The Zeal of Faith – Bright Friday

Cleansing the Temple

Christ is risen!

“What would Jesus do?” That phrase was popular a few years ago, and I confess to being amused by this fad of “easy religion.” One of the main reasons was that the life of Jesus is not easily categorized as the comfortable “Jesus” we moderns would prefer. You know the “Jesus” I’m talking about: The “meek” Jesus that pats everyone on the head and tells them they are “OK, just like you are.” The Jesus of modern therapy that gets us “in touch with our feelings.” The Jesus that has all the little children come and sit on his lap and wouldn’t dare tell anyone that they were wrong. Unless, of course, he was telling those “mean, judgmental” people how wrong they were! That’s OK for “modern Jesus” to scold and condemn “those people!”

We forget all too often that Jesus had times in His ministry where He was very “unJesusLike” at times. We confront a Lord Who cleansed the Temple of commerce because they were encroaching on a section of the Temple meant to be a place where even Gentiles could learn of the God of the Temple.

His actions on that day showed the power of appropriate zeal to make an unmistakable point.

Look at our Gospel Lesson for today in John 2:12-22:

At that time, Jesus came to Capernaum with his mother and his brothers and his disciples; and there they stayed for a few days.

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

The scene is set. The Lord and His family were in the city to attend the Passover liturgies of the Temple and there Jesus finds these “businesses” operating in the part of the Temple called “the Court of the Gentiles.” This was a section of the Temple grounds reserved for the strangers and non-Jews so even those who weren’t part of the faith could get as close as they could to learn of the faith from the Temple actions. This was the place of hospitality to the “strangers” that was enshrined in the teachings of the Law. And the faith had become so exclusive and ethnic, there was “no room” for the “strangers” there anymore!

The Lord took great offense at this breach of hospitality and He drove these people from this section of the Temple mount. It was such a dramatic event that the disciples recalled the scripture that said “Zeal for Your house will consume me.”

It is no mistake in our Divine Liturgy that part of the preparation of the Holy Chalice at the Eucharist has the priest pour hot water into the wine and water of the Chalice with these words: “The zeal of faith, full of the Holy Spirit”. It is precisely the “zeal” of the faith; that warm love and devotion to the faith; that enlivens and fills the Church with wise action and faithfulness. How cold the faith is when it is practiced out of some mere habit or some lingering “nostalgia” of “how it use to be.” No wonder that kind of “cold” faith just doesn’t survive in the hearts of the next generation.

But that isn’t how it’s suppose to be. No, the faith is meant to be warm, inviting, and alive with the invigorating Presence of Jesus in the middle of His Body, the Church. The Faith is suppose to be practiced by those who are “hot” with the joy of new life in Christ. That’s normal Orthodoxy. That’s the kind of faith that survives from generation to generation. That’s the “zeal” that insists on purposeful faith and active participation. And that very “zeal” tempered with the wisdom of centuries of sober living best displays the power of Orthodoxy to perpetuate this faith for centuries!

Today, where is your “zeal” for the faith? Is your faith “hot” or cold? Is the focused and living faith of the centuries at the top of your priority list or is the faith “cooling” off in some lesser place in your life? The Fathers tell us it is only the coal that gets separated from the fire that goes cold and dark. But, all we have to do to rekindle that warmth is to nudge the coal close to the “fire” of God’s presence and watch as it begins to glow again with the “warmth” of faith. Why not let the afterglow of Pascha that makes this Bright Week so precious, warm the faith of your heart to the point that your whole life is warmed by a renewed devotion and zeal for the Lord’s House? Before you know it, you’ll be Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. Thank you to those who are investing in the growth of the ministry through the PayPal donation button on the homepage of Faith Encouraged Ministries. We are grateful for your encouraging gifts!

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