The Real Superman
May 10th, 1964 @ 7:30 PM
THE REAL SUPERMAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-10-64 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Real Superman. It is an exegesis of a passage in the second chapter of the Fourth Gospel. On the radio, as here in this great auditorium, turn in your Bible to the Gospel of John, chapter 2; the Gospel of John, chapter 2, and we shall read out loud the passage together. The Gospel of John, chapter 2, beginning at verse 13 and closing with verse 22; the Gospel of John, chapter 2, from verses 13 through 22, now all of us out loud, sharing our Bibles, let us read it together:
And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not My Father’s house a house of merchandise.
And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up.
Then answered the Jews and said unto Him, What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things?
Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days?
But He spake of the temple of His body.
When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.
This is the first great public appearance, before the nation, of Jesus the Messiah, in the holy city of Jerusalem; and it is an astonishing thing that is recorded here by the Gospel writer John!
The temple area was a great area. The court of the Gentiles covered fourteen acres. And on the inside of that court of the Gentiles, all of this traffic continued. Now, the Lord had violated the traditions of the elders and had incurred the wrath and the rage of the Pharisees. But the Sadducees, who ruled the temple, and who largely ruled the nation, the Sadducees shrugged it off; it was a matter of just a smile or a smirk with them, as to what Jesus had done to enrage their enemies the Pharisees. But when the Lord touched the economic pulse of the temple area, which was controlled by the Sadducees, then that was an altogether different matter. And both of them, when they combined, delivered Him to crucifixion and to death [John 11:47-53].
Now that area in the temple that was turned over to the traffic came about because of two reasons. One: Roman coins had on them an effigy, a picture of the Roman emperor; and it would have been a violation of the highest order if somebody had brought into the temple area a likeness, an effigy of the Roman emperor. So, when the half shekel temple tax was paid by each male who belonged to Israel [Exodus 30:15], he had to change his money from Roman coin into Hebrew coin; only in that way could he bring his offering to the temple.
There is a man in our church, who is interested in such things, and he made for me a pair of cufflinks, and I have them on tonight. Each one is a denarius; that’s the word used in the Holy Scriptures. It is a denarius. When the Lord stood in the midst of the temple and they ask Him the question, “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” they didn’t have any of these coins in the temple, so they sent for one at His request. And He held it up, and He said, “Whose image and superscription is this?” and they said, “Caesar’s” [Matthew 22:17-21]. Now it might have been that coin right there on this cufflink, for this is a denarius that has on it the likeness of Caesar Augustus. Or it could have been this denarius here, this identical denarius. Jesus could have held that denarius there in His hand; this has on it the likeness of Caesar Tiberius. You couldn’t use it as a gift to God because it has on it the likeness of the Roman emperor. So it had to be changed into the coin of Israel.
Now the other reason why that traffic was, it was a long distance that those Jews came to worship God. They poured into the temple from all over the civilized Roman world; and to take a lamb, or a pigeon, or an oxen, or a bullock halfway across the country, and halfway across the Mediterranean Sea, or halfway across the Roman Empire would have been almost unthinkable. So there was a traffic that came to pass, that just grew in the temple area, whereby people could buy their sacrifices there on the spot. And you know human nature is strange: by and by a familiar thing becomes legitimate, no matter how illegitimate it might actually be. Some of you, I know, have visited the shrine of the Guadalupe Virgin outside of Mexico City. Did you ever in your life see anything like that? For square acres around that great cathedral, there is the greatest hodgepodge of stuff selling I ever looked upon in my life. Paper flowers, and real flowers, and candles, and beads, and cards, and sticks, and a thousand other things, and among them enough pickpockets to rob the whole wealth of the United States of America; yet nobody down there at all sees anything unusual about that vast traffic on the way up to the church where Jesus is supposed to be worshiped. Now that kind of a thing obtained in the days of the temple.
