A Sign in the Court of the Nations
John 2: 13. The Passover of the Jews was drawing near and Yahshua went up to Jerusalem. 14. And he found those in the temple (`ierw) selling cattle and sheep and doves and the coin dealers sitting by. 15. And having made a whip out of ropes, he cast all [of them] out of the temple, the sheep and the cattle, and he poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned the tables. 16. And to the ones selling the doves he said: Take these away; do not make my father’s house a house of merchandise. 17. His disciples remembered what had been written. It is: The zeal of your house will eat me up. 18. Therefore the Jews answered and said to him: What sign do you show to us on account of the things you do? 19. Yahshua answered and said to them: Destroy this sanctuary (naon) and in three days I will raise it. 20. Therefore the Jews said: This sanctuary (naon) was built in forty and six years and you will raise it in three days? 21. But that [he] spoke about the sanctuary of his body. 22. Therefore when he was raised from [the] dead, his disciples remembered that he said this. They believed the scripture and the word that Yahshua spoke.
14., 19. `ierw is ‘temple’. naon is a technical term referring to the inner temple or shrine within the temple, therefore I render naon as ‘sanctuary’.
16. Luke 19:46. It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers. Isaiah 56:7. My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations.
20. The rebuilding of the Temple was begun by Herod I in 20 BC. Add 46 years to make 27 AD.
Signs are important in our lives if we are to find our way to Yahweh’s perfect will. You may remember the three Tampa teens who were convicted of pulling up nineteen stop signs. Shortly thereafter, three other teens were killed when a Mack truck smashed their car at one of these signless intersections. A “youthful prank” cost the lives of six young people: three died and three received fifteen years apiece in prison. It was the kind of prank any kid might pull. Judge Mitcham told the three teens at their sentencing:
“I don't think for one minute that you pulled up these signs with the intent of causing the death of anyone, but pulling up the signs has caused ramifications that none of you may have ever expected.”
Indeed, the ramifications of stealing a sign meant long incarceration for three young people; but the ramification of not seeing a sign meant life itself for three others.
from the famed discovery
oldest New Testament text has finally been released to the public.
You may read the Codex Sinaiticus online - but only if you
know Greek! To read it in
English, you need the only English translation we know.
The H. T.
Anderson English Translation
of the Codex Sinaiticus, with the three extra early New
Testament books and the Sonnini Manuscript of Acts 29 included, and
the original absences of certain verses (put in there later by the
'church') is now
available only at here.
THIS IS NOT A
CHEAP, SCANNED-IN FACSIMILE. This is a first edition of the text
published in easy-to-read Georgia font with plenty of room between
verses for your notes.2 points between verses, hard or soft cover.
Also known as
Ever wonder why
PAUL and not PETER received the
to the lost tribes? Wasn't Peter the stone upon which the
"church" was to be built? In this new translation of the
Nazarene Acts, we follow Kefa (Peter) as he itinerates from
Jerusalem and up the Mediterranean coast up to Tripoli, as recorded
in the journals of his successor, Clement of Rome (Phi 4:3).
Every message Kefa preached, the company he kept, and the great
works of faith the the Almighty accomplished through him are herein
recorded. This 300 page volume has been 'hidden' in the back
of an obscure volume of the "Church Fathers" all this time.
Could it be that, in establishing the Gentile 'church' by pushing
away from Judaism, this history was purposely hidden?
from the famed discovery
The earliest, oldest New Testament text has finally been released to the public. You may read the Codex Sinaiticus online - but only if you know Greek! To read it in English, you need the only English translation we know. The H. T. Anderson English Translation of the Codex Sinaiticus, with the three extra early New Testament books and the Sonnini Manuscript of Acts 29 included, and the original absences of certain verses (put in there later by the 'church') is now available only at here.
THIS IS NOT A CHEAP, SCANNED-IN FACSIMILE. This is a first edition of the text published in easy-to-read Georgia font with plenty of room between verses for your notes.2 points between verses, hard or soft cover.
Also known as
Ever wonder why PAUL and not PETER received the mission to the lost tribes? Wasn't Peter the stone upon which the "church" was to be built? In this new translation of the Nazarene Acts, we follow Kefa (Peter) as he itinerates from Jerusalem and up the Mediterranean coast up to Tripoli, as recorded in the journals of his successor, Clement of Rome (Phi 4:3). Every message Kefa preached, the company he kept, and the great works of faith the the Almighty accomplished through him are herein recorded. This 300 page volume has been 'hidden' in the back of an obscure volume of the "Church Fathers" all this time. Could it be that, in establishing the Gentile 'church' by pushing away from Judaism, this history was purposely hidden?
