is good and right and true, with Himself, by His life-giving Gospel.
            But what is even more amazing is how He does it.  You see, He doesn’t do it by simply erasing your past and then giving you a powerful shot in the arm so you don’t sin anymore.  To be sure, He does give you power to fight against the sin of your flesh.  But that isn’t how He cleans your house.  If He did that, then your ongoing righteousness before God, your remaining clean, would depend on you and not Him.  It would be salvation by works.  And then every time you commit another sin, which is always… you’re always sinning… you’d have to be baptized all over again.  You’d have to stick your head in the font and keep it there until you die.  No, here is how Christ cleans house in you.  He takes all of your sin and filth and death and damnation into the Temple of His Body.  And He destroys it by offering His Body to the destruction of the cross.  The whip of cords He fashions in the Temple is a type of the whips used to scourge His precious flesh by the soldiers.  The money poured out on the Temple floor is a type of the 30 pieces of silver, the blood money, Judas threw back at the Chief Priests and the Sanhedrin.  The driving out of the merchants and money-changers is a type of His driving out the demons and Satan by His suffering and death.  The freeing of the sacrificial animals is a type of His freeing you and all flesh by offering Himself as the Lamb, as the sacrifice of atonement that pays your debt to God and wins your forgiveness and release.  The Temple itself is a type of His Body.  The building is a picture of His flesh.  The Temple is the place where God dwells with His people.  In Jesus, God dwells with His people, with you, in the flesh.  “Destroy this temple,” says Jesus, “and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19; ESV).  “But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (v. 21).  And “the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt,” tented, tabernacle, templed among us” (1:1, 14).  The Temple of Jesus’ Body was destroyed, for you, along with all that is deadly and demonic in you.  It was destroyed by the death of crucifixion.  But on the Third Day our Lord raised it up.  Christ Jesus is risen from the dead.  And now the risen Lord Jesus gives you His righteousness as a gift.  His righteousness counts for you.  It comes from outside of you.  You don’t have to fulfill the Ten Commandments to be saved, because He has fulfilled them for you, and He has covered your breaking of the Ten Commandments by His blood.  You are righteous in God’s sight.  You are covered with Jesus.  The Father looks at you and sees Jesus.  The Father looks at you and sees perfection.  The Father looks at you and loves you with the love He has for His only-begotten Son. 
            So why, then, the Commandments?  Why even read our Old Testament reading?  Why make the kids memorize them in Catechism?  Why even try to keep these things?  Why avoid the evil that (you may think!) makes you happy?  Why do good works?  Well, first of all to remember who you are outside of Christ, and why your whole life, temporal and eternal, depends on Jesus.  Second, out of thanksgiving to God for all that He has done for you in giving His Son for you, in forgiving your sins and granting you eternal life, in loving you and providing for you and making you His own.  Third, because these things are good for you.  The Ten Commandments show you what is your Father’s good and perfect will for you.  In them, He speaks to you as  Father to His beloved child about what is beneficial for you and what is harmful to you.  And fourth, because your neighbor needs you to keep the Ten Commandments.  God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does.  You don’t do good works because you in any way become righteous before God by them.  You do them because you love your neighbor, who needs you to believe in and confess the one true God, who needs you not to murder them, or fornicate with them, or steal from them, or lie about them.  Our Lord’s death and resurrection makes you perfectly righteous before God.  Our Lord’s self-sacrificial love which He pours out on you in His Word and Sacraments now overflows in you so that you love and serve your neighbor.  By placing in you the Temple of His Body and His cleansing Blood, He refreshes you and strengthens you in faith toward God, and fervent love toward one another. 
            And He makes you, now, His Temple, His dwelling place.  Even as you are in Christ by Holy Baptism, the risen Christ is in you by the Supper.  His Body and Blood become one with your body and blood.  As He speaks in His Word, He breathes out His Spirit upon you.  St. Paul writes, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Cor. 6:19).  As the Lord forgives your sins in Absolution, He reconciles you to the Father and makes you one with Him.  You are God’s house.  You are His Temple.  In you, He dwells with your neighbor.  By you He works for your neighbor.  And you become a living sacrifice to God for the sake of your neighbor (Rom. 12:1).   
            Jesus knows what is in man (John 2:25).  He knows what is in you.  That is why He came.  To clean house.  To cleanse you.  To make you holy.  And He does so by death and resurrection, His for you, and yours in Him.  He does it by killing you and making you alive, by Baptism and new life, Law and Gospel, repentance and faith, Confession and Absolution, Body and Blood.  He is in your face, confrontational, a man of action, a man who is not afraid to fashion a whip and draw blood.  For zeal for God’s House consumes Him (v. 17).  Zeal for you consumes Him, consumes Him on the cross.  You consume Him, risen and living.  You consume Him in the Supper, that for you and in you, Christ may be all in all.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

   

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