Now another thing: you know the best corruption, the worst is the corruption of the best; and taking advantage of the worship of Jehovah there, these Sadducees, who were presided over by Annas, these Sadducees had taken the worship of God and turned it into one of the most vicious traffics that mind could imagine. You see, Annas and sons had bought the high priesthood, and it was sold to the highest bidder. It was a matter of political mechanisms and machinations and wire pulling. And Annas had bought it, and not only he had been high priest himself, but he was followed by his four sons in order; and at this time Caiaphas, his son-in-law was high priest. And Caiaphas and the four brothers and Annas the father had made a combine wherein they possessed a monopoly on all of that temple traffic. Whenever you changed your money, they made usurious interest rates on it. If you’ve ever been in foreign countries very much, they skin you when you turn your money into theirs, and they skin you when you turn it back again into yours. You get skinned both ways. Well, that’s the way it was in the temple area: every time they changed money for you, they skinned you, they cheated you. And they had a monopoly on it.
Now, somebody who came to worship with a sacrifice of course could bring his animal, he could raise his own, and he could bring it there to the sacrifice. But if he hadn’t bought it from one of the subsidiaries of Annas and sons, or if he hadn’t bought it from Annas and sons themselves, why, it was very easy for the examiner to find a black spot on your white lamb or to find a feather disarranged on your pigeon.
You know, in my diggings around here, I found an instance where they charged a fellow four dollars for two little pigeons that at that time did not cost more than eight cents. That’s Annas and sons. That was the traffic in the temple. And when the Lord Jesus came as the Messiah of God, and for the first time appeared publicly and openly in the capital city of Jerusalem, and He saw that, His blood boiled! And He made a scourge of small cords, and He drove the oxen and the sheep out of the temple area, and He overturned and spilled the money of the bankers, and He drove the whole motley crowd out of the sanctuary of the Lord [John 2:14-15].
What do you think about that? What do you think about that? Every picture you ever see of the Lord Jesus and every description that is ever made of the Lord Jesus is one of anemia and consumption and emaciation. He just looks as though He is just about to fall apart. And He looks as though He wouldn’t bother a gnat, He wouldn’t swat a fly. And what an amazing thing this is here of this radical reformer from the hill country of Galilee coming down into the capital city Himself and overturning the whole situation. You know, there’s a phrase in the Bible, “The wrath of the Lamb” [Revelation 6:16]; and let’s don’t ever cancel it, don’t ever cancel it. There is nothing anemic or consumptive about Jesus, and there is certainly nothing wrong in the judgment day of Almighty God and the wrath of the Lamb. It was so in the story that we’ve just read out of the second chapter of the Gospel of John [John 2:13-22]. Nobody ought to take the lightning flash out of His eye, or the fury in His voice, or the burning, boiling in His soul and in His heart. That’s the Lord Jesus when He faced with wrathful and righteous indignation—this illegitimate traffic in the temple and the house of the Lord.
But my there’s something far more amazing than this, far more amazing than this: do you realize this is the identical spot, and this is the exact place where just a few years later, when the apostle Paul was supposed to have brought a Gentile into the temple sanctuary, it roused such a furor that they were beating him to death! And just north of the wall of the temple was the Tower of Antonio, and those Roman soldiers were up there all day and all night watching the activity down in the temple area. And when they saw that commotion and that great mob and riot and crowd about to beat somebody to death, why, the [soldiers] poured out of the [Tower] of Antonio into the temple area, and they rescued the apostle Paul, and that’s why he wasn’t beat to death there [Acts 21:27-35]. Now you look at this. You look at that: this is one of the most amazing stories you’ll find in the Bible! Look at this: this radical reformer from the hill country of Nazareth, this carpenter, this unknown, this untaught one, no graduate of their schools, no member of their rabbinical schools, He comes down there and by Himself, without an army, without a guard, without a band, by Himself He drives that whole throng outside of the temple itself! [John 2:15].
Now how did He do that? How did He do that? There’s a temple guard there, there’s an army there to protect it! And they are there by entrenched tradition for centuries. How did He do that? And when He had done it, the only remonstrance that was made to Him was some of the leaders of the Jews came up to Him and in a very meek and humble way ask Him, “By what authority dost Thou do these things?” [John 2:18]. Why didn’t they bane Him? Why didn’t they beat Him to death? Why didn’t they club Him and stone Him there on the spot? Why didn’t they do it? That shows you something. There was something about the character and the presence of the Lord Jesus that struck awe, awe in the souls of those who looked upon Him!
