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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
June 23, 2013
Zeal for the Lord
What is Jesus like? Many people know little about Jesus except what has crept through cultural traditions. There are folks that think of Jesus as baby lying in a manger surrounded by animals, shepherds and wise men looking on in awe since that is what has been presented to them through Christmas traditions. I saw an interesting news story back in December reporting on how countries with little true Christian influence have adopted various Christmas traditions and mixed them together so that reindeer, elves and Santa Claus are also at the manger scene. Others have heard more about Jesus and know He grew up to be a man, but the stories they have heard are about Him have led them to conclude that He was so loving, tender and mild that He would never get angry, raise His voice or stand in open opposition to anyone. They think of Him as a religious reformer using passive resistant and compassionate miracles to bring about needed changes. In our own society, Jesus is often thought of and even proclaimed to be the ultimate example of tolerance.
There is truth in describing Jesus with the character of a meek and mild lamb for some Scriptures use such language. Matthew 12:18-21, which quotes from Isaiah 42, describes the Messiah as follows: “Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 “He will not quarrel, nor cry out; Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. 20 “A battered reed He will not break off, And a smoldering wick He will not put out, Until He leads justice to victory. 21 “And in His name the Gentiles will hope.” Matthew quoted this passage to explain why Jesus would often withdraw from conflicts with the religious leaders and continue His work in a more quiet manner among the people. However, the view of Jesus as never getting angry and always being passive is an idol for it makes Him out to be something that He is not. It is a different Jesus from the one described in the Bible. This tolerant Jesus is a product of human imagination from men who desire an escape from His judgment. That is not the Jesus that came to earth just over 2,000 years ago to redeem man from sin.
It is true that Jesus was kind and offered forgiveness to the humble regardless of their sin such as the woman caught in adultery in John 8. However, it is also true that Jesus was very quick to oppose those who were spiritually proud and pronounced woes upon them and even called them names. His condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23 is a good example of that. Among the names that Jesus used to describe the scribes and Pharisees in that passage are: hypocrites, blind guides, fools, serpents, brood of vipers, and son[s] of hell sentenced to hell. I don’t think any one could describe that as being tolerant or passive. Consider as well the very intolerant statement Jesus made in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. That is a very exclusive declaration which is completely intolerant of any other religions viewpoints.
This morning we are going to look at John 2:12-25 and see the expression of Jesus’ zeal for God displayed in a way that most people find surprising because of their misunderstanding of the true nature of Jesus. In looking at this passage, we will not only gain a clearer picture of Jesus, but also a better idea of what our own behavior should be like. Christians are not to be passive wimps who tolerate everything around them. We are to be a loving people who are meek, gentle and kind, but at the same time, like Jesus, we are to have a zeal for God that can only be described as consuming.
As we begin our study this morning, remember that Jesus had begun His public ministry only a short time before after John baptized Him in the Jordan river (See: The Baptism of Jesus) . Jesus had been tested by the devil in the wilderness (See: The Temptation of Jesus) and had returned to Bethany beyond the Jordan where John was baptizing and had chosen His first disciples (See: Jesus’ First Disiciples). Jesus and His disciples had then traveled up to Cana of Galilee where they attended a wedding where Jesus demonstrated His deity, and hence a proof of His Messiahship, by turning the water into wine. This was a miracle of the first order since it required the creation of elements that were not present. Only God can do that (See: The Wedding at Cana). We pick up the story in John 2:12.
A Visit to Capernaum – John 2:12
After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother, and [His] brothers, and His disciples; and there they stayed a few days.
The after this gives the time designation that this occurs after the wedding in Cana. It is Spring A.D. 27. Jesus comes down from Cana, which is in the hills of Galilee, to the lower elevation of Capernaum which is on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Lake of Gennesaret.
With Jesus are his mother, brothers and disciples. Contrary to religious traditions which teach that Jesus was the only child of Mary, the Biblical accounts are clear that Jesus had brothers and sisters. In fact, Jesus had at least 6 siblings. Matthew 13:55 names Jesus’ four brothers as James, Joseph, Simon and Judas and the verse following states that He had sisters – plural.
Now it should not seem strange that Jesus and His family along with His disciples would go to Capernaum. Remember that James and John lived in Capernaum and that their mother, Salome, was probably Mary’s sister, so Jesus was their cousin (Cf. Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1; John 19:25). Andrew and Peter also lived in Capernaum (Mark 1:21,29). Verse 12 notes that they only stay there a few days. The reason is given in the next verse.