Gospel of Signs
John’s Gospel is called the “Gospel of Signs.” Therein Jesus reveals seven signs to prove his identity and so point out the narrow road for us. Jesus’ first sign was the changing of water to wine. Today’s text, “the cleansing of the temple” is his second sign. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, this incident occurs at the very end of Jesus’ ministry. In John, this “cleansing” happens at the very beginning. In our understanding, Jesus “cleansed the temple” both at the beginning and at the end of his ministry.
Then as now, the Passover was drawing near. As we did last year, we’ll celebrate it Thursday, April 24, 2003 at 6:30 PM with the traditional meal and the Passover text (Haggadah) that dates back to the time of Moses. As we get closer to this date, we’ll explain the meaning of Passover more thoroughly and why we as Christians have taken to honoring it.
An End of Animal Sacrifice
Jesus is in Jerusalem for Passover worship. He knows what true worship consists in since he was sent from above for the purpose of reforming corrupted Judaism. (The term Judaism refers to the worship of Yahweh, or Yahudaism). One of Jesus’ reforms was to demonstrate that, in accordance with the Scriptures, animal sacrifice wasn’t pleasing to his Father in heaven, thus inappropriate for worship. This reform is made clear in
Hebrews 10:4-10 (excerpts): For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. So, when the Anointed One came into the world, he said, "You have not desired sacrifices and offerings, but a body you have prepared for me.” Then he added, "Lo, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first (sacrifices) in order to establish the second (Yahweh’s perfect will). And through the offering of the body of Jesus will we be sanctified once for all.
Heaven forbid that we should ever sacrifice animals and call it worship, although animals and even people are still being ritually sacrificed to appease occult gods in our day. But believers understand Jesus’ death on the stake to be the last blood sacrifice for sin permissible by the Almighty. The fact remains, the Father never needed a drop of Jesus’ spilled blood, but the world did. The Father sent Jesus to die as a sign of his love for the world. This is why the Father appropriated a human body for him – so that he could be seen through eyes of flesh, then understood as the last blood sacrifice -- for all sin -- for all time. Mightn’t those whom he came to save behold this sign -- then consider the truth of his doctrine -- then reform? Then mightn’t the temple have become the prophetic “House of Prayer for all Nations” instead of remaining a bloody slaughterhouse?
The use of this temple was also limited to certain people. No one from outside would get in except by stealth or force: it was for Jews only, and only righteous Jews, judged so by the rich temple rulers. There was constant debate and even bloody uprisings in Jesus’ day as people debated the question, “What is a Jew that he might enter in?” That question is still hotly debated in regards not to entering the temple (for it no longer exists) but for entering into Israeli citizenship. Jesus descended so that he might in one way or another tear open the sanctuary curtain to prepare the House of Yahweh as a place of access for all nations and all peoples. This doctrine is explained in
Hebrews 10:14-22 excerpts. (Listen!) For by a single offering he has completed those who are made holy for all time. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says Yahweh: I will put my laws on their hearts and write them on their minds.” Then he added, "I will not remember their sins.” So there is no longer any offering for sin since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Although the stone temple, with its entry regulations, is no more, there are yet serious conditions to be met before we may enter into the sanctuary, which has become his body. All who now enter must do so through his death (since it was the final sacrifice for sin); all who enter must participation in his blood, shed once for all (Communion); all who enter must first be sprinkled and washed bodily in pure water (Baptism). Belief in and acceptance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, participating in his death through water baptism, then becoming one with him through Communion, anticipate an ongoing personal relationship. These are not grievous requirements, so we fulfill them in joyful obedience before entering into his sanctuary of rest and redemption. Such a wonderful grace has made us friends of Jesus, united in him through his death and resurrection, now and forever.
The church of Christ in every age beset by change but Spirit led
Must claim and
test its heritage and keep on rising from the dead.
Court of the Nations (or Gentiles)
Now, Jesus had been to Jerusalem many times. Being a Galilean and a Jew, he was probably used to traveling up for Passover and Tabernacles every year. But this time he would put the temple rulers on notice and put himself at grave risk for committing a very serious act of revolution.
These sacrificial animals and their owners were not in the temple proper but outside in what’s called “the Court of the Nations” (pictured). Anyone could go into the Court but no further into the sanctuary. Signs were posted that declared:
“No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the temple and its enclosure. Anyone who is caught trespassing will bear personal responsibility for his ensuing death.” (Two of these inscriptions have been found, one in 1871 and the other in 1935.)
This is a far cry from Yahweh’s declaration of
Isaiah 56:3-7 (excerpts): Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to Yahweh say, “Yahweh will surely separate me from his people. The foreigners who join themselves to Yahweh, to minister to him, to love his name, and to be his servants, every one who keeps the Sabbath, and holds fast my covenant -- these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
This Scripture isn’t a “no trespassing” sign, but a welcome mat for those who hold to the minimal standards of religiosity; i.e. to love and worship Yahweh alone, to keep his Sabbath and enter his covenant through the new birth and baptism! In turn, Yahweh promises to make all nations joyful within his own happy home.
