Friday, March 4, 2011

Jesus and Nicodemus: Jesus' Authority Not Realized

If the miracle of changing water into wine displayed the Lord Jesus’ power of creation by a mere spoken word, then this sign of fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy and cleansing His Father’s house displayed Jesus’ authority. God is sovereign over everything in the universe

1) God determines the outcome of all things according to His wise purposes. Because God is sovereign, what happens in our lives is due, ultimately, to what God has ordained, in accordance with His wise purpose. Jesus was fulfilling a prophecy that had been made hundreds of years before.

God intended that Messiah would be recognized by this very act. Knowing God is in control gives meaning, comfort and security during difficulties and temptations.

3) God's decree governs history. God does not adjust His plan according to the events of human history. In fact, God knew all along how the temple ministry would become corrupted, and He prepared for Messiah to cleanse the temple as a sign of what Messiah would ultimately do for each person -- cleansing them of sin, and restoring them to be pleasing to God.

3) God is in control of His universe, nothing is outside the scope of His rule. God controls and guides all events for His glory and for the good of believers.

But if God is sovereign, a person might ask, then how come God's desires are not always realized, such as the salvation of all people [I Timothy 2:4], even though it would please Him?

People who have been born again have God’s Holy Spirit and know what pleases God. God, in fact, has given every believer the ability to please Him, and yet so often, we don't. God talks about being grieved over sin and death, taking no pleasure in it, yet everybody dies. Does that make Him less than sovereign?

If God is sovereign, then, how come God's Word is not always obeyed, even though God commanded it? Clearly, the religious leaders were not honoring God's intent for the use of the temple, for the temple tax and for the inspection of sacrifices. Even more so, they were not even obeying God's actual Law about not burdening the poor, not stealing and so on. Did the religious rulers view God as sovereign over them?

God's laws, whether written in Scripture, or written on our hearts, is binding and we have no authority to rebel against it. But God has allowed us the power, or the ability, to defy His declared will.

God is not surprised by evil, God does not approve of evil. But God has sovereignly decreed that people exercise their ability to make moral choices – choosing between good and evil. Sin is proof that God doesn't control people the way you and I would control a puppet.

God is all-knowing and all-powerful. God gives real choices and works out His will within them. He is able to work in, around and through people to insure the outworking of His purposes. If God were any less sovereign He wouldn't be able to give people moral freedom because He would not be able to guarantee that His will would be done.

After this Jesus performed many miracles, and we see here that
While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, many believed in his name because they saw the miraculous signs that he did. (John 2:23)
These were all signs pointing to Jesus’ authority, but the religious leaders missed it. They had asked for a sign, and though they didn’t deserve it, Jesus gave them many.

Only one member of the religious ruling body was willing to accept what those signs really meant.

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment by clicking on the word "comments" below, and join the conversation


  1. Very well written. This is hard for many of us to understand but I believe as we grow in spiritual maturity and grow in our relationship to Him, we have a better understanding although we can't fully grasp the enormity of God.
    One question, you stated " Jesus was fulfilling a prophecy that had been made hundreds of years before. God intended that Messiah would be recognized by this very act." Is there a specific passage or passages you are referring to pertaining to the cleansing of the temple?

  2. Yes, an excellent question! Jeremiah spoke about this very thing in Jeremiah 7:1-15. God first warns the people that if they amend their ways He will allow them to keep their temple and worship in it. But, the Lord goes on to say, "Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are delivered!'—only to go on doing all these abominations? --> Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD. <--"

    After this God declares what's really going to happen, "Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim."

    This prophecy was fulfilled in the near term when The Babylonian army came and looted the temple before burning it down, then taking the people of Juday captive, all vividly documented in the last part of Jeremiah's book.

    The far term fulfillment came when Jesus began and ended His ministry on earth.

    Look at what Jesus did the day before He cleansed the temple at the beginning of His ministry, as recorded in John's gospel. The day He came into Jerusalem, as the day drew to a close, He came to the temple and observed all that was going on, then He left for Bethany to spend the night. The next morning He returned to cleanse His Father's house.

    This matches what God said through Jeremiah, that He sees what is going on, and will cast out all the evil doers who come to His house and pretend that they are safe to do as they please. The "den" of a robber was his "safe house." The Sanhedrin had made the temple their safe house for usurious practices under the guise of "holy work."

    Add this to Malachi's prophecy, in Malachi 3:1-4, "Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. --> And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple;<-- and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. --> But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.<-- He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years."

    The ancient Jews did expect the Messiah to appear suddenly at the temple, but in a miraculous "big splash" way, hence Satan's temptation to Jesus to throw Himself off of the highest point of the temple only to land in an awesomely spectacular way in the arms of angels. What they did not at all expect was the Lord to suddenly appear as a day laborer turned itinerant preacher who would overturn tables and free sacrificial animals.

    Presumably with the Spirit's help, recalling all these things to their minds, the disciples put it together when they recalled Psalm 69:9 (and there is a similar explanatory verse in Psalm 119:139).

  3. Some final thoughts --> when the temple was destroyed by the Romans, forty years later, this was again fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy, an echo of that ancient Babylonian disaster.

    But Jesus added a whole new layer to what was going to happen my likening Himself to the temple -- the book of Hebrews goes into detail in the parallels between Jesus and the temple. Even He would be "destroyed" after they had despitefully used Him, thinking they were "safe" to do as they pleased under the guise of holy work, But in His case, the temple would be "rebuilt," ergo, He would rise from the dead.

    In Himself, on the cross, the "refiner's fire" and "fuller's soap" of God's wrath was applied to the sins of the world, in the true living temple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through this process, the "sons of Levi" would be refined and enabled to offer sacrifices in righteousness --> move over to 1 Peter 2:1-10 to see how deeply this imagery impacted the apostle Peter.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts