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TWO TUNING FORKS
AND ONE TESTIMONY ...
THE NEGATIVE TOO TRUE!
AND TWO TRUTHS, THE POSITIVE
John 2:16-22 in context
From the teaching of a medieval Church philosopher in Ch. 8 to the conflict of Christ with the ecclesiastical potentates of His own day may appear at first as a profound jump; but in view of the views of Aquinas on killing heretics (by using the State authority to which they were to be handed for "extermination"), in Ch. 8, there is no small parallel in this present Chapter 2 of John.
Between the two Chapters, there is a link at once powerful and minatory. In each case, those in temporal power sought to eliminate from this earth, those who could not agree with them. In this case, today, it extended to the direct murder of the Lord of Lords, come in human form as Saviour. It was He, Jesus, who showed directly the soundness of His title in exterminating not others, but death as the lot of man, when once that man put his heart's trust in Him as Saviour and Lord, not by the canons of man's philosophy, but by the comfort of faith.
Let us consider in John 2, the power this resurrection had over the disciples, so that they did not learn to fear death, but to treat it as an honour when murderers made of religion a death chamber. That later they could do so in His name is one of the appalling oddities, and anomalous contortions with which history unhappily bulges.
Ponder a moment. When you have a tuning fork, and strike it, it may match some musical note in the background or which you have produced, and coalesce in sound with it, as in the case of a couple of tweaked piano strings.
When you have two different cases together, they may be in tune, and attune the one to the other, and give a rich, possibly harmonious sound. This illustrates the case in John 2, before us.
THE PURGING, THE REACTION and the SIGN
Jesus had purged the temple of traders seeking to make a living in being commercial in its precincts. Christ abominated this, for the place is for worship for all nations in intent, not for mixed motives in the holy quest for the knowledge of, and obedience to God. There is enough invasion and intrusion through undisciplined lives and invasive worldlings already, without giving their efforts scope to talk trade on site. The Sunday, our new day of rest, minus ceremonial sacrifices but without change from the creation ordinance of rest one day in seven, as constitutive in the way we have been created (Exodus 20:9-11), and expressive of its constraints, is similarly well ridded on church premises of the bazaar feeling, where purchase is involved. Instead of making minimal provisions for sanctity, it is well to treat spirituality and godliness fundamentally, and make this aim a holy thrusting, in the spiritual arena, six days being left as sufficient for all the planned labour, its tumble and its trials.
In overturning their commercial tables, in the Temple, Christ had cited two scriptures, Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. These applied to His purgative work, with just such a thrust in view, for He openly despised having the teeming terms of trade insurgent in the temple.
Next come the excited, the agitated complaints of the merchants or people, because their convenience had been shown to be such, even to the point of making a convenience of the Lord and His affairs, in the very place of worship. The disciples, seeing such zeal, remembered the prophecy in Psalm 69:9, "Zeal for your house has eaten Me up!" It would tend to do so, in the fires of agitation of many for all the wrong reasons, indeed for a little time! and indeed this same Psalm 69 is one of the most dramatic and expressive accounts of the crucifixion as it extends its Messianic coverage, even referring to the vinegar that would be given, and to the impact of sin as He bore it, "Thy rebuke has broken My heart!" we there read. Rebuke for sin is far from being less when it is taken vicariously, the One for the many as with Christ as Saviour, as you see so vividly in Psalm 22:1.
Christ replied, as so often, getting to the base of things, the fundamentals, the orientation just and spiritual, not superficial. "Destroy this temple," He declared, and in three days I will raise it up!"
Now here is the word, the prescription, the challenge. IF they should criticise Him to the point of death, killing His very body, physically, then even so, HE would raise it up, He who had raised the dead bodies of others. Moreover, He would do it in just 3 days, a precise and deeply prophetic point, both from the past as in Hosea 6, and in the present as He often confirmed, saying several times that He would be rejected and dreadfully treated by them. It was a noose around the unbelieving neck, for unbelievers in the power and presence, the reliability and the precise revelation of God concerning salvation (and all else in view), would not see HOW this could be done, if indeed they saw at all what He meant. But in terms of relevance, what else COULD He have meant ? After all, who in terms of an upset against Christ, is going to destroy the Temple ? They are concerned to use it so much as to abuse it, for which they had just received rebuke.
