“The Day Jesus Lost His Grip”

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – March 4, 2018

Centenary United Methodist Church

Psalm 19:7-14; John 2:12-22

    If there is one episode in Jesus life that is recognized by believers and nonbelievers alike, it was the day when he lost his grip on his teachings to love your neighbor, love your enemies, and love one another.  Jesus became overwhelmed by his anger when he found that the temple grounds were being used as a marketplace for cheating the public who were coming to offer a sacrifice to God.  This practice had become a Passover tradition.

    People have used Jesus' response that day to justify their own anger during periods of frustration. The title of my message this morning is, The Day That Jesus Lost His Grip.  The self-sabotaging that people engage in during their lives is not confined to just one day. In the Gospels, we never find Jesus behaving in this manner again.

    Anger is among the first responses that we learn to use when we are infants.  When our world is not the way we want it, this primitive emotion bleeds through the fabric of our more mature living patterns during our adult years.  All of us become frustrated and impatient from time to time.  What sets this one day apart was Jesus' use of violence. (John 2:15f) THAT never happened again!

    Today, we experience people having episodes of road rage even on the narrow, twisting roads of our island.  Little things can sometimes irritate us to the point where we raise our voices to each other when our patience has been exhausted. What was it that disturbed Jesus so deeply and personally that caused him to respond this way? 

    A number of us have areas in our lives that have become sacred territory.  Unfortunately, there are people who have little reverence for the same things that we do.  However, once an unseen line is crossed, others can evoke within us the rawest of emotions during one of our unguarded moments.

    In my former church, we often had programs that featured the children who attended our Early Education Center.  A good number of these children belonged to families that had seldom darkened the door of a church.  One can tell by their lack of reverence for being in someone's worship center. 

     During the performances of their children, often parents were seen standing on our pews to get a better photo of their child's activities.  Once I witnessed a mother moving closer to the performance by stepping over the backs of six pews that were in front of her.

    From my point of view, she did not have an ounce of recognition that she was in a place of worship.  Seeing this caused me to shake my head in total disbelief.  She obviously had no idea that what she was doing was totally inappropriate and probably something she would not permit her child to do.

    Here at Centenary, it troubles me on Sunday mornings when, after I park my car, I have to pick up beer bottles and soda cans that people have tossed into our side yard while they are waiting for the traffic light to change.  They have one thought in mind, "I don't have any place on my bike to put my empty can, I'll set it here on this wall or toss it into the yard." 

    Many of us become pained when we see others turning our paradise into a dump by abandoning their boats that were swamped in a hurricane, or by using a vacant lot as a place to unload their old stove, refrigerator, or mattress. If they can drive these articles to a vacant lot, they can certainly take them to our dump and pay a little money to have them disposed of properly. People who do these things are far removed from any sense of reverence for the beauty of our island.      

    Another aspect that may have kindled Jesus' anger was that his people had been led to believe that they were honoring God by sacrificing animals that were without a blemish.  There were consistent protests by the Prophets that animal sacrifices were irrelevant and were not pleasing to God.

    What kept this belief alive was the marketing of perfect animals for sale to honor God inside the temple's courtyard. The various vendors of the animals charged worshippers three times the price of similar flawless animals for sale outside of the temple's grounds.  However, animals purchased on the outside were not permitted to be brought into the temple's property.

    One of the major prophets was quoting God when he wrote:

  I have absolutely no use for the sheep that you burn, or to smell the fat coming from your fine animals.  Who asked you to bring these things to me when you come to worship? I hate your New Moon Festivals, your Sabbaths and your religious gatherings.  I no longer pay attention to any of them. Your hearts, minds, and spirits have no sincerity. Stop your ridiculous pretense and beliefs that somehow burning animals are pleasing to me.   (Isaiah 1:11-17)

    The idea of animal sacrifices may have come from some of the religious practices of people that the Hebrews encountered as they advanced into other lands. 

    During a moment of inspiration, the prophet Jeremiah quoted God, "When I brought you out of Egypt, I never gave to your ancestors any teachings about my need to receive burnt offerings or any other kind of sacrifices when you gathered for worship." (Jeremiah7:22)

    Many of us today have seen the marketing by secular vendors that have slowly entered territory that we consider sacred. They have literally created traditions for us during our sacred observances.

