Have you heard of that name? She’s very famous in Santa Clara, CA. For an entire year she spent time organizing marches, leading Facebook groups, making YouTube videos to get people aware of her cause, getting petition after petition signed, meeting with the city council and protesting for the betterment of the Santa Clara community.
To bring the McRib back to Santa Clara.
This isn’t a joke. This actually happened.
And her protest was contagious. Check out some pictures of her supporters. The signs say, “Make McRib not McWar.” “Down with Breakfast, up with the McRib” and “Eat McRib”
Good news! After the protesting, Santa Clara’s McDonald’s chain – brought the McRib back.
There are a lot of protests in America today. Most have much more serious tone. There are protests for racial equality, for gun laws, and babies in the womb.
But…what about Christians?
Should we protest? If so, what? Where? How?
Today we are continuing our disciple series and taking a look at a time that Jesus protested. We’re discuss what that means for Christians today, but before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
2. Jesus’ Protest
Before we get going, I think it’s important that we have a working definition of the word “protest,” because the word means different things to different people. Some think of marches. Some think of picket signs. Some think of peaceful sit ins; others of violence.
But those are different types of protests.
They deal with the “how” of protesting now the “what.”
The simple dictionary definition for protesting is this: “an expression of disapproval for something.”
Take a moment and write that down, because it’s important so that we are all on the same page for the rest of this. Then, I want to take us to a very Biblical protest – one that’s led by Jesus himself. Look at John 2:
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. (v.13-14)
A couple of points:
Jerusalem was the center of Jewish culture. It was the largest city in Judea and it was home to the Temple – a beautiful, ornate building dedicated to worshipping God. It was lined with gold, studded with stones and decorated by gorgeous etchings in wood and stone.
And it was around the Passover. The Passover was a celebration of when God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Since the Passover was a religious festival, many wanted to go to the epicenter of Jewish religion for the festival – hence Jerusalem being very crowded. (It might be similar to many people making their way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras or an Irish bar to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day).
And when you’re in Jerusalem and you go the temple, you are going to want to bring a sacrifice. That’s because Old Testament Jewish religion demanded animals sacrifices for sin. Not that the animals blood actually took away sins, but (1) it taught how serious sin really is and (2) it foreshadowed the death of Jesus, the Lamb of God, as a sacrifice to actually take away the sins of the world.
Practically speaking – if you want to bring a sacrifice to Jerusalem from a couple hundred miles away, it’s not very easy. It’s like taking a dog on a road trip only without a minivan and aq less domesticated version of a pet.
This was a challenge.
So…a new kind of industry developed. Situated in the temple courtyard – right before you made your way into the sanctuary portion of the temple – were a bunch of vendors. Each vendor offered animals for sacrifice – oxen, sheep and doves – whatever you needed. The idea was that this was a service – so that you didn’t have to take the animals on the long trek, you could just buy when you got there.
Can you picture the advertising?
Like a Good Neighbor Sheep farm is there.
Open range, organic, cage free doves. Because God doesn’t like additives.
Or my personal favorite: Got Oxen?
But that’s not the only kind of temple vendor. There were moneychangers there too. This is because Jews would come to Jerusalem from various countries. Each of these countries had various coinage with various worth in the world market. Money changers at the temple did the same thing that money changers do at international airports – they exchange your foreign dollar for a domestic one.
This is what was happening at the first table in the temple courtyard – it would get the money you need to buy the animals you need at a small percentage of the price.
And you know what? People liked it! It was convenient, nice and easy.
That’s why when the disciples made their way into the temple, they probably paid little attention to the sellers.
This was common. This was ordinary. This was the way things were.
But…for Jesus…something was off.
Maybe it was the:
The bleating of sheep as opposed to singing.
Or the coins going into the merchant’s pockets as opposed to the offering boxes.
Or the smell of the animals masking the incense of prayers.
Whatever it was – Jesus had had enough.
He walked over to a nearby vendor, grabbed a few cords used for animal transport and tied them together. Then, he moved to the nearest oxen stall. He threw open the gate. And…
Immediately he started corralling the oxen out of the pen. The oxen grunting and snorting as their hooves hit the ground.
People started looking. The vendor started shouting.
But Jesus didn’t stop.