This Court of the Nations was a large, outdoor area. Hundreds of sheep were there to be sold for Passover so that all might eat supper as a sign of their flight from Egypt. Cattle were stocked in hopes of early sales for the Day of Atonement some months to come. Since there would be enough meat sacrificed for everyone to eat lamb for the Passover (and temple sheep were so expensive), pigeons were also sold so that the very poorest people would have the opportunity to likewise pay the rich. The stench of this place must have been overwhelming in all quarters, requiring pungent incense in the actual worship services.
It used to be that people brought their own lambs into Jerusalem for the feast. But that was stopped when temple rulers realized how much more money they could get if they sold the animals on site at high margins. To add to their profits, they wouldn’t allow these animals to be purchased by common Roman money, since Roman coins bear the image of the Emperor. The worship of graven images was prohibited by the Second Commandment, and the image of the Emperor on the coins was to be worshiped by law. So the common money had to be exchanged for special temple coins; the animals were then purchased with these coins. Of course, there was a mark-up for them, too. Joining up with the Temple crowd had become a very large, extensive, expensive and exclusive dynasty, a secret mystical society, with profit-motivated entrepreneurs reeling in vast sums from the rich and poor alike in the name of G-d. This was organized religion in its most corrupt and corrupting form. It had to be stopped. Yahweh would no longer stand for it. He would give these worship magnates a deadline to cease all hostilities against his chosen before he declared holy war. That deadline came and went in the form of the sign of the Son of Man. If Jesus’ reforms went unheeded, then the Almighty would put an end to the whole sordid system.
Jesus is consumed with rage on account of his love for his father’s house. The stench, the slaughter, the disrespect, the exclusiveness, the falsehood, the mammon: He came to change it and reform it. So he goes into the Court of the Nations with his gang standing by. Jesus’ disciples are formidable men. Some of them are revolutionaries (Zealots) and one is an assassin. His brothers are standing by also, and their friends. These are the righteous few holding out against the watershed of unrighteousness. With perhaps hundreds present there in the Court, Jesus puts his faith to action by braiding a whip out of ropes. Then, like a madman, he disburses hundreds of animals from the temple area. They stampede out of the Court and into the streets of Jerusalem; also through the forbidden gates into the temple sanctuary proper, desecrating it. The people run for cover but stay close enough to observe further developments.
Soon they’re rewarded. Jesus starts pouring out the cash registers. Thousands of dollars worth of Roman and temple coins go careening all over the Court, through all the animal excrements and filth of that slick, muddy floor. Now the poor are flashing forth like rats out of holes, slipping and slopping through the malodorous muck, jumping into the fray face first for their dab of the grab. It’s a free-for-all for just a while. Jesus cries in the midst of all this, “You won’t make my father’s house a sale barn!” Then he and his men withdraw some, leaving behind the bedazzled moneychangers and the poor folks groveling for the last of the filthy lucre.
Jesus’ men aren’t sure of the meaning of their Master’s actions; but they remember what the Scriptures say of him thinking at the time:
Psalm 69:6-13 (excerpts): Let not those who hope in you be brought to dishonor through me, O Elohim of Israel. It is for your sake that shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger even to my brothers. For zeal for your house has eaten me up, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me. But my prayer is to you, O Yahweh. At an acceptable time, answer me.
Destroy This Temple / Sanctuary
When his enemies catch up with him, they demand to see a sign (shmeion) to prove that what he did and said in the temple court was significant in some way. Jesus says, “Destroy this sanctuary and I will raise it up in three days.” Now a sanctuary is an inner space, a holy place. Jesus doesn’t here use the word that means “temple” (`ierwn). Many Bible translations don’t make the distinction between temple and sanctuary. But there is an architectural term herein used by Jesus that refers not to the temple itself, but to the most sacrosanct space within a temple, the naoV, or nave. He is speaking of the holy sanctuary of his body, not of a stone temple. His sign would be that when he was destroyed, the sanctuary of his body would spring back to life within just a few days.
But his inquisitionists don’t want to understand what he’s saying; at least not in this esoteric, mystical kind of way. They’re pragmatists in a hurry; and though their business is religion, deep religious truth isn’t within the scope of their interest. They’re instead thinking of how their tradition and money plan have been disrupted. Being earthly-minded, they understand Jesus to be referring to the inner sanctum of the temple building. They see Jesus as saying that he and his men will tear this huge temple down then rebuild it from a different architectural perspective. The second sign should have been so obvious to the religious. But they were blind guides!