    We find ourselves preparing baskets for children and grandchildren filled with jelly beans, fake grass, chocolate bunnies, and uniquely colored hardboiled eggs.  Many children will experience the adventure of going on an Easter egg hunt.  Here in Bermuda, Good Friday is celebrated by families flying kites. These activities have become part of our Easter traditions.

    Have you ever tried to connect the dots of what these observances have to do with the Easter message?

    Jesus gave us a visual message that we are all infinite spirit-beings that are having a very temporary physical experience in these bodies of ours.  Being here is like a mini-vacation from being very powerful spirit-beings. After we come through our mother's birth canal, we are a baby with total amnesia of where we came from. Our individual adventure is to see how we do with our choices when we honestly believe that we are in charge of our destination.  Not everyone understands the message that Jesus demonstrated through his resurrection.

    Like everything else in our life-experiences, what is sacred to us is a very personal aspect of our lives. When Jesus entered the courtyard of the temple, he was overwhelmed by how innocent people were being lured by shrewd, profiteering businessmen who were marketing their products under the guise of honoring God.

    After Jesus allowed his raw emotions to show in a rather violent manner, we find in Matthew's Gospel that Jesus withdrew to be alone.  No doubt he was disappointed in himself for such a display.  Jesus clearly understood that violence was never an answer when our truth is being trampled.

    Jesus also knew that the decades-old tradition in the temple would not stop as a direct result of his outburst of angry words and actions. Immediately, the tables were set up again by the various vendors.  The scattered coins were collected while order was being restored.  It did not take long for business-as-usual to resume that same day.  This activity had become a tradition that would return for Passover celebrations long into the future. 

    One of the most challenging truths to hold on to is that we must live our individual lives from our unique level of awareness.  We live with millions of people who do not share our values, who do not know what we know, and who cannot respond the same way that we do.  Regardless of what Jesus taught, all of us are governed by a rudder of our own creation. 

    By choosing to follow the teachings of Jesus, we become different from other people.  Jesus told his disciples, "The knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven has been shared with you, but not with them.  They were not around to hear what I have taught you." (Matthew 13:11)

    There is a system of spiritual economics at play in our world.  No one can redistribute the skills of spirit in the same manner that some people believe we need to redistribute financial wealth within our societies.  There will never be a level playing field for everyone because all of us are playing by different rules.

    Even though we have this understanding, we often expect that the behavior and attitudes coming from others should reflect what we think is common sense. That is not the way it has been at any time throughout human history.  (Matthew 25:29) This is why it makes no sense to judge anyone for their attitudes or behavior.  People cannot demonstrate what they do not have.  People cannot give reverence to anything that they have not yet learned to value.

    We have been taught by Jesus to be at peace and to live in peace among others who are motivated by numerous divinities found only in our world.  It is wonderful to be alive in our world in spite of where history is taking us.  We thank God for Jesus who has trained us in how to live in our world.  Now, it is our time to pass on what we know as we train others. 



Thank you, God, that during our Lenten walk, we are directed to examine our thoughts. During moments of regret, help us to remember when we gave our love away.  When we dwell on our shortcomings, remind us of the difference that we have made in other people's lives. When we feel sorry for ourselves, guide us to the remembrance where we helped someone to begin living again. How wonderful are your ways. Yet, too often we take detours by thinking how our world is decaying. We forget our role of being a light in darkness.  Help us to leave the outcome of our efforts up to you like Jesus did from the cross. Amen.



Thank you, God, for these moments during Lent when we continue our reflection on the direction and quality of our lives.  We are so aware of the many aspects within us that remain unrefined.  We can always infuse our words with more understanding and compassion. Our pains, frustrations and impatience can always be viewed as refining aspects for fine-tuning our skills of spirit.  Help us to recognize the emotional drivers in our lives, drivers that cause us to reflect a less than loving, helpful spirit.

Enable us, O God, to learn character strengths from our failures. And as we travel from one experience to the next, help us to find the inspiration that allows us to create and produce what will enhance our relationships with others.  Lead us to discover the joy of giving ourselves away.  Comfort us with the understanding that doubts are often necessary steps toward a stronger faith.  Help us to remember that our mountains are always opportunities for us to polish our skills at climbing. 

Inspire our confidence in reflecting your nature everywhere and to everyone. Help us to remember that we are always on someone’s life-stage.  Your will is more easily accomplished when we remain vigilant in standing forth with a spirit that helps others to find their way in the maze that our world has become for so many people.  This is what Jesus has done for us. We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught us to say when we pray. . .