The point of attack is Christ, the reason is that they wanted to USE (not destroy) the temple. Hence the reference is to what they would do in the interests of using the temple and removing this insurgent prophet, to that intruder. The word 'temple' thus came, in this case, to refer to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Himself, and their coming assault, death with the intention of destruction, being the maximum they COULD do against Him. EVEN IF they did their worst, He confidently asserted, He would harrow their lost souls and harass their unbelief by doing what God so often does: SHOW them their impotence, and His control over life and death, who made our kind of derivative life in the first place. It was awesome; and the resurrection which came later, even more so.
It is here that our two tuning forks become an applied illustration. One fork gives the sound of WORDS, confident about His resurrection, such words as He often made concerning the resurrection to come on the third day after the assault and murder. The other fork, to which John refers in 2:22, has this tune: Look, He is arisen, and now we see clearly what He meant. It really was this: Kill Me and I will overcome death, even raise up what you killed.
It could not be clearer: WHAT they killed (the body as temple of the Spirit, as in I Cor. 6), THIS He would raise up, on the analogy of destroying a building and having it rebuilt. Time ? three days. After the resurrection the disciples realised that this was certainly what He had meant in so speaking, and this gave to them a powerful testimony concerning the word and works, the one of Christ, the other of the divine works wrought, indeed the one the whole of the written testimonial, together with His own declarations, and the other the whole of its fulfilments, whether come already or to come.
"Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them, and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said."
The word of Christ and the works cohered, they resounded, they enriched each other, they harmonised; and so they were like the resounding two notes of two tuning forks, reinforcing and blending with increasing power, for those who heard. They asked for a SIGN (as now someone might ask for your driver's licence), and Christ placed it in the crucial terms considered above. In effect, He in this is as if saying: Kill Me and I will arise in the very bodily format you sought to destroy! It will be unavailable, except to Me, as usual.
In the meantime, as to a sign such as they called for: They themselves in their furore and intimidatory response were a sign of the growing infestation of sin which would come to kill Christ, and His rising would be 'sign' enough.
THE RESPONSE IN THE DISCIPLES
Thus when divine word and deed were complete, and when for the disciples the words were demonstrated not only as to their meaning, which as we have seen was there, whether or not perceived, they learned to trust Christ's own word or ANY in the closely woven fabric of New and Old Covenants, the words and the deeds of the ONE LORD. EVERY divine dictum exploded into reality like the eruption of a celestial Spring, and the whole combination of Old and New Testaments came to be of one coherence, one Lord, one speaker, one fulfiller, one trustworthy Saviour who in things great or small never resiled from His promises (cf. Matthew 5:17-20, II Peter 3:14-16). They saw the whole testimony or most of it, even then, which would pulse through the ages, His word in all its assertions and revelations, and with it, the word of Christ in all its depths and detail, just as He in turn had so stressed this very point (Matthew 5:17-20).
The effect was overwhelming since in their lives they had now seen word after word fulfilled, whether from the mouth of Christ or from the page of the Word of God.
So they learnt to trust Christ's word at any level, and the words of the Book of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 34), at every level. Their field excursions in the days of Christ's Messianic ministry had been multiple and diverse, and their total exposure had covered life to the depths of sin and to the heights of glory.
The WORD covered all, and the DEED did all.
Here was that coruscating faith coming into that rigorous certainty and fearlessness such as shown at Pentecost, in the case of healing, as in Acts 3:17-19, and then later as in 4:8-12, and that triumphantly in 4:19. Indeed, they repeated this last confrontation as seen in Acts 5:29, in a pithy series in the initial thrust! Here, beyond the puny power of some who were virtually spiritually disembowelled, was the word, way and work of God, the only Saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11), the only Creator and the Creator of man in particular (Isaiah 45:12,18,21). Indeed, in the case of Judas, you have a precise exhibition of that state.
Here was the hammer that breaks rock (Jeremiah 23:27-29). Here is the life which breaches breaks, and turns desolation into triumph, murder into challenge and a corpse into the fluency of risen power, taking the form of the body with Him, leaving no residue, only the burial wrappings, and even those neatly.
WORDS preceded both the creation and the resurrection. Formulation came before form; expression came before its testimony; the specifications before the object specified. When the mind of God points, the word of God can appoint, and the power of God create. This is a created world of time, and into this He poured the rest of the designated creation at His will. In Him is NOTHING but Himself, triune, unmarred; and His power causes whatever is ever formed (John 3:1-3), because He wills it to be so. It is to the highest degree delightful that He wills not great things for Himself - He is great already and that past all computation (Psalm 145;3 with 147:5), and beyond all growth, being free from time and the created universe - but inclined, because of that to which His loving nature impels (as in John 3:16-18), and granting the way back freely, that man might surrender life to find its proper and pure reality, its eternal presence in continuity.
John presents this heart of basis for history and its place in conformity to the written word of God. In incarnation and declaration He has with utter gentility, wrought the invasion of history, giving immortality for mortality and incorruption for corruption, to any and all who receive His gift (Romans 6:23). John is moved to put it like this:
"These things are written that you may believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that believing you may have life in His name."
As to the works of the Lord Jesus, through whom the Father created all things, so that there is nothing in the category of the made that was not made by Him, the whole category being HIS work, in John 21:25, he declares this:
"And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."
Peter was stricken with the realisation both of his own sin, and of own Saviour (Luke 5:8, Matthew 16:13-16), leading to Christ's pun about his name, stone, and the foundation of the Church, foundation massif, the Greek words differing by one or two letters in form, but by all the world in force.
John was stricken first by the realisation of the resurrection, on the spot at the tomb, Peter not at first realising, only wondering, being in temporary turgidity of spirit because of his immense failure to testify of Christ, when his sword was ordered back from its assault on the temple attack force, they bent busily taking Christ.
The disciples more generally, however, were stricken as we have seen in John 2:22, with the total and recognisable fidelity of God, on
1) seeing the Christ bodily
2) realising He had already said
this would happen, declaring it both strikingly and from the first, when under
challenge as in John 2, He unleashed that grand statement of His function and
purpose, and the knowledge of His coming resurrection.
3) finding these things accrue in their minds like a vast sum, set out at high interest!
They went in their hearts right past the empty ecclesiastical bombast and misuse of force, and the philosophical clinging mud, to EVENTS that came, and the WORDS that went before, spoken and done by deity, irrespective of terms and conditions, with illimitable power and glorious freedom.
The ACTUAL, not only at the bodily resurrection, but in those arisings which had preceded it, worked on others; and the multitudes healed of any disease; the creation acts as in making bread; the ever victorious answers to the attacking prelates and parties and partisans: these things were overwhelming, subject neither to muting nor mutation. Crisp and clearly, they simply happened.
Indeed, such pretence and pretensions as Christ so readily overthrew with fact and act, did not stop then. Just as Israel, nearing the destruction of Jerusalem and temple in AD 70 had long both attested and invested evil in large polluted amounts, being at war with Christ, arisen on earth, returned to heaven, but not evacuated in spiritual power, so now at the end of the Gentile Age , we have the same strident fraud. It is practised in ever increasing fallen church bodies, false ones like toadstools, in the damp, and in bodies misnamed. It is fulfilled, just as they had it in their day, so now as in II Peter 2:1ff., II Timothy 3-4, I Timothy 4, Jeremiah 23:20, Matthew 24:24.
Just as cream can come to the top of milk, so slime can come to the top of swamps. In Jude, far worse condemnation is given, if possible, than that of Peter who foretold that spiritually pretentious people, false and risen from within churches, would "make merchandise of you." In Jude far worse condemnation is given in this area. Not only is it a matter of 'Don't associate with such people,' but even 'with godly fear' try to pull them out ... what ? not merely from the ditch but "out of the fire!"*1
What a maritime life-saver saves is far less than the Saviour Jesus Christ saves; and what a life saver loses, if the swimmer is not rescued, is far less than is lost when the Lord is rejected. Therefore to one and to all is the call: Forsake all and follow Him, not hoping in or relying on the back-up of this world, but in total alliance and allegiance for Him who left heaven to bring us back to be with Him.
*1 In Jude there is one basic theme: it is this.
it is necessary as a matter of urgency to interrupt the dealings with normal doctrine and its understanding, in order to put out a fire, an invasion, an attempt to subvert Christianity. That is found in verses 1-4. Jude. He, about to deal with generalities of the faith, is arrested in his path and constrained to turn to invasions of it as his select topic. It is urgent, it is necessary, and he is constrained to do, interrupting his former intent.
