TEXT: John 2:13-22
Third Sunday in Lent
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
March 26, 2000
(When Linda and I lived in southern Arizona, we were only an hour’s drive from Nogales, Mexico. After we’d lived in the area a while the lure of the international border and the promise of cheap prices on lots of goods proved too tempting to resist, so off we went. We parked our car on the America side and wandered into the third world looking for bargains. What we found was grinding poverty, begging children and price haggling. We decided not to go back. Everyone wants a bargain. Sellers want the bargain of a profit margin and buyers want the bargain of a good price. As the old saw goes: “You get what you pay for.” Lots of times we want to bargain with God. We want to trade a divine favor for good behavior or blessings for a price.
PEOPLE IN THE TEMPLE WERE TRYING TO MAKE A DEAL.
What was the big deal about selling things in the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple?
The rationale could be good:
The sellers made it easier for people to purchase animals for the sacrifice rather than dragging some sheep along for miles.
After all, people shouldn’t have to sacrifice in order to make a sacrifice, should they? Nothing inherently evil in that, is there?
In actuality, it was despicable!
It was so despicable that Jesus when on a rampage twice to cleanse the temple, according to the Scriptures.
Once with a whip and another time with the overturning of tables.
Why the strong reaction by Jesus?
The Court of the Gentiles was the only place for Gentile converts to pray.
Second, the selling of animals became a big bucks money maker, lending credence to the notion that the temple leaders were in the profit making business…which, they were!
Third, the practice was corrupt and dishonest:
The exchange rates were arbitrary and extortionary.
Since there was no other source for sacrificial animals there was a monopoly on the trade.
Beyond all this, there was something even worse:
With the buying and selling in the Temple came the great threat that people would think a worshiper could bargain with God.
Undoubtedly, many thought, “Let’s make a deal. I’ll offer this sacrifice, and then God will turn around and bless me.
It probably happened often that sacrifices were being made to achieve selfish ends.
We see the same principle at work today.
The “Health & Wealth” false theology of some TV evangelists is just another form of bargaining:
“Send $100 to this ministry and watch for God to create a financial windfall for you!”, the claim is made.
“It’s not merely and offering, it’s an investment!”
Others couch their “bargaining” like this:
“Follow these seven steps, and watch God help you get that promotion, succeed in relationships, maybe even win the lottery!”
It’s time to make a deal, so let’s start the bargaining!
MOST OF THE WORLD VIEWS GOD AS A “DEAL MAKER.”
Proponents of religion after religion view God as someone with which to be in negotiation.
ILLUS: In 1978 Burt Reynolds played a character named Wendell Lawson in the movie “The End”. Falsely given six months to live, he decides to end his own life. Swimming out into the Pacific Ocean, he begins to drown. As he’s going down for the third time, Wendell decides that this is a very bad idea and begins to negotiate with God…
This makes for humorous black comedy, but it reflects a world-wide mindset that is all too common.
“God, if you get me through this surgery, I promise I’ll be more faithful at church.”
“God, if you get us through these rough spots in our marriage, I promise to be a better husband.”
“God, if I get to keep my job, I promise I’ll give more of my paycheck to the poor.”
Even Martin Luther, in his early days, in the midst of a crashing thunderstorm was knocked to the ground by a lightening bolt, vowed, “St. Anne, help me! Get me on my feet again and I will become a monk!”
Most people really don’t follow through on their promises, but thank God Luther did or there might never have been a Reformation…Hats off to St. Anne!
You see, bargaining is really an attempt to gain some sort of prize for “good behavior.”
FINALLY, IT IS GOD WHO MAKES THE DEAL FOR US.
You see, we can’t make deals with God!
We can’t “buy off” God with pigeons or promises.
The only sacrifice He will accept is a broken spirit and a contrite heart.
Not trinkets bought at some religious “open market”.
Not promises made to live better.
God owes us nothing!
We are sinners, one and all, and sinners have nothing to trade for God’s good favor.
He doesn’t owe us a single dollar more, nor good health, nor a better job.
Since we are sinners, we do not deserve an easy life or carefree living.
Everything we have is a measure only of the blessings that come to us as undeserved gifts.
God makes the deal at the cross.
Here payment was made for all that we truly did deserve:
Here is given His live for ours.
Here is taken away our guilt, our fear, our attempts to find favor through our empty promises.
Here haggling over blessings ends, for He gives out of love for us, not an expectation of return.
What are the terms of the deal?
Jesus states them clearly enough: “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up again in three days.
This life of mine shall be taken, but not ended.
This flesh will grow cold with death’s grip, but the price paid will be honored with life restored.
Now we can see why Jesus was so zealous for cleansing the Temple:
All that implied a contradiction with the deal God was going to make had to go!
God, you see is zealous about mercy…excited about grace!
CONCLUSION: This “temple” in which we worship today is a house of prayer for the weary who have tried every deal, broken every promise and have finally realized they deserve nothing but death and hell. For this is a house of forgiveness. A house constructed of the body and blood of our Lord who cleanses our lives as well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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