We come now to the last letter in the English alphabet and the one personal quality that stands out is Zeal. The word zelos occurs only once in the gospels (5 times altogether in the New Testament.) In John 2 we have the account of Jesus going up to Jerusalem at Passover and finding the temple courts serving as a market place with animals being sold for sacrificial purposes, money changers, and general commotion everywhere. Jesus was deeply offended by the scene so he drove out the animals and those who had turned his Father’s house into a market place. His disciples watched the cleansing and remembered the prophetic words, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (Psalm 69:9).
Confronted with such sacrilege, Jesus was filled with zeal. He was infuriated by merchants who had turned the temple courts into a common market place. His reaction shows how deeply he cared about those things that were of supreme importance. To downgrade the house of God revealed a distorted sense of values. Jesus cared deeply about the sanctity of his Father’s place of worship and it led him to take bold action against the offenders.
When used in a positive way, zeal is understood as an intense interest in and dedication to that which has genuine worth. Jesus cared deeply about the holy place where God encountered his people in a sacrificial setting. I can’t help but wonder how Jesus would react were he to walk into today’s “worship service.” Would an energetic “worship team” raise the same level of concern? It is not a matter of the intention of the participants (I’m quite sure that the money changers felt they were serving a good purpose by making it possible for worshipers who had come from a distance to buy a sacrificial animal right there in Jerusalem.) In any case Jesus was zealously opposed to the secularization of the temple courts, and it follows that we today ought to be concerned about the propriety of how we worship God. I am sure that while the cleansing was dramatic it was at the same time an appropriate and loving response to the violation of a holy place.