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He Knows What's in You (John 2:13-25)

March 14, 2021 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: John and the Seven Signs of Jesus

Topic: One Lord: What is Man? Passage: John 2:13–2:25

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I. A Spiritual Slogan?

For many years prior to 2013, in its print and television advertising, the sports drink Gatorade used a simple slogan paired with images of athletes glistening with colorful beads of sweat, as if the sports drink was oozing out of their pores. Do you remember the slogan they used? It was “Gatorade... is it in you?” I believe the phrase was meant to communicate something like, “Do you have what it takes to be a winner? Is it in you?” That question was then visually connected to the famous sports drink, as if to say, winners drink Gatorade.

This morning, God's word is not asking us a question about whether or not something is in us. It is simply going to make a statement about something that is in us. We find that statement in the Gospel of John, chapter 2. Turn there if you haven't already.

 

II. The Passage: “He Himself Knew What was in Man” (2:13-25)

When we last saw Jesus in our previous study, he, his mother, and his disciples had all travelled to Capernaum, a town on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. But as we pick up the story in verse 13, we'll see that Jesus is on the move again:

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [14] In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. [15] And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. [16] And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” [17] His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

[18] So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” [19] Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [20] The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” [21] But he was speaking about the temple of his body. [22] When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

[23] Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. [24] But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people [25] and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

Now clearly there's a lot to think about in these thirteen verses. But look back those last two verses. Let's ask this: in light of verses 24, 25, what can we know about what Jesus knew?

We read Jesus “knew all people” in verse 24. But what does that mean? Well, in verse 25 we read, “he himself knew what was in man”. Okay. If Jesus “knew all people” in the sense that “he knew what was in” human beings, the key question then becomes, “What exactly is in us?” Additionally we might ask, “Does this passage help us with that question in some way?”

Think for a minute about what we've been told so far in John's Gospel... John 1:5... The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Given the context, that verse seems to be about more than just light and darkness in the original creation. That's talking about some kind of moral, spiritual darkness. But is that what John is talking about in chapter 2? Jesus knew that there was moral darkness, spiritual darkness in human beings? I think that's exactly what he's talking about.

Let's do this: working from that premise, let's look at each of the three parts that make up this section, and let's see if they reveal anything about this moral, spiritual darkness.

 

1. We Warp Worship (2:13-17)

So first, look back at how verses 13-17 establish the setting for us. Jesus is in Jerusalem during the Passover and in the outer court of the Jerusalem Temple complex, he finds vendors selling animals for sacrifice and exchanging international money for the proper coins to pay the temple tax. In general, these were legitimate and necessary services, especially for pilgrims, but they should not have been taking place in the Temple complex itself.

It's actually the other Gospels that give us a better sense of why Jesus took such radical action here. We read in Mark 11:17 about a later instance of this same kind of Temple-court clearing: And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” The outer court where all this business activity was taking place was the Court of the Gentiles, a place where non-Jews (“the nations”) should have been able to come and pray and worship the God of Israel. But how could they with all this business and busyness?

On top of this, as we just heard, Jesus also labeled what was happening as “a den of robbers”. Apparently, some prices were far from fair, and many vendors were simply focused on profits. These specific wrongs lay behind Jesus' words here in John 2:16... “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

But isn't this Temple trade an example of what's 'in us'? Like these vendors, and the religious authorities who permitted such things, aren't we the kind of people who also warp worship? Who subtley take sacred things and turn them into self-serving things? Who make opportunities to glorify God opportunities to glorify ourselves? Who put financial gain or social gain before spiritual gain? Who, even when it comes to ministry and fellowship and worship, tend to think less about God's will and the needs of others, and more about what we need and want?

 

2. We Trivialize Truth (2:18-22)

But also look back at how the religious leaders react to the disturbance Jesus has created. There first response is to question Jesus. We heard their question in verse 18: “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” (that is, “Who are you to do such a thing?”)

But isn't this another example of what's 'in us'? These leaders have trivialized the truth of what Jesus did and said, and instead, want to focus on “Who do you think you are coming in here and doing and saying such things!?” Wouldn't the right response be to take the radical actions and revealing words of Christ... to heart? To stop and confess, “He's exactly right. These things should not be happening here.”

Instead of humbly accepting this as a challenge to their behavior, it seems, they only see this as a challenge to their authority. But isn't all this just ancient history? No. Remember, it's 'in us'! Don't we still see this same attitude from our leaders? We just lived through a political cycle in which there was, sadly, very little humble consideration of the merits of competing policies, but a whole lot of “Who do you think you are-s?” A whole lot of “I don't have to really consider what you're saying because you're... you! And you're... with them! And you're... all alike.”

But aren't all of us like this in some way? We're quick to get defensive, but slow to search our own hearts. We care a lot more about what's cool, or what's comfortable, or what's convenient, than we do what's... true. All of us, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways tend to trivialize the truth.

