“15) And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; 16) And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. 17) And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” (John 2:15-17)
Jesus Christ was consumed with zeal and passion for his house, and the church today should be consumed with zeal for his house as well. In his first trip to Jerusalem, Jesus was so consumed with zeal for God’s house that he purged it of everyone who was there for the wrong reason. As the disciples of Christ, we must follow Jesus’ example in all things in our life. We must follow Jesus and have a greater zeal and devotion for God’s house. The majority of Christianity today is lukewarm or frigidly cold in devotion to God and to the church. We might go through the motions or give the pretense of religion, but truly we are cold in our zeal for the church. We must heed the admonition to the lukewarm Laodicean church to “be zealous” (get hot, start boiling over) in service to God. Jesus Christ set the standard that we must follow. We must be passionately and zealously consumed with Jesus Christ and consumed with a zeal for God’s house.
This prophecy of Jesus (it was written) is quoted from the Psalms. “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” (Ps. 69:9) Here the KJV translator’s alternate wording for “of” is “for”; therefore, the “zeal for” thine house hath eaten me up. King David lived in a time during the wicked reign of Saul that godliness was neglected, and the zeal for God’s house consumed David. David saw the rest of the nation not pursuing godliness nor the priority of God’s house, and he couldn’t stand it. King David was consumed in his soul with a burden and desire to seek the Lord’s house, even though very few in Israel at that time had that zeal for God’s house. King David was also primarily prophesying of Jesus Christ’s future zeal and ardor for his house in the church.
Jesus performed his first public miracle by turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee in John 2:1-11. Then, the very first public action that Jesus did after his initial miracle was to purge the temple, his house, of merchandise. This shows the significance and priority that Jesus Christ placed on the purity of his house since this was the very first thing he did publicly after his first miracle, and furthermore, this was the very first thing he did in Jerusalem. Jesus had been to Jerusalem before as a child and a boy, but this was Jesus’ first trip to Jerusalem in his public ministry. What did he do? The very first thing he did in Jerusalem in his public ministry was to purge out the church of merchandise for filthy lucre because the zeal of his house had eaten him up. (Then, at his final entrance into Jerusalem, the first thing Jesus did after his triumphal entry was to go in and cleanse the temple for a second time [Matt. 21:1-17]. The first thing Jesus did in Jerusalem in his first and last entry to Jerusalem was purging his temple.) This shows the priority that Jesus Christ places on the purity of the church in his house.
The passion for God’s house consumed Jesus Christ. The word for “zeal” (zelos) means “heat, ardor, fervor of spirit, as the jealousy of a husband over a wife”. The definition for “zeal” in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary is “passionate ardor (heat) in the pursuit of any thing”. The word for “hath eaten” (katesthio) means “to consume, devour, to fully eat up”. Jesus was literally consumed and devoured and burnt up by a jealousy over God’s glory and jealousy over God’s house. Jesus was so consumed with zeal for God’s house that he made a scourge of small cords and drove all the sellers and money changers out of God’s house. Just like when we get angry, something will “make our blood boil”. When we are so zealously affected by something, we can’t stand still but are compelled to act. We “get hot” when we see things that make us angry and seeing all this merchandise in God’s house literally made Jesus’ “blood boil”. Notice that Jesus did not declare this himself, but his disciples remembered the word of God. Jesus’ zeal for God’s house was evident to those around him, which caused his disciples to exclaim this OT verse. Our zeal for God’s house should be evident to those around us, we shouldn’t have to proclaim it ourselves.
This seems almost out of character for the usually meek and lowly Lamb of God to get angry and even to get violent. Jesus was so zealous over God’s house, he “got angry” when the house of the Lord was contaminated with filthy lucre. I can only imagine how Jesus would respond in some churches today that seem to be much more consumed with merchandise and filthy lucre than with a sincere devotion to God. I can only imagine if Jesus visited every “church” in America, how many of them would Jesus make him another scourge today and throw them out of “his house”. We need to have that same passion for the purity of God’s house that Jesus displayed. In a godly way, with a righteous indignation, it should make our “blood boil” when we see men getting rich with preaching a false gospel and making merchandise of God’s people. We are not in the position of Jesus Christ to go cast them out, but it should bother our souls to see such merchandise in the house of God in America today. God forgive.
How then can Jesus – the perfect, sinless Son of God – get angry? When Jesus was being tested by the religious leaders to see if he would heal on the Sabbath day, Jesus looked on them with “anger” (wrath, a righteous indignation), but he was also “grieved” because of the hardness of their hearts. “And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.” (Mark 3:5) For us as sinful creatures, getting angry is usually associated with sin because we don’t know how to control our wrath. Getting angry is not inherently sinful, as we see with Jesus getting angry and filled with wrath for their unbelief.
We have the ability to be angry but not sin. “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:” (Eph. 4:26) The word for “angry” (orgizo) here means “to provoke, to enrage, to become exasperated”. We can be (and ought to be, to a large degree) provoked and enraged from the wickedness of this world, but we cannot let that “righteous indignation” spill over into sinful thoughts or actions. We need to have a zeal and pain in our soul from the wickedness of this world, especially a zeal for impurity in worship. Paul’s spirit was “stirred in him” (to provoke, to sharpen, to exasperate) when he saw Athens wholly given to idolatry. “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” (Acts 17:16) There was a sharp pain in Paul’s soul when he saw a whole city worshipping false, pagan gods instead of worshipping the one, true and living God. We need to have that same pain in our soul of Paul and Jesus Christ for the purity of God’s house, especially for those not worshipping the Lord properly in Spirit and in truth.
Paul was “jealous” (zelos, same as Jesus in John 2:17) over the church with a godly jealousy. “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:2) What was the substance of Paul’s jealousy for the church? He was concerned about them being enticed by the devil to forsake the simplicity that is in Christ and be corrupted to believe a false gospel, to believe in “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:3-6). Paul was jealous over the purity of the gospel. He was jealous over the purity of doctrine and worship in the Lord’s house. The Lord is a jealous God; he even takes the name of Jealous for himself (Exod. 34:14). God is jealous over his glory, and we ought to be jealous over his glory too. God has ordained his house to be the place of his glory. Therefore, we ought to be especially jealous over anything that detracts from God’s glory, especially reducing God’s glory in his house. A false gospel that attempts to corrupt the church from glorying only in Jesus Christ for salvation steals God of his glory. That is why Paul was so jealous over the church and jealous for God’s glory that he said if anyone comes preaching another gospel unto you, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:6-10, 6:14). Paul was jealous and zealous over the glory of God in the church, we ought to be as well.
If we are to be “zealous” for God’s house there has to be “heat”, and heat is generated by activity. We can’t be complacent and not doing anything in God’s service and expect to be zealous. Zeal requires heat, and heat requires vigorous activity. Jesus Christ rebuked the Laodicean church because they were lukewarm (tepid in temperature) in their discipleship. The church’s lukewarm devotion to Christ was so repugnant to God, that Christ was ready to “spue” (to vomit) them out of his mouth. The zeal of God’s house consumed Jesus Christ, but the Laodiceans were lukewarm, not affected with a desire or passion for the church at all. The church’s non-zealous lukewarm devotion to God made Christ want to literally vomit. “15) I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16) So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15-16) God desired for them to be “hot”, literally meaning “to be boiling hot”. We are to be “boiling hot” in zeal, passion, and fervor for the house of God. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we ought to follow his example and be “consumed” with a “zeal and passion” for God’s house.
The Laodiceans didn’t really care about the church too much. They went through the motions and came to public worship on Sundays, but it had no effect on their lives throughout the week. They would never admit it, but they felt that they didn’t really need God since they were already rich, increased with goods, and had need of nothing (Rev. 3:17-18). Jesus calls out the church to repent, to see their wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked condition, and to “get hot” – “be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3:19). How did they repent and get zealous? By opening the door of fellowship to Jesus; by fervently pursuing Jesus (Rev. 3:20). Jesus Christ is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). The closer we are to Jesus Christ, the hotter we will become. The Laodicean church was lukewarm because they had departed from Jesus. The church had put Jesus outside the door and now he was knocking for them to let him back in (Rev. 3:20). When we put the Fire of Jesus outside the church, is it any surprise we get lukewarm or cold? No, when we get away from the Fire of Christ, we get cold. What is the remedy? Get closer to the Fire; get closer to Jesus Christ; be zealous (get boiling hot) and repent.
I believe we are living in a Laodicean age of the church, at least in America. In America, the church has seen so much prosperity, we have lost our dependency on Jesus Christ. Even though we would never make this public profession, the church feels mostly like we are “rich, increased with goods, and have need of nothing”. We are just like the lukewarm Laodiceans. The zeal and passion for God’s house does not consume us. It does not even consume one day of the week. We give lackluster devotion to God for a few hours a week and erroneously call that Christianity. Christianity should “consume” our entire lives. Jesus Christ was consumed with a zeal for God’s house, but the disciples of Christ are too busy with worldly activities to be anywhere near “boiling hot” in service to God like we ought. The call for the church today is the same call to the lukewarm Laodicean church in the first century: Be zealous and repent; passionately seek the “Fire of Jesus Christ”. The closer we fellowship with and passionately pursue the Fire of Jesus Christ, the hotter we will become. Our cup is called to overflow (Ps. 23:5). If we are boiling hot in service to Jesus Christ, we will overflow. Boiling water that is at the brim will always overflow out of the pot. We need to be consumed with the zeal and passion for God’s house, just like our Savior. Let us draw closer to Christ; “be zealous therefore and repent.”