To Jerusalem for Passover – John 2:13
And the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. The focus of the story is Jesus, so He is the one specifically mentioned as going up to Jerusalem, but it is reasonable to assume that Jesus’ disciples and His brothers would have all traveled together to Jerusalem. Every male Jew who was 12 or older was expected to go to Jerusalem for Passover according to the Mosaic Law. Passover was the celebration of God freeing the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt by His mighty hand. If you recall the story in Exodus 4-12, God brought upon Egypt 10 plagues to demonstrate that He was the only true God and cause Egypt to submit to His command to let His people go. The last of the plagues was the death angel who came and killed every first born of man and beast. The only protection was to be within a home that had the blood of a lamb spread on the door posts. When the angel saw the
blood, he would passover that house and those inside were safe. God commanded that this event be celebrated every year with a partial reenactment of the preparations made on the first Passover. A lamb would be sacrificed, then roasted and eaten with unleavened bread. The modern celebration of Passover includes additional elements in the Seder dinner which are very interesting and point to Christ, but we will not be going into those details today. I encourage you to attend a Christ in the Passover presentation which explains all the details when you get the chance.
The Passover was followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread which lasted for seven days. This also was in commemoration of the
God’s deliverance of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were so closely tied together that both were often referred to simply as the Passover. For example, Luke 22:1 states, Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. The Old Testament also will refer to both as simply Passover. For example, Ezekiel 45:21 describes the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten. This is the usage of the term here in John 2. This is important because it explains what Jesus saw as He came into Jerusalem and entered the Temple with His disciples.
Entering the Temple – John 2:14
Many animals would be sacrificed during the feast of Passover. When Jesus came into the Temple, this is what He saw. 14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers seated.
Let’s get a picture of what is occurring. Jesus and His disciples have traveled from Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee and down the Jordan Valley. It is Spring and the countryside is beautiful. It is also a good time to travel because preparations for Passover included repairing roads and bridges, giving sepulchers a fresh coat of whitewash to make sure no one would accidently touch them and make themselves ceremonially unclean. People were also performing rituals of purification and so they were mindful to strive to behave in a righteous manner.
When Jesus and those traveling with Him reached Jericho, they went up the steep road going out of the Jordan Valley and up into the Hills of Judea. Jerusalem sits on a ridge in these hills at an elevation of about 2,500 feet. That is why people go up to Jerusalem. The Jericho road comes over the north ridge of the Mount of Olives and then through the north end of the Kidron Valley. Jesus would then have entered Jerusalem either through the Sheep Gate on the north, or through the East gate and directly onto the Temple Mount.
The temple area itself was broken up into several courts by walls and buildings. Each court became more restricted as you got closer to the Temple itself and the Holy of Holies within the temple. Steps lead up to the temple mount and to the outer most court referred to as the Court of the Gentiles. This area was open to anyone from any nation. At the entrances to the next inner court, the Court of the Women, there were signs inscribed in Greek and Latin that warned Gentiles that to enter into the next court would be upon pain of death. Beyond the Court of the Women was the Court of Israel into which only Jewish men could enter. This court was in front of the Altar. The Court of the Priests surrounded the Temple itself, and only the High Priest could go into the Holy of Holies within the Temple, and then only once a year.
As Jesus came onto the temple mount and into the Court of the Gentiles, His senses were not filled with the activities of people worshiping God. They were instead assaulted by the sights, sounds and smells of a street bazaar. There were bulls, oxen, goats, sheep, and cages full of pigeons and turtle doves for sale to be used for sacrifices. Other men were hawking incense and grains to be used in offerings. These things were bad enough, but in the midst of all of them were the money changers.
The money changers were needed because the annual temple tax, which was to be paid by every adult male, could only be paid in exact half-shekels of the Sanctuary or ordinary Galilean shekels. In addition, many of the merchants in Jerusalem would only accept Jewish currency. Even though Persian, Tyrian, Syrian, Egyptian, Grecian and Roman money normally circulated freely throughout the land, in Jerusalem at Passover, foreign currency would have to be exchanged and the money changer would charge a fee for his lucrative service. They were regarded as not much better than thieves.
To make matters worse, the High priest, Annas, and his family controlled what happened in the markets at the Temple. In fact, the Temple-market was called the Bazaars of the Sons of Annas. They were paid part of the profits of the money changers and merchants.
This might sound like a somewhat expensive but convenient practice for those who needed to purchase what they needed for worship and the Passover once they arrived at the temple, but this was not about providing a needed service to people. The merchants gained access to what was nearly a monopoly. All the animals that were to be sacrificed had to be inspected by an official examiner to be sure it met the Levitical qualifications. A fee would be paid to this examiner, and if he did not like your animal, you had to bring another. Corruption was prevalent with the result that the people basically had to buy their sacrificial animals from Annas’ merchants in Jerusalem at greatly inflated prices.
