Cleansed through Christ
Romans 8:1-11; Luke 19:41-20:8
I come to you this evening a little disappointed. You see I have a small vegetable patch in which I love to grow vegetables. Being able to grow many vegetables in a small space is important to me. I have cut and grow lettuce that abuts closely to tightly packed carrots and beetroot with radishes spread between them. In one corner I grow beans. The broad beans are planted in a small circle around a wigwam of poles that they grow up. I have been successful in previous years with this method and had a good crop of broad beans to enjoy. But this year I am a little disappointed. You see I have had only 6 broad beans from these plants. The reason I think behind such a poor crop is that my broad beans have become contaminated by the blight of the beans, black fly!
These black fly have covered the beans, feeding off the sap and excreting a sugary honeydew that ants adore and I have ants hurtling up and down my broad beans in some sort of frenzy. The black fly are stunting and weakening my plants growth and reducing the number of beans that crop. I have tried to stop the contamination by nipping out the tops of the bean plants and using spray, but all to no avail and what a sorry sight these beans are and that is why I am a little disappointed.
However, about 2 feet from the broad beans I have planted a circle of runner beans which are again growing up a wigwam of poles. These beans were planted a little later than my broad beans and they are thriving! They have grown quite tall with plenty of flowers and plenty of young runner beans coming to maturity. What a sight to behold they are!
On one side of my small garden plot we have the stunted broad beans bearing little fruit and contaminated by black fly and on the other side the vigorous and plentiful healthy runner beans. When I look at the runner beans I can see what the broad beans could have been like if they hadn’t become contaminated, given over to black fly and ants which I am of course hoping stay on the broad beans now and don’t contaminate my runner beans. The Broad Beans could have been so much better if they hadn’t become contaminated.
Jesus comes down the Mount of Olives and sees the city of God, Jerusalem in all its splendour nestling before him in the valley with David’s wall surrounding it and the Temple where God’s people meet with him and Jesus sees a city where God’s people have resisted his call for repentance and forgiveness, his call for peace and the message of grace that his son Jesus brings. He sees a contaminated city that could have been so much better. – Jesus knows that they will be handed over to God’s judgement, they have become contaminated by sin and their own ambitions and they will be stunted as a nation and bear no fruit for the kingdom. Jesus knows what they could have been, a healthy nation bringing God’s grace to other people, spreading his message of Good News and bearing fruit for his kingdom and he weeps! He isn’t a little disappointed, he weeps in sorrow at what could have been, he weeps in sadness at the judgement to come and he weeps in anguish at the suffering that he knows he will be subjected to from this contaminated people.
Jesus enters Jerusalem and comes to the Temple, the place where God is encountered, his Father’s house. The inner central room of the Temple is called the Holy of Holies and is where Solomon placed the Ark of the Covenant surrounded by a curtain and carried by God’s people, through the desert and where God spoke to Moses.
Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest enters into the Holy of Holies to present sacrifices on behalf of the people in order that their sins that contaminated them may be cleansed and that they could become pure in front of a living God and know his blessings.
People would come to the temple once a year and would enter its outer courtyards only after they washed themselves in special bathing places, so that they could be ceremonially clean in the temple, a holy place where God’s presence was expected.
They would then go into the temple courtyards and purchase a pure lamb that would be sacrificed on their behalf for their sins so that they could be clean of their contamination again in front of God. The lamb, rather than themselves, would be sacrificed for their sins. If you couldn’t afford a lamb then you would buy a dove.
Human nature never changes though even in the Holiest of places, it is full of sin because you couldn’t buy a lamb or a dove with ordinary money, you would need to use temple money and you had to change your hard earned cash into temple currency and the money changer would take a commission.
Then you would need to buy your animal and this would be charged at an exorbitant rate because you couldn’t bring your own sacrifice in. Even the cleansing pools were charged for.
Then there was the temple tax to pay for the running of the temple and priests were becoming rich when surrounding them were the poor.
The temple economy was booming in very hard times and taking advantage of the poor, all so that people could become cleansed from their sin and contamination, in front of God and know his blessing! How Jesus wept at the human sin preventing ordinary people knowing God’s presence.
Jesus walks into the Temple courtyards and sees the contamination of his Father’s house, the house of prayer turned into a den for thieves and robbers, his Father’s house full of sin and he angrily turns out the money changers and the sellers of lambs and doves and he turns upside down the thriving temple economy, and the chief priests, in their sin, look for a way to kill him and asked him where his authority came from.
But Jesus knew that to be cleansed from contamination and sin, in order to stand in front of God and to be blessed by him, would turn the stunted growth of the people into the healthy vibrant plant bearing fruit.
God didn’t need the Temple economy to do this for him, instead he came himself as Jesus Christ, uncontaminated, sinless and pure; the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth and in his human flesh Jesus became like sin, taking all the contamination onto himself in the flesh and it was in his flesh, his body that he condemned all sin, our sin, taking it to death on the cross as the final temple sacrifice.
No longer do people need to come and be cleansed at the Temple in Jerusalem, because Christ has become the new Temple the new way to know God and the place where our sins are condemned. In Christ there is no condemnation for those who believe in and follow and belong to Christ. We have been freed from contamination, we are free to grow healthily and to bear fruit for God’s kingdom, no matter the state of our physical lives in the flesh. We are cleansed by the blood of Christ to receive God’s Holy Spirit into our inner being so we can live our lives in the Spirit and not in the flesh, we are free to know God’s love and to return that love. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Grace is a wonderful thing….. How wonderful that in all my human failings, of which there are many, I can live my life in Christ and be filled with his Holy Spirit that calls me to be a minister and shows me God’s love for all people, no matter who they are and how they live. How wonderful is grace that you can be free to live the Christian life, not in your own human strength and weaknesses, but in the strength of Christ where your sin is condemned in the body of Christ on the cross. Can we accept this forgiveness and grace and freedom from contamination? Can we live healthily in God’s grace and bear fruit for his kingdom or do we still live lives contaminated like the broad beans covered in black fly. Can we turn away from sin and turn to Christ putting the cross at the centre? Can we accept his forgiveness into our lives through faith and be free from contamination to live our Christian lives by and with the Holy Spirit, to Glorify God and share his grace with others?
We don’t need to be great amongst people to receive forgiveness, to be free of contamination, to know no condemnation. We come in faith to Christ, to the new Temple and receive the free gift of grace and trust in him for our lives. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, thank you that you know me, thank you that you would want me to grow healthily and bear fruit for your kingdom, I want to know you afresh, free me from my sins and I receive gratefully your forgiveness and your gift of grace. Amen.