Worship Helps for Lent 3

Christ chasing the Moneylenders from the Temple
Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione

Worship Theme: For centuries Christians have spent Lent meditating on Jesus’ suffering and death, which atoned for our guilt. Lent is the “serious season” of the church year in which we put extra emphasis on recognizing and confessing our own sins. Congregations with special mid-week services usually keep a somber, reflective tone. The Sundays in Lent, however, serve as “mini Easters”; their readings and hymns bring comfort to the believer who is reflecting on his/her sins and Jesus’ passion. The third Sunday in Lent reminds us of God’s perfect law and his demand that we fear and love him. Thankfully, Jesus has fulfilled God’s law in our place.

Old Testament: Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words: 2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 "You shall have no other gods before me. 4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. 8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 13 "You shall not murder. 14 "You shall not commit adultery. 15 "You shall not steal. 16 "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

1. Why does God remind the Israelites that he brought them out of Egypt before giving the Ten Commandments?

2. Since God already gave us his commandments on our hearts, why did he etch them on stone (and in the Bible) for us?

Epistle: Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.

3. Were you born neutral toward God and his commands? Or even favorable toward them? (See 8:7.)

4. How much does God blame you now, in his courtroom? (See 8:1.)

Gospel: John 2:13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me." 18 Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" 19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." 20 The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

5. Why do you think the Jewish leaders allowed the buying and selling of animals in the temple courts?

6. How do you know that Jesus was not sinning by angrily overturning the tables and driving out the money changers?

7. Why are Jesus’ words in verse 19 significant?


Answers:
1. The holy God who demands we keep his commandments wants love and trust from his children. His law cannot instill that love and trust. Only his gospel can. By reminding the Israelites of how he rescued them from Egypt, he is putting in the forefront of their mind his love and mercy. That rescue from Egypt reminds us that the same holy God sent Jesus to rescue us from our sin.

2. Our own sin and the sin around us combine to darken and callous our hearts, so we need God’s law written down― in detail― for us so we know exactly what his will is.

3. No. We were all born hostile to God. We did not submit to God’s law. We could not.

4. You are completely innocent in God’s courtroom, because of Jesus’ blood. There is no condemnation for all who are in Christ Jesus. None.

5. The Jewish leaders let people buy and sell in the temple courts, presumably, because those who sold animals and changed money made a profit. However, nothing should disturb God’s people from hearing God’s Word, or coming to God in prayer and praise in thanks for his mercies.

6. Jesus was not sinning, because what was at stake was the glory and honor of God. His temple was to be a place for worship. But isn’t anger always sin? No. God the Father “expresses his wrath every day,” but never sins (Psalm 7:11). Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). He could not.

7. In John 2:19 our Savior predicted his own resurrection from the dead. When he fulfilled his promise, he proved he truly is God and keeps his Word. That truth gives us sinners hope and comfort. Only God can save us; Jesus is God. He has rescued us! (See Romans 4:25.)


Putting your faith into action
How often does a review of God’s commands cause us to bow our head in shame? And rightly so! Yet hear again God’s opening, “I am the LORD your God,” and lift up your head! God is our God because he chose us, not because we chose him. He rescued us from the bondage of our slavery to sin and gave us new life here on earth and with him in heaven. These words are our gospel motivation and encouragement to follow all his commands in thankful response for all he has done for us.


A reading from the Book of Concord for Lent 3
This is the Gospel, namely, that for Christ’s sake, and not for the sake of our works, we obtain the forgiveness of sins through faith.  Our adversaries work to suppress this Gospel by means of distorted passages, which contain the doctrine of the Law or of works.  Christ often connects the promise of the forgiveness of sins to good works, yet not because He means that good works are an atoning sacrifice.  Christ makes this connection for two reasons.  One is because good fruit must necessarily follow.  He reminds us that if good fruit do not follow, the repentance is hypocritical and fake.  The other reason is that we have need of outward signs of so great a promise.  A conscience full of fear has need of much consolation.  Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are signs that continually remind, cheer, and encourage despairing minds that their sins are forgiven.  The same promise is portrayed in good works, in order that these works may remind us to believe more firmly.  Those who produce no good works are not encouraged to believe, but despise these promises.  On the other hand, the godly embrace them and rejoice that they have the signs and testimonies of so great a promise.  So they exercise themselves in these signs and testimonies.  Therefore, just as the Lord’s Supper does not justify us by the outward act without faith, so alms do not justify us by the outward act without faith. – Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article V, Love and Fulfilling the Law (paragraphs 153-155)

                       
Text of the Hymn of the Day: He Stood Before The Court
He stood before the court On trial instead of us;
He met its pow'r to hurt, Condemned to face the cross --
Our King, accused of treachery;
Our God, abused for blasphemy!

These are the crimes that tell The tale of human guilt;
Our sins, our death, our hell -- On these the case is built.
To this world's pow'rs the Lord stays dumb.
The guilt is ours, no answers come.

The sentence must be passed, The unknown pris'ner killed;
The price is paid at last, The law of God fulfilled.
He takes our blame, and from that day
Th' accuser's claim is wiped away.

Shall we be judged and tried? In Christ our trial is done;
We live, for he has died, Our condemnation gone.
In Christ are we both dead and raised,

Alive and free -- his name be praised!

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