Don’t you ever think any other thing but that the presence of Jesus was the most startling and amazing of all of the experiences of human life! And when one of these two-by-scantling flyweights come by and say thus and so, and thus and so, never did happen as it is recorded here in the Bible, because it might be miraculous: listen man, you don’t know what could have happened in the presence of Jesus Christ the Son of God! And here’s a good illustration of it. They never laid a hand upon Him. They never touched Him! They just meekly ask Him, “By what sign doest Thou these things?” [John 2:18]. There was something about the presence and the moral character and stature of Jesus Christ that was unique and indescribable!
This isn’t a strange incident. For example, when they took Him at Nazareth to cast Him down from the brow of the hill to kill Him, the Book says that Jesus just walked through the midst of them and walked away from them [Luke 4:29-30]; and they never were able to lay hands upon Him. It says a little later in the Gospel of John that the officers of the temple were sent to arrest Him. They came back, and the Sanhedrin said, “Well, where is He? Why didn’t you get Him?” and the officers says, “Never a man spake like that Man” [John 7:46]. In the presence of Jesus anything was possible.
May I cite just one other instance, that among many others. When finally He was betrayed by the kiss of Judas [Matthew 26:48-50], and when the temple police, and when the Roman soldiers, and when the motley mob came to take Him, the Lord stood there, and said, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” And the Lord humbly replied, “I am He.” Then what happened? Everyone of them fell backward on the ground [John 18:4-6]. There was something about the presence of the Lord Jesus the Son of God that struck awe and amazement and wonder in the souls of those who looked upon Him.
I think that’s one reason why all of these pictures of Jesus are beside the point. You could not describe the Son of God. You couldn’t put it down in language and words, and no inspired author ever attempted it or ever tried it. You’ll not find one syllable in that Book concerning the actual characteristics, the physical form of the Lord Jesus, not once, not one. And all of these idealistic representations of the Lord Jesus are beside the point: you could not capture in word, or in syllable, or in language, or in color, or by brush, or poem, or pen, or syllable, or sentence, or word, you couldn’t capture the marvelous presence of the Son of God!
And when He did all that, they just looked upon Him in awe and in wonder. And there’s another thing, another thing. You know it’s a strange thing how guilt and inward castigation will make cowards out of anybody. And how it did so here. Conscience makes cowards of us all. The wicked flee when there are none to pursue [Proverbs 28:1]. Or quoting Richard III, one of Shakespeare’s characters, “My conscience doth have a thousand tongues; and every tongue a several tale, and every tale condemns me for a villain.” Isn’t it an amazing thing, the strength of righteousness?
I spoke of Alfred, Lord Tennyson this morning. Do you remember the first stanza of his “Sir Galahad”?
My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.
And when the lofty and marvelous and indescribably holy Lord Jesus stood in the presence of Annas and Caiaphas and his four sons, and the whole Sadducean Sanhedrin [Matthew 26:57-67], they wilted before Him like snow melts beneath a burning sun. That’s Jesus. That’s the Lord Jesus.
Well, I have now come to my sermon. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” [John 2:19]. What sign showest Thou, seeing Thou doest these things? Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. This spake He of the temple of His body” [John 2:18-19, 21]. There are these modern liberals who say “Jesus died in frustration and defeat; He came expecting to found apocalyptically the kingdom of God, and when it didn’t happen, then He died in agony, and in frustration, and in disappointment, and in defeat.” Oh no, there is no hint or syllable of that in the Word of God. He came into this world to die [Hebrews 10:4-14]; and here at His first open, public ministry He announced it to the world [John 2:19]. He was an Isaac climbing up that long and lonely path to the top of the mountain [Genesis 22:7-9], and He knew what awaited Him there. He came to die [Hebrews 10:4-14].
He came to give Himself a sacrifice for our sins. And He announced it in this first public appearing in the holy city: “Destroy this temple, slay this body, and in three days I will raise it up” [John 2:19] . . . “No man taketh My life from Me,” said the Lord, “I lay it down of Myself; and I have power to take it again” [John 10:18]. Think of that. Think of that. Think of that.
Last week and the first part of this week we had eight funerals, eight funerals. And every time I have a funeral service, I just am overwhelmed at the power of death. No man with any ableness against it; all the doctors and physicians, all of the preachers and praying, all of the combined might of humanity is as chaff in the wind compared to the might of that awful and pale visitor. Yet the Lord Jesus looked into the face of death, “Where is your sting? Where is your victory?” [1 Corinthians 15:55]. “I lay down My life of itself, and buried I have power to raise this body out of the dust of the ground, out of the heart of the earth, out of the sepulcher sealed and bound” [John 10:18]. Think of it. Think of it. Think of it. Think of it! The might and the glory and the victory of the Son of God [1 Corinthians 15:54-57].