This was the scene that Jesus came into when He came to the Temple. The Court of the Gentiles was supposed to have been a place for those from other nations to come and pray to the true God. It would have been inappropriate for these merchants and money changers to have been in the Court of the Gentiles if they had been honest. What Jesus found was even worse because the practices of these merchants were corrupt. They were thieves. The same type of practice had occurred in the days of Jeremiah and that prophet had admonished them saying they had made the Lord’s house a den of thieves (Jeremiah 7:11). This generation was just as corrupt and Jesus would apply that verse to them in Luke 19:46. They had turned God’s house of prayer into a place of robbers.
Jesus’ Reaction – John 2:15-16
Jesus had a very strong reaction to what He had encountered. Verses 15, And He made a scourge of cords, and drove [them] all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the moneychangers, and overturned their tables;
This scene is a shock for those that think of Jesus as the ultimate tolerant man, someone weak, passive and mild whose great purpose was to make it so that sinful man would not held accountable for his wickedness. Some refuse to believe what they read. R. Kent Hughes reports a commentator that said of this passage, catching up some of the reeds that served as bedding for the cattle, he twisted them into the semblance of a scourge, which could hurt neither man nor beast. He did not use it. Yet, what is written is very plain and understandable.
Jesus picks up some of the rope that would have been lying around with so many animals being led to sacrifice. He knots some of them together and makes a scourge – a whip. He then drives all of these people out of the Temple. The idea that He does not use the whip is absurd. Does anyone really think these people who were making a lot of money in their business and vastly outnumbered Jesus even if all His disciples were with Him, would have simply left the Temple because Jesus asked them too and threatened them with cattle bedding? Jesus’ anger is very plain and evident in His pouring out the coins of the moneychangers and overturning their tables. This is a scene of a man who is very angry and letting ev
eryone know it. You can be sure that the whip He made was being used. Remember that Jesus would have been working as a carpenter, the trade of Joseph. Do not think of Jesus as soft and weak. He would have had strong, hard muscles from many years of physical labor. And while carpentry has become less physically demanding in our time due to the tools available, even now, does anyone here think the average merchant would want to get into a physical altercation with an angry carpenter?
I think we can all get the picture. The scourge is flying, the sheep are bleating, the ox are lowing and the merchants are trying to get out of the way. Jesus is flipping over the tables of the moneychangers and coins are being scattered everywhere. These men are fleeing and then Jesus comes to those selling doves and takes a slightly calmer approach. Verse 16 – and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise.” What do you think these merchants of birds did? They would have complied very quickly. Jesus’ rebuke to them is stinging. Stop making my Father’s house a house of merchandise. The statement not only reproaches them for their evil practice, but it also declares to them His identity. The Temple is the house of Jesus’ Father. Jesus is declaring His deity. His Father is God.
Why was Jesus so angry? Verse 17, His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Thy house will consume me.” Jesus disciples recalled that David said this in Psalm 69:9 in describing the his own godly character. This particular Psalm has several Messianic elements. What was applied to David was also applied to his greater son, the Messiah.
The godly are to have a zeal for all that is associated with God. There is to be a fervent devotion, a passionate commitment to Him and a jealousy for upholding His righteous character. Zeal carries you the extra step when others would have quit. It moves you to action when others are fearful. It keeps your focus on what is really important in life rather than being distracted by the ordinary.
Jesus was filled with zeal for God and that which was associated with Him which in this case was the Temple. The description here is that it consumed Him. It was eating Him up. Jesus was committed to the cause of God and it took up His time, energy and thoughts. His actions were all directed toward the work of the Kingdom of God. The same should be true for all who are godly.
The Christian should have a zeal for God. We should be consumed with Him and therefore live for Him. This should not even be considered radical for the real radical change occurred when God took us when we were dead in our trespasses and sin and made us alive in Christ (Ephesians 2). Tragically, most professing Christians separate their religious life from everyday life. Jesus is Lord on Sunday morning, but He is given little thought the rest of the time. Many such people are going to be surprised when they enter eternity and Jesus denies knowing them as indicated by Matthew 7:23 & 10:33. The true Christian has been crucified with Christ and no longer lives, but Christ lives in him (Galatians 2:20). It should be considered normal, not radical, for a Christian to be consumed with Jesus and living for Him so that everything in life is seen in terms of glorifying God. Do you have a zeal for God?
