Angry Jesus 3-8-15

In this sermon I explore the cleansing of the temple in John’s gospel, and I also address a local situation that has reminded us that the darkness of the world is still very real.
You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/angry-jesus-3-8-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
There is a picture hanging up in my office that I received as a gift on my ordination day from some very close friends…at first glance, it appears to be a pencil sketch of Jesus looking up to heaven praying. No coloration, just various degrees of shading…and that’s all well and good, but what I really like about this picture is what is revealed when you get right up close to it…and you realize that the entire picture is actually made up of words of the entire gospel of John.
For most of you, it comes as no great shock to hear me say that John’s gospel is my favorite of the 4. I make no secret of this…and I’ve often been asked in the past as to just why this is the case…and you know what, there’s no one simple reason why…but if I was to put it in a nutshell I think it’s because John is just so different. John’s gospel is unique in its narrative and details…offering a much different picture of the life and ministry of Jesus than we get from the other three gospels.
Certainly stories take place in different ways…the order of things gets changed around…all sorts of things are different…and considering that I’m an individual who embraces being a little “different,” its probably fitting that I like John. (pause)
Now I bring this up for a specific reason, because today we have shared in a story where a lot of this applies. The cleansing of the temple…a story that is actually found in all four gospels…but in true John fashion, he switches some stuff up…most notably…the location and time when it happened. Matthew, Mark, and Luke place this story in the final week of Jesus’ life…directly following his triumphal entry on Palm Sunday…he heads on into the temple to find the proverbial den of robbers. (pause)
But perhaps you noticed…that we’re only in chapter 2 of John’s gospel. We are early in the story…so far all John has told us is that the light is shining in the darkness…Jesus has invited a few people to follow him…and he headed off to a wedding in Cana where he kept the party going by turning water into wine…and now…right away…we hear this story…the one that can best be described as…Angry Jesus. (pause)
I heard that somewhere this week…honestly I can’t even tell you where I heard it, but I liked it…because it describes something that I’ve actually witnessed before…back in my days of working at camp…we used to do a long drama for the kids called the Christ walk…moving through various scenes from the gospels…including this one.
I’ll never forget the very first time we did it…I was on stage…making a big racket as one of the people in the temple…when all of the sudden the guy playing Jesus…who was himself a pretty lowkey calm guy…came flying in and sent a table flying 30 feet across the stage as he screamed at us…needless to say…my reaction was genuine…because it shocked me. (pause)
And perhaps this notion of Angry Jesus is a little shocking to you as well. All too often we tend to think of Jesus as mild mannered…calm…and quiet…and serene…but this story gives us one heck of a wake up call.
Jesus witnesses all this madness going on in the temple courts…and he…goes…postal…making a whip…throwing over tables…screaming at people…this is not a quiet lamb waiting for slaughter…this is the epitome of being “fired up.” (pause)
And so today, we ask the question of why? What was it that got Jesus so riled up in the first place? What was it that made Jesus go off…why did he feel the need to cleanse the temple in the first place? (pause) And we begin to catch just a little bit of insight when we explore the differences in John compared to the other gospels…In Matthew, Mark, and Luke…we hear Jesus scream out against making the temple into a den of robbers…but here in John…it’s a marketplace that Jesus opposes. (pause)
But why? What is it that’s so shocking to Jesus about this? (pause) Because for the Jewish people…the marketplace…particularly during a big festival like Passover…is necessary…In order to follow the rules…in order to make atonement for the sins that they committed…the people needed to make a sacrifice in the temple…and this is where the oxen or the sheep or the doves come in…because those were the animals that needed to be sacrificed.
But at the big festivals…there would be Jewish people coming from all over the known world…some traveling great distances…and those individuals would often times purchase the sacrificial animal there in Jerusalem rather than trying to bring it along with them…and then the money changers? Well, they had a similar situation…as the individuals would need to exchange their common currency for that which was acceptable to offer at the temple. (pause)
And so, in order for the people to follow the rules…to worship correctly…to be in good order…this marketplace would have been helpful…this marketplace would have been a good thing…and so, once more…I’ll present the question…what was it about this that God Jesus so riled up in the first place? Was it that the merchants and the money changers were swindling the people…overcharging for their goods or services? Well maybe…but I think its actually more than that…
You see…Jesus wasn’t just throwing some tables around…he was tearing the whole system down…the people didn’t need to go to the temple anymore…they didn’t need to go there and make sacrifices…they didn’t have to go there to find God because…in Jesus…God was already among them…God was no longer limited to one place…God has dwelled among us…God…has put on flesh and is out in the world… (pause)
In short…we see in Jesus Christ…the one who calls himself I Am…that God is now human…and being fully human God experiences emotion…and when God see’s something in the world that is an error…or an injustice…God…gets…mad. (pause) And today…we see it…today…we see that Jesus…God in human form…God in the flesh…Jesus…gets mad…because he wouldn’t be human if he didn’t. Jesus shares this same trait with us…this trait of unpredictable emotion in the face of something…Jesus gets angry…and so do we. (pause)
Last Sunday, my sermon centered around our human tendency to ignore bad news when it doesn’t directly affect us…and those lies that Satan tells us…that these things don’t really matter…well here in Underwood…news broke this week…that we just couldn’t ignore. (pause)
Most of you sitting here today already know what I’m talking about…but if you are visiting, or if you haven’t heard…a former teacher and coach from our middle school…an individual that has been a respected part of our community for 20 years…got caught up in something that he had no business doing…and on Monday, the news went public about a long term, wildly inappropriate relationship that had been going on between this individual and an underage student for several…years. (pause)
Admittedly, I had known about it before in a small capacity…I think many of us here in the community were aware…but when I read the full news report…I was shocked…and I was saddened. (pause) That was my initial reaction…sadness that now this individual’s life is pretty much ruined…and not only that…but his family will bear the brunt…and not only that, but the young girl that was involved and her family…because that’s the nature of sin…it doesn’t just effect the individual…sin radiates out in those that it harms. (pause)
Now I need to pause for just a second…because everything that I’ve been saying up to this point likely sounds like its coming from a pastor…and perhaps you look up here and you see the collar in the black shirt…and that seems fitting. (pause…take off/unbutton the collar)…but right now I don’t want to talk to you as a pastor. (pause)
Because later on that day…I was sitting in a Bible Study with a group of other pastors…and somehow this situation came up…and as we talked about it more and more and more…I started getting emotional about it…it wasn’t sadness any longer…I think its safe to say that my emotional state was a little bit more fiery.