Even Jesus’ disciples don’t quite understand what he means. But once Jesus was destroyed and raised from the dead, they remembered what he said about the sanctuary, and now they understand the sanctuary as his body. They recognize the sign, and take the right road of destiny, believing in him from that day onward. When the wrath of God falls on Jerusalem, these men are saved.
Seeing the Sign
Look. In these days of amazing wonders it may not seem that this man Jesus’ obscure death so long ago could mean all that much. It’s really not so spectacular that a dead man returned to life. The death and resurrection of Jesus needn’t be considered magical or something awe inspiring, like, say, the current “shock and awe” campaign. Far more incredible events, both wonderful and terrible, have happened since the resurrection. Far greater feats of medical recovery followed that of Jesus in the centuries to come. But the point of Jesus’ death and resurrection isn’t to overawe people into believing in him. Or scare them into believing in him with a whip of ropes. His coming to life can’t be so very useful if it’s merely thought of as the greatest miracle of all time. No. His life, death and resurrection, are to be understood as the sign – the sign of a reformed faith that makes for a reformed life. The raising of his body is merely the signpost. What is awesome is the event and place to which that signpost points.
The prophets of old in every religious tradition predicted his coming. The words of the Bible assured pre-advent people that someday the Anointed One would be among them, bringing “healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2). Then, when he came, Jesus himself predicted that, “when I’m lifted up I’ll draw all to me.” His disciples witnessed this sign of his being lifted up on a stake. Then they witnessed the sanctuary of his body being destroyed. Then they witnessed how this sanctuary was rebuilt. And then they once again had joyful fellowship with their friend. Finally, they remembered he said all this would happen, and they believed in him. They followed him. And afterward, like him, they never died.
Back Way Short Cut
I’m reminded of the ‘back way short cut’ that gets you to Century from Crestview. You take US 90 West from Crestview a few miles then see the sign from the highway that says CR 4. Turn right at that sign, else you end up in Pace. When you get to Baker, CR 4 juts left. Those unfamiliar with the territory will invariably miss that turn and go straight on into the Alabama netherworld of gloom, lost just because they fail to see that single, tiny sign, lifted up off the highway, directing them to turn left. Missing that sign almost guarantees remaining lost for what seems like eternity.
It’s the same with the sign of the Son of Man. Jesus is but a tiny sign along the road to eternity. His signpost is not so easy to see because it’s not really lifted up very high, or is to be found only in the most obscure or rural territories of a person’s life. Sometimes his sign is hard to pick out of all the other signs, much bigger than his, hogging up airspace, vying for attention. But when a person encounters the sign of the Son of Man in their lives, they simply must be ready to recognize it and turn in accordance with it or end up in oblivion somewhere. Just as Jesus made every effort to get the attention of those who should have understood the meaning of his violent actions, he makes every effort, including warfare, to get the attention of those he desires to save. And he desires to save you.
Invitation – Delay Not!
Friends, we live in a Court of the Nations, where beasts roam free to scatter filth where we would tread, merchandisers have no shame in commercializing their wares, religionists have no fear as they flaunt their zeal in ignorance of true worship, religious people have no compunction against killing their own children, and the signs of the times go unheeded. You need a signpost on your life’s journey; a signpost to keep you on the narrow way. Anyone can choose the broad way that leads to destruction, but you must watch for the sign! Oh, won’t you choose to follow Jesus out of the slime pit of the nations? Won’t you avoid certain death as you attempt to negotiate the hairpin turns that you’re taking right now? Won’t you finish your groveling in the foul stench of the gutter for a few lost coins? Jesus has made a spectacle of himself for you so that he might get your attention and set you on the right road – the road to reform, to sanctity, to eternity.
Delay not, delay not, O sinner, draw near;
The waters of life are now flowing for thee.
No price is demanded; the Savior is here;
Redemption is purchased, salvation is free.
Delay not, delay not, O sinner, to come,
For mercy still lingers and calls thee today.
Her voice is not heard in the vale of the tomb;
Her message, unheeded, will soon pass away.
Delay not, delay not! The Spirit of Grace,
Long grieved and resisted, may take His sad flight
And leave thee in darkness to finish thy race,
To sink in the gloom of eternity's night.
Delay not, delay not! The hour is at hand;
The earth shall dissolve, and the heavens shall fade.
The dead, small and great, in the Judgment shall stand;
What power, then, O sinner, shall lend thee its aid?
Delay not, delay not! Why longer abuse
The love and compassion of Jesus, thy God?
A fountain is opened; how canst thou refuse
To wash and be cleansed In His pardoning blood?
(Thomas Hastings, 1831)
March 20, 2003