O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The Holy Body of Christ
"The Holy Body of Christ"
Preached on March 11, 2012
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Fellow baptized saints, have you ever had your house broken into? Perhaps it wasn't your house, but at some point in your life you may have felt that unsettling feeling you get when you realize an unauthorized person has violated your personal space. How did it make you feel? Shocked? Appalled? Angry? That space is not for them. That space is so personal. It may be where you sleep. It may be where your loved ones go to feel safe. How dare someone enter your sacred space?!
Our Lord experienced this unsettling feeling in our Gospel reading this morning. He was overwhelmed by the way His Father's house was being violated. There He was at the temple, the physical place on earth in which God had promised to dwell, the very place made holy by His presence, and there wasn't one person invading the space - there was a whole market - Hoards of people unabashedly trying to make a profit in the temple courts. Some were money-changers. They would charge an exorbitant exchange fee for temple coins, the only coins that could be used to buy the animals for sacrifice. Others were merchants selling animals. They took advantage of all the travellers who could not bring their own animals such a distance. And all of this might have been overlooked, except for one thing.
These merchants had not setup shop around the temple, but inside its outer courts - in the Gentiles court, which was the only place non-Jewish people could go to pray. Can you imagine that today, if there were people trying to sell you things as you sat in the pews during service? How dare they? How dare they do this in my Father's house? And that is exactly what overwhelmed Jesus. The prophets had been shown it years before - "Zeal for your house will consume me." And so in holy anger Jesus cast out all of the violators. He expelled them with a whip of cords, them and their animals. He overturned their tables and drove them from the courts. However, His anger did not arise from hatred. He was not burning towards them. It came from His love for God. He was zealous toward His Father in heaven.
But how can Jesus do this? What gives Jesus the authority to do these things? That is exactly what the Jewish leaders wanted to know. "What sign do you show us for doing these things?" They wanted evidence, visible proof that He had the authority to cleanse the temple in this way. And this is where things start to get interesting, because all of a sudden Jesus starts talking about His body. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." He was not talking about the building, but the temple of His body. Jesus equated His body with God's temple. It was like He was saying, "If you really want to understand my zeal for God's temple, destroy my body, kill me and I will bring my own body back to life. I will walk out of the grave on the third day - because my body is the true temple of God. I have come in the flesh. I once dwelt in the temple made with hands, but now I have body like you."
The Jewish leaders did not know how to respond to Jesus. They certainly didn't understand that He was talking about His body, but what about us? What do we hear Jesus saying to us? What does the cleansing of the temple have to do with the Church today?
Everything - for Jesus is still cleansing the temple of His body to this day. And fellow believers in Christ - we are His body. We are the body of Christ - the temple that Christ is cleansing. You are the special thing that arouses His zeal. He made your body His temple in Holy Baptism when He came to dwell in you. You are sacred to Him, and it awakens His holy anger when you are violated. How dare they invade His body?
But when we think about the things that transform the holy temple that God has made us into a marketplace, we realize that we have brought them there, haven't we? We are the moneychangers and the merchants who have brought things into the temple that do not belong. We are the ones that bring in idols and sins. We might even think they are little sins, ones that everyone commits, but we are setting up shop in the Gentiles court. We are violating the only place for non-Christians to meet the Lord - in our God-pleasing words and actions. How dare we? How dare we violate God's sacred space, even if it is our own body?
But all is not lost. Do you want Christ to cleanse your temple anew? Do you want Him to drive your sin and your idols from your courts? He will. He will cast out the sin that tries to have mastery over you. He will overturn the idols in your heart and expel them with His whip of cords. His zeal for you has consumed Him. His zealous love for you has driven Him up onto the cross - it has made Him break Himself there - it has put Him under the judgment end of the whip of cords so that their stinging ends don't strike your back. It has made Him sacrifice His holy body that you may be clean again.
But how can Jesus do this? How can I know He can cleanse me, forgive me, save me? Christ knew you would need evidence, visible proof that He has the authority to cleanse you - and that is why He gives you His body. "I brought my own body back to life. I walked out of the grave on the third day. My body is the true presence of God." And you are going to eat it this morning. You are going to consume His body kneeling at this altar rail. The same body that hung on the cross. The same body that was laid in the tomb. The same body that Jesus brought back to life. The body of Christ hidden under the bread will be placed on your lips, crushed between your teeth and swallowed into your person. There cannot be a more precious gift than this - you cannot touch a more precious thing than this. This is your Lord's body which has endured so much for you - brought to you now by Him so that you may have certainty that He can cleanse you - that you may taste His zeal - feel His forgiveness in your stomach - and grasp with certainty every benefit that He has won for you. With the body of Christ in you, you can boldly say to death, "Destroy this temple, and Christ will raise it up on the last day."
The Church of Christ, His precious body,
is constantly in need of cleansing.
But Christ shows us His zealous love,
by feeding us His body unending.
So when death comes to conquer us,
God's temple thus destroying.
Our risen Lord will raise us too,
cleansed for life everlasting.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr