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Zeal for your house

By Charles Qualls

My mother and I have always been able to watch the same newscast ballgame, or read the same article, and come away with two vastly different conclusions. That much is no surprise to me. One day several years ago we were talking about our beloved Atlanta Braves.

We both follow them, and to this day we can spend a half-hour on the phone talking about them before either of us realize how much time has passed. She has never played the game. She does not read player statistics. Let’s say that instead, she watches games and forms her opinions, early and often, by feel.

That does not slow her down one bit from forming a conclusion and sticking with it. I was singing the praises of a talented young infielder back then who had made it up through the minor league system.

I just don’t understand why everyone’s so excited about this boy,” she said.

Nobody knows anything about him. He’s just a kid. The one we’ve got is so good. We don’t need a new third-baseman,” she insisted.

Of course, in reality many people had been following the young player since he was drafted. I talked with her about his athleticism and his statistics over the years. All to no avail. Finally, I pointed out that we were just talking past one another, neither of us affecting the other’s opinion.

Sometimes in faith and in life, we can just talk “past” one another so easily. Jesus goes to the Temple in John 2:13-22 and overturns the tables. “Don’t turn my Father’s house into a den of thieves; a marketplace,” he said. The religious officials predictably asked him the question everyone seems to fire off in our own era: By what authority are you doing this? They even asked him for a sign to show them his authority.

Jesus’ answer to them about destroying the temple and in three days he would raise it up was lost on them. They immediately reminded him for how many decades the current temple had been under construction. Jesus and the officials were simply talking past each other.

They weren’t hearing what he was saying. What they were saying was responding to something he wasn’t even talking about. Their retort was irrelevant to his point, because he was foreshadowing the crucifixion and resurrection. These are central to our Christian faith. Here in John, the disciples then remembered something they had heard from Psalm 69. “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

This kind of remembering they do is vital to our faith. What had been prophesied hundreds of years before suddenly drifted through their minds. Now it made sense. It was being fulfilled right before them.

Woven throughout John’s gospel are a series of “I Am” statements. Here, Jesus tells them in an “I Am” sort of way that the Temple is now his body. The only way all of this makes any sense is that we know the end of the story. We know after this Lenten season, he will be raised from the dead. But right then, his disciples remembered this little piece of it.

A friend of mine pictures a flea market when he hears this text. He always walks the aisles of a flea market looking for a good deal, he said. But also allowing the trinkets and treasures to remind him of his childhood. Jesus reminds us that the faith is not a flea market. It is not a bargain. It is not a deal. It can’t even be bought, and it’s anything but cheap.

One of our tasks is to clean out the cluttered temple of our minds, turning the tables instead in Jesus’ favor. Making room for Him and allowing him to have divine authority over our lives rather than the trivial trinkets of the marketplace. Catching ourselves when we are clamoring for a seat at a table that Jesus would have overturned.

Will this always be an easy journey? No. “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Christian faith can be costly if we live it correctly. It will transform us and will redirect us. Oh, we can try to plead our case for doing things our own way. But placing ourselves into God’s path, and going where God sends us, is ultimately the best thing we can do in living as Christ. Anything other will mean that God and we are just talking past one another.

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is the pastor of Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.