“Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17). Were the disciples stunned when they saw animals bleating and coins rolling? The Spirit doesn’t say, but John does tell us Psalm 69 provided them divine context for Jesus’ actions. But did they grasp why Jesus’ zeal was so hot? Do we?
To get to the heart of that zeal, ponder these insights from August Pieper’s The One Great Thought of God (WLQ, 111:3):
God has only one great thought, which he wants to realize: Christ and his church! (227)
God did not and does not want to realize thousands of independent thoughts, but only one great thought with thousands and millions of different trimmings and ornamentations. Therefore, he will shatter and destroy, curse and condemn all works of his hand that do not serve Christ and his church. He will create a new world in which every leaf and worm glorifies the heavenly Bridegroom and his Bride. (226-227)
Our Savior is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29), but Jesus’ righteous wrath “flare(s) up in a moment” (Psalm 2:12) when anyone or anything tries to get between Bridegroom and Bride!
Zeal consumed him when Peter’s things-of-men-muddled-mind tempted Jesus to turn from his cross. It consumed him when disciples shooed children. It consumed him as he saw temple courts echoing with a marketplace’s din rather than being a quiet place for prayer and contemplation on human sin and divine grace.
Such zeal still consumes Jesus if anything in God’s house distracts hearts from prayer and contemplation on human sin and divine grace.
Now narrow Jesus’ zeal for his Father’s house to its sharpest focus – to that smallest temple: your heart and mine. That also is to be a quiet place of prayer and contemplation on human sin and divine grace.
Is it a fitting time for some temple cleansing, my brothers? Lent would seem a most natural time for God’s one great thought to dominate our hearts. Yet the busyness of Lent can quickly turn our hearts into distracting marketplaces of ministry tasks clamoring for attention. How difficult then for hearts to be places of prayer and contemplation on God’s one great thought for us.
Yes, I know, pragmatic reason suggests that to pause in an already overcrowded schedule only adds another “to do” while subtracting time from urgent tasks. But the Spirit scoffs at our simplistic math! He works by multiplication. Pondering my Bridegroom’s zeal for me, his Bride, ends up multiplying my zeal in all the directions he calls me to serve. As God’s one great eternal thought for me permeates my heart, there alone do I find my zeal renewed for God’s house – zeal to seek the salvation of my family and church family, my community and God’s world. Thank God that his zeal will not rest until his one great consuming thought of Bridegroom and Bribe so captivates us that it becomes our one great consuming thought.
“Zeal for your house will consume me.” Jesus’ consuming flame of zeal for his Father’s house – temple large or heart small – still burns. Behind it is a Bridegroom’s one great thought for his Bride’s rescue. Behind it is God’s one great thought for you!