October 13, 2014

Zeal ... and Compassion!

On two different occasions, the Lord Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem – turning over the tables of the currency exchange agents, and chasing off those who were running a livestock market inside. The apostle John records the first such occasion (John 2.13-17), and Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record the second. And, in both cases, we see an aspect of Jesus’ character that may at first surprise us. We’re used to seeing Jesus mild and patient, befriending the lowly, feeding the hungry, healing the afflicted, and teaching the masses with amazing skill. We’re even used to Him sometimes saying hard things to certain people. But we’re not used to seeing Him knocking stuff over, are we? We’re not used to seeing Him angry! And yes, I think that is perhaps the right way to describe Jesus as He twice cleansed His Father’s house – righteously angry!

His anger did not spring from any sin in His heart. No! Jesus was angry with the coin exchangers and the livestock retailers (John tells us of that first occasion) because He was zealous for the house of God! “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME” (John 2.17). That was the Old Testament quote (from Psalm 69.9) which the disciples remembered, and which they realized was a description of their Master’s heartbeat. Jesus was zealous for His Father’s house; zealous for the purity of the temple of God. So zealous, in fact, that He could respond quite severely, if need be, against those who defiled that house.

It’s an amazing – perhaps an astonishing – snapshot of our Lord, isn’t it? And an important one, too! It seems to me to have great application to much that goes on under the name of Christianity even to this day. So let us note this well: Jesus does not trifle with this particular sort of sin; with turning the house of God into “a place of business” (John 2.16) or “a ROBBERS’ DEN” (Matthew 21.13)! He is zealous for the house of God!

But then I want you to notice, also, the very next thing that Matthew reports, just after the occasion of Jesus’ second temple cleansing. I never noticed this until today ... but the very next thing Matthew reports, after Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, is that “the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them” (Matthew 21.14).

Isn’t that fantastic? Jesus has just finished knocking over all those tables, and running all those people out of the temple, and indicting them for making the house of God into a “ROBBERS’ DEN.” – and yet the afflicted still find, in Him, a compassionate healer! Jesus is not so zealous and righteously angry that He does not also have time (and a heart) for ministries of mercy!

What a picture of the stunningly balanced perfections of our Lord – with such zeal for God’s house that He is willing to take up drastic measures against those who defile it; and yet still pouring out marvelous compassion on hurting people! Absolute, impeccably balanced perfection! That’s our Jesus! And this is why we love Him so! This is why we can’t stop singing His name; and why we come to hear Him preached Sunday by Sunday; and why we want our neighbors and co-workers to come and join us! Because Jesus – in all His flawlessly rounded perfections – is altogether marvelous to behold; altogether worthy to be praised; and altogether fit, I might add, to be our Savior!

Is He your Savior? Is He marvelous to you? Look at Him again, in the four gospels, and see if you don’t come to the conclusion that there is no one more worthy of your admiration, and desire, and trust!

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