The Temple of the Heart

John 2.13-22

13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, ???Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father???s house a marketplace!??? 17His disciples remembered that it was written, ???Zeal for your house will consume me.??? 18The Jews then said to him, ???What sign can you show us for doing this???? 19Jesus answered them, ???Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.??? 20The Jews then said, ???This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days???? 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Because Lent is a time of reflection, there is a lot of focus that can be placed on the heart, the place where most of that reflection takes place.  The heart is talked about a lot in the Scriptures, making it a central piece of Christian spirituality.  Most of us today understand our hearts as the seat of our emotions.  We have phrases in our culture like ???I love her with all my heart,??? or ???He broke my heart??? or even the classic Southernism, ???Oh, well bless his heart.???  The Scriptures don???t have any pithy quotes for the use of the heart, but they do say amazing things about what a Biblical understanding of the heart may be.  They say things like this…

???because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.??? ???Romans 10.9???10.  

Here we associate the heart with belief, as the place where the belief must be kept or housed.

???For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.??? ???Matthew 12.34. 

We see here that the things that are stored up in the heart are what are pushed out as we open our mouths and speak in different situations.  The modern term for this might be ???Garbage in???garbage out.???  If we have good things in the heart, then good things come out.  If we have bad things in the heart, then bad things come out.  Or as Jesus said else where, ???A good tree bears good fruit…???

???Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.??? ???Proverbs 4.23.  

This one is particularly important because here we learn that life flows from the heart, life in the sense of our spirit or soul.  Therefore, if the heart represents the core of our being, it is all the more important that we guard the heart, protecting it from things that would harm or damage our spirit.

This brings us to our scripture this morning.  In the scene we just read, Jesus has gone from a peaceful healer and bearer of good news to an angry cattle driver, wielding a whip, driving out both people and animals, and turning over the tables of the money changers in what seems to be a fit of rage.  Why?  What was it about the scene in the temple that was so wrong that Jesus had to react the way he did?  In short, it had to do with the fact that the temple was the place where holy worship took place.  

Worship is our direct connection with God.  The main aspect of worship at that time was understood as going to the temple to give thanks to God, to offer sacrifices on your behalf to atone for your sin, and give your alms and tithe.  But now, something else was going on.  The people had brought the wretchedness of the marketplace within its walls; money was changing hands and profits were being made, and the focus of the temple had shifted to anything but finding the healing, transforming presence of God through offering, prayer, and sacrifice.  The true purpose of that place was for unclean people to be made clean by a loving God who desired to help them.

But this whole scene comes together in v. 19, when Jesus makes an association between the temple and his own body.  Before this statement, Jesus was simply a righteous Jew making his point with a rowdy gesture.  But once he makes the claim that his body is the temple and that he would be raised, things change.

This temple???body idea is captured later by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6.19, 

???Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own????  

Paul has figured it out, and along with Jesus is trying to help the worshipper understand that each of us are living, breathing temples of God.  Is this true?  A couple of examples.  Jesus tells the woman at the well two chapters later in John 4, that, 

???the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.???  

Jesus makes it plain that that what worship requires is the body as a temple, that we worship God in our hearts.  We see this to be the case later in John 14.23 when he says, 

???Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.???

If we can understand the importance of our bodies being temples, then we can see the importance of protecting our hearts from improper use.  Our hearts are meant to be houses of the Holy Spirit.  Each of us are made in the image of God; we are lights in dark places, sent into the world not only to bear witness to our God but to worship him with our whole being.  We are to be holy, as our Heavenly Father is holy.  We are set aside for the purpose of being restored and ushering in restoration.  If our temples are fouled with the business of the world, then we must pray that Christ will enter in, drive out the animals, turn over the tables, and restore our hearts back to their proper function.

And so, your heart is sacred; your body a house of God that must be protected from all that is unholy.  Jesus desires to provide us with a new understanding of what it means to worship.  Worshiping God in Jesus Christ is not worship that requires the sacrifice of cattle, sheep, and doves in a brick and mortar temple, but rather a sacrifice King David laid out in Psalm 51, one of the heart, 

???For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.  The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.???

Therefore, it is the heart that is sacred and not simply the temple.  The
Spirit of God resides within Jesus and he has become the temple.  He moves throughout the land WITH the people, like the presence of God did in the Tent of Meeting after the Exodus.  The temple building was a holy place, yes, but so was the worship that was to take place within it.  If our hearts are made holy by God, then we must worship him there in purity and in righteousness.

We must understand that God needs nothing, not even our worship.  God delights in our worship because the worship of God re-forms us into his image.  Worship is for us, for our formation, for our growth; it is our response to a God who has reached down and cleansed the temples of our hearts, driving out the sin that clings so closely to our bodies.  If our bodies are to be temples, then we must do what is necessary in order to protect them; to guard them from those that would defile it, ravage it, exploit it, or treat it poorly.

Guard the temple of your heart and let God be glorified there. Amen.

Sent from Whit’s iPhone

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