Secondly, this invasion to which he refers, rather like that in the Crimea recently, on behalf of Russia, has been subversive, surreptitious and deceptive. Enemy 'troops' have 'crept in' and seemed not to be so, while they aid treacherous forces in the land (in the case of Crimea, this could be represented by the naval leadership).
In general, such spiritual invaders, in the tradition of false prophets like Balaam, in place of the intensive glories of grace in its profundities, turn this by their words and conduct into what the Greek word concerned (v. 4, aselgeia) designates. This term has a spread of meaning, but in general as in Thayer's Greek Dictionary for the New Testament, it indicates what is shameless, outrageous, insolent and can include sexual lust as in the cited illustration of Sodom. It is what excites disgust and aversion in general. For it, there are no obvious bounds, and apparent in this term and context, there is a certain generic wantonry that does not fear to speak of glorious persons with a shameful disrespect, as if the whole spiritual universe were theirs (Jude 8 for example).
This of course, Rome fulfils in various ways. in its so-called Roman Catholic doctrine (in fact as specifically Roman, it is the least catholic in the generic sense).
Firstly, it would have Christ not visible in the material realm, as simply DEITY incarnate through the fleshly vehicle of Mary, but functionally defective in part, in raising Mary to such heights as being the only hope of sinners, or queen of heaven. In this way, they intervene between heaven and Christ who is express as one Mediator (I Timothy 2:5). Not only so, it is as between God and man, in two vast and ultimate categories that Christ acts, as shown in Timothy. These are all embracive in both directions.
In the way of mediators, there is NOTHING ELSE (cf. Pilgrims and Strangers Ch. 5). In this way, exciting one person who is created and a sinner (as in Luke 2:24 with Leviticus 12:7), and moving her to the unscaleable heights of deity in some of His own unique qualities, they derogate the dignity and inimitable grace and place of Jesus Christ, as they do in turning Him, without authority, as if He were available for mutation, into a piece of bread (cf. SMR pp. 1032-1088H).
Further, and in a similar way, they give to one man, called a pope, the post as in the New York Catechism, of "God Almighty on earth," in this way performing another debasement of God through elevation of man to His domain (Matthew 23:8-10). It is expressly forbidden, so to do. Thus is evil spoken of "glorious ones", through carnal arrogance and shameless posturing (cf. SMR 913-916).
In ascribing to others unique qualities of God and of the Sent Saviour from Him (Isaiah 48:15ff.), the doctrines of Romanism (RC in the vernacular) are denying WHO HE IN FACT IS, and this is done even further in the Canons of Trent, where the precise teaching of scripture on salvation is made so reprehensible as to be anathematised, struck from the spiritual register with loathing (cf. SMR pp. 1045ff.).
Thus are the generic criteria of Jude fulfilled and so is the ending of the epistle, with its reference to pulling SOME from the fire, but even this with fear.
As to Trent as noted in the above reference (1045), there is this condemnation on what is the evangelical grace that man is justified by grace alone, meaning nothing else is required for JUSTIFICATION but this, and that it is "in no way necessary for a man to be prepared and disposed by the motion of his own will". Indeed, a person is cursed if believing this element of the Gospel, according to this Trentian excitation of shamelessness by Romanism.
In fact, John 1:13 excels in telling us what this salvation is, even this regeneration by which the unjust and the ungodly are justified (as of course does Ephesians 2:1-12, in detail). It is NOT, v, 13 reminds us, wrought by blood (birth elevation), nor is it of the will of the flesh (human opining and divining), nor yet is it obtained by the will of man, for these are excluded. The actual necessary and sufficient action for having the authority to become a child of God is that of God Himself, in contrast to all these things! Romanism is frequently mixing the human and the divine in this way (as in the case of Trent noted), and this becomes alas, precisely the untamed misuse of authorities, as in Jude's register concerning those creeping into the church with what is elsewhere called another Gospel and another Jesus (II Corinthians 10-11).
In love, it is necessary for doctors to warn people not to smoke, and for the people of God to seek to deliver those whom they may, lest they fall into folly and failure, lest they who condemn become the condemned.