We mentioned briefly yesterday that the psalmist in Psalm 69:9 prophesied about the zeal of Jesus and we can read a fulfilment of it in John 2:17 when he attended the temple in Jerusalem. I want us to think about that zeal again today.
The first time we read of Jesus after the events connected to his birth is when he went to the temple as a twelve year old boy. That may have been the first time he was there since he was an infant. Whether it was or not, one detail is clear and that is his zeal to discover his Father's will (Luke 2:41-51). So he did not become zealous only after he began his public ministry. It marked him from his earliest years.
That incident informs us that a crucial aspect of his zeal was his desire to honour God's Word. This was why he was interacting with the teachers in the temple. We are not told what they were discussing, but it is evident that Jesus as a twelve-year-old loved to discuss the Bible and its message. Therefore we should not be surprised that later on, when he went to the temple as an adult and saw the abuse of God's Word taking place there (John 2:17), he showed his zeal by removing unbiblical practices from the temple precincts.
We all know that Jesus was marked by devoted love at all times. Whenever and wherever he was he loved his Father with all his strength and he loved his neighbour as himself. How would that twofold description of love show itself in the temple that day? The temple was intended to be a place where people went to pray to God, to receive from him. Instead of that happening, the temple officials were robbing the people. Love for his Father and love for sinners compelled Jesus to be angry at such terrible dishonour being shown to God. It would not have been right for him to stay silent when things were being done that insulted the name of his Father.
Of course, zeal can show itself in other ways. We are meant to be like Jesus and have a zeal for the things of God. The church in Laodicea did not have such zeal (Rev. 3:14-22). Instead they were lukewarm as far as God's worship was concerned. Jesus informed them that they were like the tepid water that the people in the city often had to drink and which made them sick. A church without zeal does not give a pleasant taste to Jesus.
On that occasion in the temple when Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 69 he indicated that he wanted it to be a place of earnest prayer. This is one of the features he still wants to see among his worshippers. Indeed his reference to prayer reminds us that earnest and heartfelt prayer is one of the clearest evidences of zeal in the Christian life.
What would Jesus say and do if he came to our services as he came to the temple in Jerusalem? But while he will not come physically, he will be present as he was in Laodicea, assessing accurately the spiritual temperature of those who are worshipping God. May he find our hearts to be very hot in spiritual affections for him, burning with a desire to understand his Word and longing to experience his great blessings!