He went to the next gate. He did the same.
He made it to the sheep gate – same treatment – new noises: BAAAING and BLEEETING and SHOUTING!
He ran over to the dove table and he thew open their cage doors.
People started screaming as birds fluttered overhead.
Some sought shelter under the archways.
Jesus made his way to the money table…
And scattered the coins on the floor – the talents, the kophers, the Roman coins with Caesar’s image on them…Clinking everywhere!
He flipped the table over and shouted in anger:
“Stop turning my father’s house into a market!”
And…after many of the animals had been removed.
As the bleeting of sheep grew faint.
And the feathers of the birds slowly settled to the ground.
A man – an angry man – an angry, angry man approached:
What gives you the authority to do all of this?
Jesus looked him straight in the eye.
He didn’t stutter:
“Destroy this temple and I will raise it in 3 days.”
2. Christian Protest
And there it is. Protest. “An expression of disapproval of something.” Jesus did it. He publicly expressed his disapproval for something. But…what does his protest mean for 21st century disciples? Let’s take it one question at a time:
(1) Should We Protest?
This isn’t as easy as a commandment that says, “Thou shalt not protest,” or “thou shalt protest often.” But if you head back to that initial definition of protest: “to express disapproval of something,” there’s a few Bible passages that essentially say the same thing:
Speak what is right. (Isaiah 33:15)
If someone sins, rebuke them. (Mt. 18)
Do not do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. (2 Cor. 13:8)
That’s what Jesus was doing!
The truth was that the temple was for communing with God – not making money.
The truth was that their current practices were at best distracting, at worst soul condemning.
The truth was that what was going on was wrong – and Jesus spoke.
But this isn’t the only example of protest in the Bible:
A guy named Daniel refused to pray to the King and he protested by continuing to pray to God. (Daniel 6)
Three friends refused to bow down and worship a golden statue and instead continued to worship God. (Daniel 3)
Peter and James would be told to stop teaching about Jesus or risk death – they protested by walking back outside and teaching about Jesus anyway. (Acts 4)
Yes. Protesting – expressing disapproval of something – is something that Christians should do. In fact, it’s something that Christians are commanded to do.
(2) Protest Where?
Should we head to downtown Raleigh?
A march all the way to the White House?
I think it’s interesting to consider where Jesus protested. He protested in the temple. The temple was the epicenter of Jewish religious thought. The temple is where people would have gone to learn about the Messiah!
He did not go to the Roman governor’s mansion.
He did not go to the Pilate’s palace.
He did not organize a march to Caesar’s palace.
In fact, when people asked him to –he refused.
Jesus was focused on the spiritual not the physical.
Jesus was focused on the spiritual not the political.
There’s a lesson there for us:
Before we protest out there, we’ve got to protest in here. We’ve got to protest in our temple.
And where is our temple? Is it this church? Well – we do commune with God here. That’s true. It is a spiritual place that’s true too. But before you go tearing down the greeting cards free will offering stand in the hallway – consider this passage:
“Your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you…who you received from God.” (1 Cor. 16: 19)
In other words – before we protest out there, we NEED to protest in here.
This is a similar concept to the plank in the eye story. You’ve probably heard that one before. Jesus said, “Before you tell someone to take the speck out of their eye, take the plank out of your own eye.”
Have you ever thought about how foolish it would look to see this passage played out? To see some guy with a giant, 2’x4” coming at you, trying to avoid hitting you with the plank and leaning in to say with a very concerned voice, “There’s some sawdust in your eye.”
And it’s just as foolish to go protesting all of the ‘sins that go on out there’ when there’s plenty of sins that go on in here.
It’d be like the guy protesting the XXX club going in next door, when he’s up late watching porn every night.
Or the woman protesting racial inequality, when she won’t converse with her neighbor because, “She’s different than me.”
Or the guy that protests on Facebook the way that America has lost sight of religion and doesn’t have any relationship with God --- even though he hasn’t been to worship in about 6 ½ months.
Friends – start your protest right here.
Protest the very things that threaten to ruin your temple!
Because Jesus did.
In fact, he protested your sins so much that he took a stand against them.
A stand that ended as sometimes protests do with violent pushback from opposition.
