X-rated Vision

In the OT a son of man goes up to the temple in the Spirit and sees the glory of God in the court and idolatry in the hearts of the elders. In the NT the Son of Man goes up to the temple as the glory of God in the Spirit and sees idolatry in the hearts of the priests and their market in the court. (Ezekiel 8:3-17; John 2:13-22) Jesus is the true and better priest and prophet — he is the true and better Son of Man.

In Ezekiel 8:3-17 the Spirit comes in the form of a hand and lifts prophet Ezekiel between earth and heaven. The Spirit carries the prophet to the temple and shows him visions of idolatry from the outside in.

First, there is a vision of an image of jealousy standing opposite the glory of God at the gateway to the inner court. The glory of the Lord is departing the sanctuary and moving away from his dwelling place. The image of jealousy is moving toward the sanctuary. The shame of idols is replacing the glory of God. (vv 3-6)

Second, there is a vision of the elders worshiping images engraved on the wall — they exchanged worship of the Creator for worship of creatures. In the dark room of pictures men made in the image of God worshiped images made from the imaginations of men. They exchanged the truth for a lie. (vv 7-13)

Third, there is a vision of women weeping for Tammuz, the sun-god of livestock, fertility, and grain (aka, money, sex, and power) who died each spring that the earth might bear fruit. (vv 14-15)

Fourth, there is a vision of of men with their backs to the temple and their faces towards the east, worshiping the sun, burning incense and breathing in the smoke. (vs 16)

Then the Lord said to Ezekiel, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations that they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence and provoke me still further to anger? Behold, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore I will act in wrath. My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. And though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.” (vv 17-18)

Brian Neil Peterson points out several interesting parallels between John 2 and Ezekiel 8.

A number of noticeable parallels emerge when this structure is superimposed on the Johannine temple-cleansing pericope. First, much like Ezekiel’s visionary arrival at the first temple, Jesus comes to the second temple and sees the defiling actions of the money changers (John 2: 13-14a)…Next, whereas in Ezekiel’s day the people thought that Yahweh did not see them because he had abandoned them (Ezek. 8: 12), in John’s case God, in the person of Jesus, is indeed present and sees what they are doing in the courts of the temple…Whereas in Ezekiel’s day the blatant idolatry included animal images, Tammuz, and the sun, in the Fourth Gospel Jesus sees the idolatry not in the images per se, but rather in the priests’ quest for wealth and money at the expense of the Gentiles’ ability to worship. The nation may have learned their lesson not to practice blatant idolatry after 586 b.c.e., but, just like in Ezekiel’s era for many (the religious elite in particular) in Jesus’ day, their hearts were still far from God. [John’s Use of Ezekiel: Understanding the Unique Perspective of the Fourth Gospel (Kindle Locations 2127-2139). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.]

All that got me wondering: What if Jesus came to our temple, our congregation, our body?  What images would he find in our courts, our lives, our hearts? What images would he see in our rooms, our smart-phones, our minds?

Would we provoke him to condemn us in wrath, to cleanse us with a whip, or to correct us with love in a spirit of gentleness?

We tend to judge everything by what we see on the surface, but Jesus judges everything by what he sees below the surface. Our judgment is skin-deep, but he is the one “who searches mind and heart, and gives to each of you according to your works.” (Rev. 2:23)

What are you working for? Continued here

Related: The Zeal of the Lord (a sermon on John 2:13-22)

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