Because I realized…this guy didn’t just hurt himself and a couple of families…this guy betrayed the trust of an entire community…he betrayed the trust that we place in him as an authority figure…as someone that we trusted our children with…and when it occurred to me that I had trusted this guy as a coach to my son…I…got…mad. (pause)
Needless to say…I was not feeling very pastoral in that moment…and the longer it went on…the worse it got…to the point that I had to get up and walk out of that room…I had to remove myself from the conversation in order to regain my composure…because the anger that felt…the emotion that I was feeling at this situation, which can best be described as a travesty…was that strong. (pause)
And I know that some of you…perhaps all of you that are familiar with this situation…have had equally strong emotional reactions…over the course of this week I’ve shared in many conversations with individuals who are saddened…who are hurt…who are angry and confused…some all at once…and I think we are all asking ourselves the question right now of where do we go from here…what do we do with this…How are we supposed to react when we witness first hand…the presence of darkness right here in the midst of our little community? (long pause)
How are we supposed to react to something that is so dark…so horrible, painful and infuriating? (pause) Admittedly, I’ve been wrestling with that all week long…trying to come up with something good to share…something that speaks into this situation…something that would calm the fury…the emotion…that I’ve been feeling all week long. (pause)
And the only thing that I can think of…it to remember why Jesus cleared out the temple in the first place…because God’s out here…in the middle of all this stuff…whether we realize it or not. (pause) On Tuesday, when I walked out of the Bible Study with the other pastors…I ended up walking into the sanctuary at St John’s down in Council Bluffs…it was dark…all the lights were off…and I went in and just sat in a pew for a few minutes…stewing…when all of the sudden I looked up…and I saw the Christ candle burning away…a small dim light…that was just shining away…in the midst of the darkness of that room…I was reminded that the light shines in the darkness…and the darkness HAS NOT…overcome it. (pause)
The light IS still shining….and the word IS still dwelling among us…God is still here…because we have a God who will NOT be contained…not by a temple…and not by the darkness that is still fighting tooth and nail to keep our attention…to cloud our vision…the same God who took on flesh and got angry at the injustice that He witnessed in the temple is still with us today, even in the midst of this situation. (pause…rebutton collar and put tab back in)
And now here’s the really crazy thing about all of this…one last difference in John’s account of the story…Here in John, when Jesus makes the whip…he drives out the oxen and the sheep…and while he’s ripping into the people…setting them straight in the midst of his divine anger…he doesn’t drive the people out…the people remain…even in the midst of rebuke…and there’s a lesson for us in the midst of that too.
Because for all of the anger and hurt that we are feeling towards this individual who’s boneheaded actions rocked the world of Underwood Iowa…we MUST remember that the grace of God is also offered to him…and I have put my collar back on now to remind us all that I am both Scott Dalen and Pastor Scott Dalen…and that in the midst of our lives…we are called to proclaim the grace of God made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ…by which our Father in Heaven showed his love, grace, and mercy for the ENTIRE WORLD. (pause)
I am not saying that we excuse the actions of this man…because our actions do have consequences…but we MUST remember that just as we receive the grace of God…the forgiveness of God for our sin through the blood of Jesus Christ…we also remember that God has forgiven this man…that is the nature of the Gospel…and that’s how far the love of God will go…far beyond our capacity…far beyond our ability to even comprehend…but praise be to God that its not dependent upon us. (pause)
And so today, as we try to figure out where to go from here…remember this…it is not bad that you have an emotional response to this situation…Angry Jesus shows us that today…that’s part of being human…and so in these moments we look to one another for love and support…and in doing so we follow Jesus’ command to love our neighbors…and we remember in the midst of all of this that the light is still shining…and no matter how hard the darkness of the world might try…it will not overcome it…God is here among us…and Jesus was willing to die in order to prove it…so that by the grace of God…we might just believe it. Amen.

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