It was a stand that ended with both feet on a little block of wood and a nail was driven through the bones of his metatarsals.
Jesus stood against your sin.
And he won!
Your sins are no more because Jesus stood against them.
Your sins are no more because Jesus transformed your temple.
Your sins are no more and Jesus calls you to protest against their return.
Protest starts here (in our hearts) before it goes out there (in the world).
(3) Protest What?
And when we do take our protest to the world – what do we protest? Here’s a simple thought:
Protest what God protests.
Express disapproval of what God expresses disapproval of.
Otherwise, you’re protesting against God.
And that’s seems unwise.
Pre protesting should be less about “what do I want” and more about “what does God want.”
If you follow that rule, you’ll take your stand accordingly.
But not all issues are so clear:
Like Gun Control. It’s been on people’s minds and rightfully so. It was horrific and awful what happened to those kids in Parkland, FL.
But over the past week, I’ve seen Christians friends say things that are going a bit farther than the Bible says:
“It’s in the Bible God said we should have AR17s. Don’t you take that right from me.”
“It’s in the Bible – God said, “if you own a gun, you’re going straight to hell.”
Neither of those are Bible passages. (It’s easy to find that out too…just Google it!)
Gun control like many issues in the social realm is a grey area issue. (The Bible doesn’t speak specifically about it).
The Bible does say that God gave us life.
The Bible does say that God wants us to protect life.
How we do that is open for debate.
But when Christians are dealing with grey area issues, the Bible has two things for us to keep in mind:
3. Think of others more than yourself.
Because a lot of times people protest against things that they don’t like.
“I am protesting this tax because I don’t like that I have to pay more.”
“I am protesting this person in government because I don’t like that party.”
“I am protesting the price of Doritos because I wish they were cheaper!”
But the Bible says this: “Be humble…Become the servant of all.”
In other words, think of others first.
Fight the sinful, selfish urge to say, “Here’s what’s best for me,” and say, “I’m going to listen and learn what’s best for others.”
It’s what Jesus did. Because having nails hammered into his hands was probably NOT what felt best to him.
But it was what was best for us.
Think the same way.
4. Think of spiritual more than physical.
God is always more concerned with the spiritual than the physical.
Yes, Jesus healed the sick, but only so he could tell them about salvation.
Yes, Jesus spoke about this life – but only as a means to get to the next life.
Yes, Jesus told his disciples to help other’s physical needs, but only after he gave the mission statement of going and making disciples of all nations by baptizing them and teaching them God’s Word. --- a very, spiritual task.
Even in the temple the reason Jesus protested was against the physical: making money, saving the hassle, making the temple trip an easy thing….
And it was for the spiritual: an atmosphere focused on God’s Word – a temple dedicated to connecting with God spiritually that they might hear the message of the Savior – and be saved.
(4) Protest How?
Because once we have taken our stand against our own sins, God does call us to stand against sin out there.
But how do we do that?
Do we go downtown and start destroying things?
Do we knock on our neighbor’s door and punch him tin the face? (I am offended by your lawn gnomes!)
No. The Bible says this, “Be Kind.”
It means (wait for it), “Be kind.”
Even in protest.
We don’t vandalize.
We aren’t violent.
We speak the truth in love.
We speak the truth peacefully.
But Pastor… Jesus wasn’t so kind! He knocked things over. He caused chaos. He was a bit of a vandal.
But friend…Jesus is God! Simply put: He does what he wants. If God wants to violently oppose sin, He can – that fits within the job description of God.
As for us, we are humans.
We let God to be the judge.
We remain peaceful.
But...also we remain confident.
We mentioned it earlier – at the end of his protest, the Pharisees approached and asked him, “What was his authority to do all this? What was his authority to free the animals? What was his authority to knock over the table? What was his authority to do all of this?”
And Jesus’ answer was: “Destroy this temple and 3 days later I will raise it.”
Only he wasn’t talking about the building temple.
He was talking about his body temple.
In other words – Jesus’ authority was based on his resurrection.
And your authority is based on his resurrection.
When you stand up for truth,
When you stand up for God’s Word,
When you stand up for what God has declared right,
You stand with great authority.
The authority of the resurrected Lord himself.
May his power give us strength to protest the evil in our lives. Amen.