Christ, The Power Of God
April 2nd, 1985 @ 12:00 PM
CHRIST, THE POWER OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-2-85 12:00 p.m.
The Lord wonderfully bless all of you who have turned aside at this busy lunch hour to come to the house of the Lord. You may feel free to leave any time that you must. If you can come and stay just a few minutes, you are so welcome. We try to encompass this service in thirty minutes from high noon until 12:30.
This is the forty-first year that I’ve conducted these pre-Easter services. And, the theme for the messages this year is: "John’s witness to the deity of Jesus the Christ." Yesterday, Christ: The Word of God, the revelation of God; tomorrow, Christ: The Gift Of God, the love of God; the next day, on Thursday, Christ: The Way to God; and on Friday, the day He was crucified Christ: The Atonement of God, the sacrifice of God; and, today Christ: The – Amazing, Overwhelming – Power Of God.
In the second chapter in the Book of John, beginning in verse 13:
And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
And there He 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 will 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.
I have just read out of God’s holy Word the beginning, the initiation, the start, the introduction, of our Lord’s first public ministry in Jerusalem. And, it was like an atomic bomb. It was a shattering explosion. It was a fulfillment of Malachi 3:1-2, who prophesied, for you who await the coming of the Messiah Lord, He: ", shall suddenly come to His temple,But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for his coming is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap." It was catastrophic. It was explosive, this beginning ministry of our Lord in Jerusalem.
What had happened there was very obvious. The people who came from the ends of the Greco-Roman Empire used denarii, Romans coins. But, they had on them the effigy of the Roman Caesar. And, under no conditions could the Temple be desecrated by bringing into the sacred precincts an image, an effigy, an idol. So, they had to change the money from the denarii to the sacred Jewish half-silver shekel.
Not only that, but when they brought their sacrifices, to drag those animals from the ends of the Roman Empire was an assignment. And, in order to obviate such a construction, there were fourteen acres in the court of the Gentiles, a part of the Temple. And, in that fourteen acres, there were those who had all kinds of animals for sacrifice. And, not only animals, but they had meal and flour and oil and herbs and the accruements of a sacrificial offering.
Now what had happened in the Temple was very obvious. The Sadducees, who governed the religious life of Temple worship, made it into the most lucrative monopoly that this world ever saw. When they changed the money from the denarii into the half-shekels, they charged usury. They made an unbelievable amount of profit on the changing of the money.
And, if you brought a sacrifice to the Temple, it had to be perfect. It had to be without blemish. And, if you brought it, they would inspect it carefully. And, if it passed inspection, it might be accepted. But, if you brought – if you bought that sacrifice from Annas, or any one of his four sons, or from Caiaphas – who at that time, the son-in-law, was high priest, you were certain of acceptance.
The high priest itself was up for bids. It was for sale. And, it was sold to the highest bidder and to the most astute political activist. And, Annas, being the shrewdest of the Sadducees, had the high priesthood in his family – he, himself, each one of his four sons, and, when this occurred Caiaphas, his son-in-law.
It was a sordid business. It was a monopolistic, usurious enterprise. And, when Jesus came into the city and up into the precincts of the Temple, His reaction to what He saw was terrific. And, we’ve just read what He did. He made a scourge and he drove out all of those who were selling sacrificial animals and He turned over the tables of the money-changers. And, He said, "How is it that you make My Father’s house a house of usury and monopoly and business advancement?" – using God’s means for personal profit.
You know, there’s something about the Lord that I can never forget, in the concluding verses of the sixth chapter of the Book of the Revelation: The great men and merchandisers of the earth cry, saying to the rocks and to the mountains, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" [Revelation 6:16, 17] Let’s not cancel that phrase, "the wrath of the Lamb." And, the indignation of our Lord and what He saw in the house of God was explosive and terrific.
Now what I would like to know, as I think of this scene: How is it that Jesus the Lord, one man by Himself, made a scourge, drove out those that sold those animals, overturned the tables of the money changers, and did it with impunity? How could such a thing be?
Why did not those bankers rise up and pulverize Him? And, why did not those sellers of sacrificial animals slay Him? And, why was it that the Temple police, the officers who were always there, did not seize Him and imprison Him? Why was it? How could He do such a thing? There are two reasons. Number one, and above all, is this: The moral grandeur of our Lord. Somebody said to me one time, "I don’t believe such-and-such miracle. It could not happen." And, I replied, "My brother, you do not know what could happen in the presence, in the personality of the Son of God."
There was a moral stature and awe about Christ that was overwhelming and indescribable. Let me give you an instance. When He delivered that message concerning the opening and the love of God to the Gentiles in His home city of Nazareth, they were filled with wrath. And, they took Him to the brow of the hill upon which their city was built, to cast Him down headlong and to destroy Him. The Bible says that Jesus just walked through the midst of them [Luke 4:27]. Why didn’t they seize Him? There was a grandeur about the Lord that was indescribable and unapproachable.
