His disciples remembered that it is written:Zeal for your house will consume me.John 2:17
Can you imagine what the disciples felt while this was going on? How embarrassed they must have been by the actions of Jesus! They had not been with him very long; they did not know him very well. They had been attracted by the amazing things he said and the things he did. They believed with all their hearts he was the expected Messiah. They had not worked out all the theological puzzles that that must have raised in their minds, but they were committed to following him. Yet the first thing he does is to embarrass them with this uncalled-for activity.
Imagine going into the temple where this practice had been going on for decades and, without any appeal to authority, taking on himself this action of driving out money-changers, pouring out their money, driving out the animals, and even driving out the people with a whip! The disciples were highly embarrassed. But they were probably also fearful of what the authorities would do about this flagrant challenge to them. They knew these self-righteous Pharisees would not let Jesus get away with this. Perhaps the disciples even felt a little anger at the Lord himself for being so unsocial, for being so uncooperative with the establishment. Yet, knowing who he was, they may have felt reluctant to judge him.
But as they watched him do this, there came flashing into their minds a verse from the 69th Psalm. The psalm describes the suffering and the agony of the One who was to be the Messiah. There came into their minds this one verse,
The zeal for thy house has consumed me (Psalms 69:9a)—it has burned me up, has seized hold of me and devoured me and made me to act. There came for the first time, perhaps, the quiet realization in these disciples' hearts of the divine refusal to put up with inward impurities. They began to understand that God does not compromise with evil.
This touches one of the great paradoxes of our Christian faith. Throughout John's Gospel we will see plainly how anyone can come to Christ, no matter what his background, no matter how far he has gone wrong, no matter how evil he has been—murderers, prostitutes, swindlers, liars, perverts, drunkards, self-righteous prigs, bitter, hard-hearted cynics, religious hypocrites, proud self-sufficient snobs—anyone who realizes there is something wrong in his life, anyone who wants to be free can come to Jesus.
Come unto me all you that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Jesus said (Matthew 11:28).
But now the disciples understand, perhaps for the first time, that if you come, be assured that Jesus is not going to leave you the way you are. He is not going to settle for clutter, compromise, extortion and racket, whatever may be defiling and corrupting the temple courts. He may leave you alone for awhile. Many young Christians have misunderstood that. Because he brings us in love and he deals with us in patience, we think that he is going to let us get by with some of the comfortable but wrongful habits we have built into our lives. But he will not. If we mistake that delay for acceptance, we are in for a surprise. If we refuse to deal with what he puts his finger on, one day we will find him coming with flaming eyes and with a whip in his hand, and we will find all that traffic in immorality is driven out whether we like it or not.
Lord, cleanse my heart of all that defiles so that it may be a house of prayer that is pleasing to you.
How awesome that in Christ we are made the dwelling place of God's Holy Spirit! Are we totally complicit with His rigorous cleansing of His holy temple?