By Joe Chesser
It takes me by surprise every time I think about Jesus making a whip out of cords to drive people, sheep and cattle out of the temple, turning over the tables of the money changers scattering coins everywhere. I visualize fire in his eyes and passion in his voice as he said, “Get out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2.13-16). It surprises me because this is not the usual image of Jesus I see. Usually I think of Jesus more as a mild, unassuming teacher moving through the countryside helping those in need and telling them about the love of God. But that may be because that’s the image of Jesus I prefer to see and imitate. That requires less of me than the prophecy the disciples remembered when they stood back and watched as Jesus cleared the temple: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 1.17). It’s much easier to be indifferent.
As it was in the 1st century so it is in the 21st century. Consuming zeal and passion for the Lord surprises us. It’s not something we see very often in the church, much less experience personally. That’s not to say we are lacking passion, for we all have something we get excited about: baseball … family … camping … cooking … working … money … video games, etc. Jon Bloom wrote, “Passion and zeal are gauges that display what our heart treasures, and therefore what fuels our lives”. The things we treasure are the things we are passionate about. Zeal for the things of God consumed Jesus. Bloom also wrote “Few things expose us more than comparing what God is passionate about with what we are passionate about.”
This is where we begin to get uncomfortable. When it comes to the things of the Lord, most of us lean more toward indifference than we do zeal. Perhaps we have let the command to be zealous for the Lord slip past us. “Never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12.11). This means being passionate for the things of the Lord is not an option for Christians any more than are the other commands in that passage (Romans 12.9-21). Indifference is not acceptable to the Lord … indifference is a sin! The whole church at Laodicea was in spiritual danger because of their indifference (Revelation 3.16). Interestingly, the message Jesus sent to that church was to “be earnest and repent” (Revelation 3.19). Like them, perhaps the zeal we need most is the zeal to repent!
It is the consuming zeal of the Lord of hosts that offers redemption to lost sinners. God inspired Isaiah to tell of the coming of Christ to rule over God’s kingdom, and explained that the “zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9.6-7). Because of this, God is expecting those who accept his salvation to also be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2.14 NKJV). We can’t be indifferent about God and at the same time be like Jesus.
Drawing from the zeal of Jesus when he cleared the temple, “How dare we be indifferent!” Our prayer: whatever it takes, Lord, increase my zeal to do your will!!
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at email@example.com