About Jesus - Steve Sweetman

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The Commercialized Church


Imagine you are visiting Jerusalem for Passover in 26 or 27 AD.  The city is bustling with a countless number of families like yours, each having brought their prized lamb to be offered to the Lord.  Among the throng of visitors is Jesus.  It's His first Passover since being baptized by John, and what He sees in the temple courtyard disturbs Him immensely (John 2:12 - 24). 


As you submit your lamb to the priest to see if it's suitable for sacrifice, which you know it is, he rejects it.  He forces you to buy one of his lambs.  It's called the business of Passover.  Before you make your purchase from the priest you walk to the currency trading tables to convert your Roman currency into Jewish currency, and that for a fee.  Pagan coins are not legal tender at the temple.  Clearly, Passover has become the highlight of Jerusalem 's economic calendar.  The true meaning of Passover has been commercialized out of existence.   


You glance to the right to see a guy looking like a rough and rugged carpenter like yourself.  Those huge and heavy blocks of rock you carpenters haul around add to your muscular physique.  He's whipping the daylights out of the temple animals that are for sale.  They're scattering in all directions.  He's turning the heavy wooden money exchange tables upside down.  Coins are flying everywhere as money grubbing customers scramble to grab a few coins for themselves.  You hear this guy yell at the top of his voice.  "You've turned my Father's house into a market place."  The crowd is chaotic.  The temple authorities are outraged.  The business of Passover has abrupttly ended for the day.   "Who is this guy?" you ask the man standing next to you.


"He's Jesus, a carpenter from Nazareth.  He's the Messiah," a man named Peter answers.  "Scripture says that the zeal for His Father's house will consume Him."


"That's an understatement," you say.  "If he's the Messiah these priests are literally in a hell of a mess."


"That's putting it mildly," Peter replies.    


Fast forward 70 years.  You're an old man in the congregation of saints at Laodicea.  Your church has acquired great wealth.  It's prosperous, self-sufficient, and you're proud of it.  Now a letter arrives from John the Apostle that he claims is a prophetic message from Jesus.  What you read is disturbing.  Jesus seems as angry as He was the day you saw Him at the temple 70 years earlier.  Despite your church's material prosperity Jesus says it's wretched, poor, pitiful, blind, and naked.  He's about to vomit it out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16 - 17).  You wonder how Jesus could be so angry in this age of grace, but you should know better.  1 Corinthians 3:16 and 17 tells you that the community of Christ is now the New Testament temple of God.  If Jesus got angry with the commercialization of a temple constructed by a pagan king for his own namesake, don't you think His zeal for God's New Testament temple might be aroused and consume Him again?  Might He not be a bit angry when His people commercialize the true meaning of church out of existence?    


Consider the western world church today.  Maybe you'll agree with me.  Generally speaking, it looks similar to the Laodicean community of believers.  In many respects it resembles a Dow Jones Thirty corporation instead of the Body of Christ it was meant to be. 


Don't get me wrong.  I understand the legalities that must be followed to maintain a church's charitable status and other government perks, which by the way, we're in danger of losing.  I've prepared and submitted the yearly reports to the government.  I've sat on church boards.  I know what it's all about, but still, we are Christ's temple.  We're not a Fortune Five Hundred Corporation.  We don't pattern ourselves after the world around us.  We influence the world. 


I know I'm talking in generalities.  Not all segments of today's western world church resemble the corporate world.  My wife and I have recently joined a community of believers who purchased and renovated an old downtown public library.  As long as we have the freedom to exist in this format we cannot neglect the legal and organizational responsibilities.  That being said, the business of church in this instance has not replaced the functionality of the Body of Christ, something that is becoming progressively important in our present anti-Christ cultural climate.   


You may disagree and that's fine, but, if the 
zeal for God's temple and the Laodicean saints consumed Jesus, could His zeal not consume 
Him today as He looks upon that which is commonly called church in our western world?  I think so.  The prophetic message to the community of believers at Ephesus is now beginning to be proclaimed to the western world church.  "If you do not repent I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place (Revelation 2:5)." 


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