Why was Jesus so angry? The Court of the Gentiles was supposed to be the place where those who did not know God could come and learn of Him and be instructed in how to worship Him. It was supposed to be the place were the worship of God was showcased before the unbelieving that they might believe. It was where the Godly gentile could worship the true God. Instead, it had become a place no different from what was around any pagan temple. The worship of God was turned into a money making venture.
There is a time and a place for Christians to be angry and moved to strong action. It is not when we are personally attacked, for we are to be those who bless when cursed, who love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us. It is not when our personal empire is threatened, for God said He would provide for our needs if we seek first His kingdom and righteousness. Jesus told us in John 16:32-33 that in this world we would have tribulation, but we can take courage and have peace because He had overcome the world. Jesus did not react when He was personally attacked, but when those who were supposed to teach others about God were perverted or that which was set apart for God’s glory was desecrated, then Jesus became angry and hot words and actions followed. We often use the term righteous indignation to set this anger apart from the anger of man which does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:20). This is an anger that results from a zeal for God. It is the anger the godly have when they hear someone claim to be a Christian, but openly live as the ungodly, or they hear someone perverting the Scriptures. It is the anger the godly have when they hear the beautiful name of the Lord used in vain or as a curse. There is a time when a Christian must boldly declare the truth without consideration of the other person’s feelings, for their feelings are of no consequence when God’s glory and honor is at stake.
The Challenge to Jesus’ Authority – John 2:18-22
It does not appear that anyone challenged Jesus while He was chasing out the merchants and money changers, but afterward some did question Him. The Jews therefore answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, seeing that You do these things?” The particular people questioning Jesus are not defined. It could have been the scribes, priests, temple-guards, Anna’s representatives or any mixture of them. Their question is born out of the prophecy of Malachi 3 that Messiah would come suddenly to His temple and begin a work of purification. Yet, their question is both stupid and evil. It is stupid because Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple was the sign. It was evil because they fail to admit any guilt for their wicked practices. They should have fallen before Him and begged to be forgiven. Instead they challenge His authority to drive out those who had desecrated the Temple. Jesus’ answer just confuses them more.
John 2:19, Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” This is a mashal, a paradoxical saying that makes a veiled, but pointed remark. It is often given in the form of a riddle. Since they are standing in the physical Temple, that is all they can think of, so they answer in verse 20, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
Herod started work on the Temple in the 18th year of his reign – 20 or 19 B.C. It was now 46 years later (27 A.D.) and the work was still not done. It would not be finished until just before it was destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D. They are incredulous that Jesus would make such a statement. Later, they even misquote Jesus and accuse Him of saying He was going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days (Matthew 26:61).
They did not understand that Jesus was not speaking of the physical Temple building. He was speaking of a type and antitype. Even His disciples did not understand the meaning until after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead as stated in verses 21-22, But He was speaking of the temple of His body. When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken.
Israel’s physical temple was the dwelling place of God and was the type of what Jesus’ body was in a far superior sense. The terms used can be used for both the temple and the body. The term destroy (lusate / lusate) can be use
d for tearing down a building or the destruction of a human body. The term for the temple (to;n nao;n tou:ton) refers to a sacred area which could include the Temple and its grounds or a human body viewed as the dwelling place of the Spirit. The term raise it up (ejgerw: / egero) can be used to describe the reconstruction of a building or the resuscitation of an individual.
The saying is actually very pointed and powerful and the meanings intertwined. The Jews were already destroying the purpose of the Temple by their desecration of it into a market place. When they would crucify Jesus, they would also end the purpose of the temple. Recall that at Jesus’ death, the veil in the Holy of Holies was torn from the top down. The final sacrifice had been paid and man could now approach God through Christ instead of the Temple sacrificial system. When the Jews crucified Jesus, they also destroyed the Temple system, and three days later when Jesus rose from the dead, He laid the foundation for a new type of temple, the church (Ephesians 2:21).
After Jesus’ resurrection the disciples remembered what Jesus had said and understood it. The result was a greater understanding and trust in what the Scriptures and Jesus had said. Jesus was who He claimed to be. He is the Messiah, the son of God, who redeemed mankind with His own life and through the power of His own resurrection can offer eternal life to those who will believe in Him.
Continued Ministry – John 2:23-25
Jesus stayed in Jerusalem throughout the rest of the feast and continued to minister. Verses 23-25, Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, beholding His signs which He was doing. 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man.
Jesus did do other signs, but there is no indication that these affected the Jews that challenged Jesus about cleansing the temple. It did make an impression on others and they believed in Jesus in the sense that they began to accept what Jesus was saying. They did not have saving faith at this point as verses 24 and 25 indicate. Jesus did not trust them because He knew what was in their heart and how fickle people can be. Those that shouted hosanna to Jesus on one day would also shout crucify him a few days later.