Let’s take, again, the Pharisees also, now, and the scribes, along with the Sadducees, send the Temple officers to seize Him, arrest Him, as He’s speaking to the multitudes. And, when the Temple officers come back and report, the scribes and the Pharisees and the Sadducees say, "Why have you not seized Him?" And, their limp reply was: "Never man spake like that man" [John 7:45-46].
Or take just one other, not to belabor the point. On the night that He was betrayed, there came an army of officers and scribes and leaders of the people to seize Him, led by Judas Iscariot, who pointed Him out with a kiss. And, when the Lord met that multitude and throng, He said, "Whom seek ye?" [John 18:6]
And, they replied, "Jesus of Nazareth."
And, He replied, "I am He. I am He."
And, the Bible says that, when He said that, they fell backward and to the ground. I repeat. There was an awe of grandeur and glory and moral power in the very presence of Jesus, the Son of God that was awesome. That’s the first reason why they did not seize Him when He drove out those that sold sacrifices and overturned the tables of the money-changers.
The second reason lies in the people themselves. A conscience is an awesome thing in human life. "Conscience, conscience doth make cowards of us all," Shakespeare said. And, the play, the tragedy, that Shakespeare wrote, Richard III, is nothing but a panorama, a presentation, a dramatization of that awesome sentence.
Richard III – as you remember, the Duke of Gloucester – seized the crown of England by one assassination and murder after another. And, when you turn to the end of the play, and Richard III is facing his final battle and his ultimate death, this is what he says: "Oh, coward conscience, how does thou afflict me? My conscience hath a thousand several tongues. And, every tongue brings in a several tale. And, every tale condemns me for a villain."
Let me quote it from the Bible, which will say it in another way: "The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion." [Proverbs 28:1] That’s a second reason our Lord was not touched when He cleansed the Temple.
Now, may I conclude? They asked Him – and, that was all they dare do: "What sign do You show us that You do this thing?"
And, He replied, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up."
"He spake," says John, "of the temple of His body" – a sign that He is the power and presence and revelation and glory of God – His death and His resurrection. And, truly, that is the great affirmation of the Christian faith!
In the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, speaking to these same people, He says: "I lay down my life for the sheep. This is the commandment I have received of My Father. I lay it down of Myself. No man taketh it from Me. And I lift it up. I come back to life. I pick it up of Myself." [from John 10:15-18] No man and no power and no government could ever have slain Jesus our Lord. He willingly and voluntarily laid down His life. And, the same Lord Jesus who laid down His life on the third day was raised from the dead by that same glorious incomparable power and presence of God.
I don’t press this meaning too far when I add one other word. Not only does He refer to His own "temple" – His own body: "Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it from the dead." I don’t press it too far when I say that also refers to the whole accruement, the whole temple sacrificial system, around Him.
The death of Christ destroyed it forever. The veil of the Temple was rent in twain. The earth shook in a mighty earthquake. The sacrificial system was forever destroyed. And, a Roman soldier, thirty seven years later, threw a burning torch into the Holy of Holies. And, the Temple was forever obliterated from the earth.
But, out of the ruin and out of the earthquake and out of the fire and out of the destruction and out of the death, there arose a new body: the church of Jesus Christ, the fellowship of the people of God. It was a new creation out of the ruin of the old – His believing people, His congregation in the faith of the Lord, and, ultimately, the coming kingdom of God.
I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The church our blessed Redeemer
Bought with His own precious blood.
I love Thy church, O God,
Her walls before Thee stand.
Dear is the apple of Thine eye,
And graven on Thy hand,
For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my toil and cares be given
‘Til toil and cares shall end.
[Timothy Dwight, "I Love Thy Kingdom Lord"]
And, our Lord, in that wondrous new resurrection of the life of our Savior and the creation of the new beginning, the new body, the kingdom of Christ, the church of our Savior – O Lord, with what praises and thanksgivings do our hearts overflow in gratitude to God! And, bless us, Master, as we offer to Thee the sacrifice of our lives in Thy living, enduring, and saving name, Amen.
CHRIST THE POWER OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The first act of His public ministry in Jerusalem
A. Cleansing of the temple
B. Fulfillment of Malachi 3:1-2
II. The reason for the temple traffic
A. Exchange of coins
B. Animals for sacrifice
III. Sadducees made it into most lucrative monopoly
A. Usurious charges
B. Animals had to be inspected
C. High priest was up for bids
IV. The reaction of Jesus
A. The wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:16-17)
B. Why did no one stop Him?
1. The moral grandeur of our Lord (Luke 4:27, John 7:45-46, 18:6)
2. The conscience of his enemies (Proverbs 28:1)
V. The sign of the destroyed temple (John 2:19)
A. At beginning of His career, a distinct vision of the end (John 10:15-18)
B. Death of sacrificial system