„His disciples remembered that it was written, ‚Zeal for your house will consume me.“ John 2:17
This verse contains a quote from Psalm 69, where it is written, „I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons; for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me“ (Ps. 69:8-9).
When we briefly describe this verse’s meaning we realize first of all that our beloved Lord was so devoted to God’s glory and the interests of his house that it raised him above every natural claim which could have been made on him. Therefore when Maria found him in the temple and asked, „Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you“ he replied, „Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be in my father’s house?“ (Lk. 2:48-49). The father’s right to have His will done filled Jesus completely and it was his daily nourishment (Ps. 40:8 and John 4:34).
In addition, this led to total identification with God and His interests on earth, so that he felt everything like God and for God. That is why he said, „The insults of those who insult you fall on me.“ Whatever he experienced, he saw in relationship not to himself but to God and His glory. An insult toward God wounded his heart because he was here not for himself, but for God. Anything said against him he could bear, but an insult of God was an unbearable pain. How little do we – as those who are here for Christ – know what it means to be more wounded by an insult to the name of Christ than when we ourselves are treated badly! We can attain such an attitude only with the aid of the Holy Spirit and when we lose sight of ourselves for the sake of His interests; when the goal of everything we are and do, of all our motives is Christ alone (Phil. 1:12-26).
Back to the Gospel of John. There we see that our Lord, filled with his burning zeal, can tolerate no soiling of his father’s house. That is why he cleansed the temple. The same thing happens now. Thank God! Jesus Christ, our Lord and king, cleanses HIS church through the Holy Spirit. At the same time there is always a possibility that we ourselves desire and allow this cleansing, or that we fall for the error that everything is all right. We should not be like the churches in Sardis or Laodicea, to whom our Lord said, „I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead“ (Rev. 3:1). On the outside many things still look good and healthy. But God sees deeper and therefore gives a clear diagnosis: DEAD, lukewarm! He wants to change this. In the churches in Sardis and Laodicea his words fell on deaf ears and therefore they no longer exist. What about our ears?
The churches in Sardis and Laodicea were convinced that they were vital, good churches. But most of them were dead. Today hundreds of thousands, even millions of „Christians“ are sitting in churches and congregations which are convinced that they are alive (saved) – but they are dead. How is this possible? They were taught a false gospel, respectively only a partial one. These people were told, „Say yes to Jesus and everything will be O.K.“ This is a false gospel where one hears nothing of sin, repentance, taking up one’s cross, and discipleship. The apostle Paul, who was truly zealous for the lord, said of this, „But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!“ (Gal. 1:8) We often justify such a false gospel by saying we present it out of love. But this omission has nothing to do with love, it only tickles people’s ears and is therefore loveless and irresponsible. We are obliged to preach the full gospel, to bring the full Christ (including, among other things, loving and accepting him as the King of the Jews, as well as his people), not just the bits and pieces which suit us so that at least some will come to our churches, congregations or events.
The oppositie of omission is addition. Our churches/congregations (no matter what their name) advocate and teach some dogmas and convictions which cannot be reconciled with God’s word (papacy, infant baptism, homosexual pastors, celibacy, homosexual marriage or blessing). Can and should we even speak of these things? Is this love? Should we not concentrate only on what is good and uniting? For orientation in these questions I ask you to read Jesus’ words to the seven churches in Revelation! He saw and mentioned explicitly and first of all not always! what was good. But because he loves his church, he also speaks explicitly and clearly of what is wrong in order to waken, save and bring them back like the lost sheep whom he looked for. It is after all a matter of his body (herd, church), his house, his kingdom! Oh yes, lord, cleanse your temple once again! And begin with me!
Our king, lord and savior was consumed by zeal for God and his interests. This is not about perfectionism but about zeal for the only thing that is right! Many Christians were very moved when Billy Graham read out loud the following letter, written by an American student who had turned to Communism in Mexico. He wrote in order to explain to his fiancée why he had to break off the engagement:
„We Communists have a relatively high accident rate. We are the ones who are shot, hanged, lynched, tarred, feathered, locked up, slandered and disparaged and thrown out of our jobs, for whom life is made difficult in all imaginable ways. A certain percentage of us is murdered. We live literally in poverty. We turn every penny over to our party except for the basic necessities needed to stay alive. We are called fanatics. And we are! Our lives are governed by one great, all-overshadowing factor: the battle for world Communism.
We Communists have a life philosophy which cannot be bought for the greatest amount of money. We have a righteous cause for which we fight as well as a clear goal for our lives. Our small self is subordinated to the great human movement. If our personal life seems hard and our self seems to suffer because of this subordination to the party, we are nevertheless richly reimbursed by the thought that each one of us contributes to something new, true and better for mankind.
There is only one thing which I take totally seriously, and that is Communism. It is my life, my work, my religion, my hobby, my treasure, my wife and beloved, my bread and my meat. I work for it during the day and dream about it during the night. This dedication is constantly growing and will never diminish. Therefore I cannot continue any friendship, any love affair or even any entertainment without bringing them into a relationship with this power which guides and leads my life. I evaluate persons, books, ideas and actions according to how they influence Communism’s goal and according to their relationship to it. I have alreday been in prison because of my ideals and if necessary I am also ready to confront executioners for it.“
(from „True Discipleship“ by William MacDonald)
What a zeal meets us in these lines! And all for a dead ideology, for a false goal. May it waken in us the desire to be filled with such zeal for the house of the lord, for himself. I pray for this.