There’s another thing I want you to see in this: “Destroy this temple,” I want to take the great symbol of what He said, which He likened to His body, and I want to apply it actually. “Destroy this temple, destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Destroy this temple” [John 2:19]. That temple was destroyed in the death and in the crucifixion of Jesus [Matthew 27:32-50]. The veil was rent in twain; the whole earth shook to its foundations [Matthew 27:51]. And forty years later—by the way, when Titus warred against Jerusalem, he gave explicit orders to his generals and to his lieutenants and to his soldiers that under no conditions was the temple to be touched, but it was to be spared as a great Roman marvelous, architectural wonder; Titus gave that order, but thirty or forty years before the Lord Jesus said it shall be destroyed [Matthew 24:1-2], and out of its wreckage shall arise a new creation, a new order, the church of the living God [1 Timothy 3:15]. Gone its ceremonies, gone its rituals, gone its priests, gone its sacrifices, “Destroy this temple”—and it was destroyed when they crucified the Lord Jesus [Matthew 27:32-50]. That Roman soldier who lit a fagot and threw it inside of the temple, and the thing caught on fire and burned up, that fagot was lit the day that the Jews rejected the Lord Christ their Messiah [Matthew 23:37-19; John 1:11]. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” [John 2:19]. And out of the ruins of that rent veil [Matthew 27:51], and those foundation stones, and those sacrifices, and ceremonies, and altars, that forever are done away [Hebrews 7:18-19, 10:8-9], out of that arose on the third day the glorious triumph of the people and the church of the living God [1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 Timothy 3:15-16].
And that’s what happens by prophecy in this ruined world that isdestroyed around us: out of it God shall make a new creation, a new world [Revelation 21:1]. And that can happen in your heart and in your life. Out of all of the wreckage of our vain attempts, and our defeats, and frustrations, and failures, out of them, out of them God can create and will create a new hope, and a new glory, and a new life, and a completed vision [2 Corinthians 5:17]. There are no half-built mansions in glory. There are no half-built towers on the parapets of heaven. What God does, He does gloriously; and shall fulfill in us all of His purposes. It is but for me to accept Him, and to believe in Him, and to open my heart and let Him make of this life, out of our lives, lives to the glory and victory and triumph of the grace and goodness of our Savior [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-10].
Would you do it tonight? Would you do it tonight? While we sing this hymn of invitation, while we sing this hymn of appeal, you, you, letting God have your days and your years and your life, letting God have it that He might turn it into a marvelous creation [2 Corinthians 5:17], giving you victory for defeat, giving you triumph for despair, blessing every day, every year, not only in this life but in the life that is to come, now and forever. Take the Lord as your Savior, so beautifully witnessed to in these who have done it, so marvelously sung about by this glorious choir, so eloquently and graciously and beautifully presented on the pages of the Holy Word, and I pray the Holy Spirit of God press the appeal to your soul tonight. Take Jesus as your Savior. Let Him have your life, and let Him make it a glory to His name. However it may be in fragments or in pieces, He can build out of it the new order, and the new creation, the heavenly destiny God hath purposed for you. To come for any reason, as the Spirit of Jesus shall open the door, shall say the word, make it tonight. Make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.
I. The first act of His public ministry
A. Explosive and
shattering thing to do
B. Fulfillment of
1. He did it
again at the end of His ministry
C. Passion Play at Oberammergau
II. The reason for the temple traffic
A. Money exchange
B. Animals for
C. Court of the
Gentiles had fourteen acres for this purpose
D. A richly profitable
and lucrative monopolistic market
1. Romans sold
high priesthood to highest bidder
brought had to be inspected and approved
III. The reaction of Jesus
up in indignation, threw them all out of the temple (Revelation 6:16-17)
B. Why did no one
stature of Jesus (John 7:46, 18:4-6, 19:11,
Matthew 9:33, Luke 4:28-29)
Condemnation of their conscience
IV. The sign of the destroyed temple
A. He begins ministry
knowing it ends in atoning death
B. Referred to destruction
of actual temple also
C. Foreshadowing of
restoration of all creation (Revelation 21:5)