 

3. We Impose Ideas (2:23-25)

But there's one more example here of how this moral, spiritual darkness John mentioned in chapter 1 plays itself out in chapter 2. Remember what John told us about Jesus in those final verses of this chapter: But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people [25] and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. So what does it means that “Jesus... did not entrust himself to” the many who believed in him because of his signs?

Well, to answer that question, I think we need to fast forward to chapter 6. Listen to a similar reaction by the crowd to Jesus' miraculous signs. We read in John 6:14–15...

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” [15] Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

So just as Jesus had told his mother in the first of half of chapter 2, at that wedding in Cana, his “hour [had] not yet come” (v. 4). Though the crowds wanted to publicly promote him as king, Jesus understood this was not God's plan. Not only was the timing wrong, but Jesus understood how that darkness inside shaped their ideas about kingship. You see, not only do we warp worship and trivialize truth, we also impose ideas on others; that is, our own ideas of what's good, what's right, what's acceptable.

For these crowds, their ideas about the Messiah, and the Messiah's battle, and the Messiah's victory, and the Messiah's glory were very different from God's plan. That's why Jesus would “not entrust himself to them”. He understood the darkness inside them.

 

III. But “They Believed”

Of course, it's critical to emphasize the fact that He also understands the darkness inside us. He knows what's in us. Brother, sister, friend... he knows what's in you.

Remember how John expresses his statements in very general terms: “he knew all people... he himself knew what was in man” (i.e., mankind, human beings). John is talking about all of us. John is writing about you. Jesus Christ knows what's in you. But do you? When it comes to others, and especially to God, do you recognize that you also warp worship, trivialize truth, and impose ideas; your own ideas? And that you do so because there is a poisonous principle of moral, spiritual darkness at work in your heart?

Brothers and sisters, friends, there is no true benefit for any of us in terms of the wonderful wisdom and work of God for us if there is not first a recognition of what is in us. We can neither embrace nor enjoy the light of Christ is we are not honest, and continually honest, about our own darkness. This is why cultural movements that teach only self-affirmation and so-called churches that teach only a 'positive', 'sin-lite'/'sin-less' versions of the gospel are so dangerous. This second half of John 2 has to be either a wake up call for us in terms of this personal darkness, or a much-need, sobering reminder of that inner enemy we face every, single day. The Bible calls it our “flesh”.

Some may hear this and think, “Wow. This guy's a real downer.” Some may hear this and think they're pretty worthless in light of what's in us. But that's not at all what I'm saying. God's word tell us that every single person has incredible worth because each of us are made in the image of God. And God has lavished his love on mankind in a way that's incomparable. But that doesn't change the reality of what is in us. We need to hold onto both of these truths: the fact we are incredibly valuable and the fact we are spiritually corrupt. God is calling us to faith in both of these truths.

Please remember, faith doesn't fully finish the darkness. John 2:23 tells us that the very people to whom Jesus would NOT entrust himself were the very people who HAD “believed in his name”. You see, that sign-inspired, but knowledge-lacking faith was the right, first step. It was a critical spark, but it needed more. The disciples were growing in knowledge, weren't they? They were both witnessing signs and connecting these with OT Scriptures. But what about us? How does God, through John, wants to feed our faith with a sound and profound vision of Jesus?

He wants us to meet Jesus, 'the Temple-preparer'. He wants us to trust in the One who has come to restore true worship; to purify it, so that it becomes all that it was meant to be. When Jesus leaves Jerusalem and returns to Galilee, he will declare this very thing to a woman he meets along the way: ...the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (4:23)

How did Jesus make such worship possible? Through “the temple of his body” that John mentions in verse 21. The Jewish authorities wanted a sign from Jesus. And they would get one. Not right away, but they would get one. Just as they contributed to the moral and spiritual destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, these same men would bring about the physical destruction of Jesus' own body on that Roman cross.

But hold fast, brothers and sisters; hold fast, friend, to Jesus' declaration in verse 19: “... in three days I will raise it up.” While the church is often talked about in 'temple terms' in the NT, if we really understand what is in us, the risen Jesus must always be our first temple; that is, He is where we go to meet with God; to have access to God; to find atonement; to worship in spirit and truth. He alone can bring us to (v. 16) the “Father's house”. He alone is that pure place in which every single one of us (“all the nations”), can truly come into God's presence with praise.

Here's the key question: Have you acknowledged, and do you regularly acknowledge, not what was said to you, or what happened to you, or who failed you, or how people see you, or what influences you, or entices you, or distracts you, but what's in you? The darkness in you?

If Jesus Christ has the power to raise himself from death to life, he has the power to deal with what's in you... decisively on the cross and daily in terms of application. Power to raise you up to walk in newness of life. Power to shine a light in you that cannot be overcome. Do you believe that? If you do, it's time to confess that darkness and to ask God to give you daily that same knowledge that Jesus has: the knowledge of what is in us... all of us. Let's pray that very thing.

 

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John 3:16 (The Extended Cut)(John 3:16-21)

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