Jesus’ omniscience is again in view. He knew what was in man and did not need testimony from anyone else to know what is in a person’s heart. The amazing thing is that Jesus knows what is our hearts as well, and yet He still loved us so much that He died in our place. He knows all our failings and still loves us. But never forget that His love also means that He will not allow us to continue as we are, but He will continue to change us to be more like Himself.
What is your Jesus like? I hope your Jesus is not the product of your own imagination and therefore a false idol. I pray that everyone here would be a follower of the Jesus of the Bible and in the process of becoming more like Him in love, humility, gentleness, kindness and zeal for the things of God.
Sermon Notes – 6/23/2013
Zeal for the Lord – John 2:12-25
Many people know of Jesus only through ______________ traditions
Jesus is described as meek and ____________ – Matthew 12:18-21 cf. Isaiah 42
Jesus was quick to ________the spiritually proud and pronounce woes on religious hypocrites – Matthew 23
Christians are to be a loving people who are meek, gentle and kind, but also have a consuming ____for God
A Visit to Capernaum – John 2:12
Jesus goes from ________to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee with His mother, brothers & disciples
Jesus had at least ____siblings – four brothers: James, Joseph, Simon and Judas and sisters – Matthew 13:55
James and John were probably Jesus’ ____________- and they and Andrew & Peter lived in Capernaum
To Jerusalem for Passover – John 2:13
_____________male Jew, 12 and older, was supposed to go to Jerusalem for Passover
Passover is in recognition of the last plague on Egypt in _______________ which freed Israel from bondage
Passover & the Feast of Unleavened Bread were both often referred to as ________________
Entering the Temple – John 2:14
_________________was a beautiful time to make the journey from Capernaum to Jerusalem
Jerusalem is on a ____in the Judean hills – Jesus come into it through either the Sheep Gate or the East Gate
The Temple was divided into different _______________, each more restricted than the previous
The Court of the ________________was the outermost and was open to anyone from any nation
When Jesus came into the Court of the Gentiles, it had the sights, sounds and smells of a street __________
The money changers were regarded as not much better than ______________
Annas, the High Priest, and his family controlled the temple markets and took part of the _______________
The merchants had a monopoly ensured by the _______________ of inspectors
God’s house of _______________ was again occupied by a den of thieves – Jeremiah 7:11; Luke 19:46
Jesus’ Reaction – John 2:15-16
Some people are shocked by Jesus’ strong and ___________reaction to what He encountered in the Temple
Jesus’ anger is very plain and evident in His use of the ______and overturning tables – He was a strong man
Jesus’ reaction to those selling doves is calmer, yet still ___________them strongly and forces them to leave
Jesus declares His ______________in stating the temple was His Father’s House
His disciples recalled the __________element of Psalm 69:9 that zeal for God’s house would consume Him
The godly are to have a ______________for all that is associated with God
It should be _____________, not radical, for a Christian to have and express zeal for God
Jesus was _______because a place set aside for the worship of God had been turned into a house of robbers
Christians should be righteously __________when the truth of God is perverted or what is holy is desecrated
The Challenge to Jesus’ Authority – John 2:18-22
Some unidentified Jews challenge what Jesus did based whether He was the one prophesied of in ________
Jesus’ cleansing of the temple was the _________and they did not admit any guilt for the wicked practices
John 2:19 is a mashal – a paradoxical saying that makes a _____________, but pointed remark
They were baffled since __________ years had been spent building the temple and it was still not finished
Jesus was speaking of a type – the temple, and an _______________- His body – verses 21-22
The Jews were destroying the purpose of the Temple by making it into a ________________place
Their ______________of Jesus was end the purpose of the temple – the final sacrifice would have been paid
Jesus resurrection became a new type of _______________, the church – Ephesians
Continued Ministry – John 2:23-25
Jesus did other signs and many believed – but Jesus did not trust them because He knew their _______hearts
Jesus is omniscience and knows the heart of man, yet He still __________us and gave up His life to save us
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Explain what zeal means. How many times was it used in the sermon? Talk with your parents about your own zeal for God.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Describe what you think Jesus’ character was like? What do you base your view upon? What is the context of John 2:12-25? Why would Jesus go to Capernaum? Who was with Him? Who else lived there? Why did Jesus go to Jerusalem for Passover? Describe Passover? Describe the Feast of Unleavened Bread? What did Jesus find when He came into the Temple? What should He have found? What did Jesus do? Does this surprise you? Why was Jesus so angry? What does zeal mean? How did this demonstrate Jesus’ zeal? What zeal should Christians have? How should that zeal be manifested? Are you zealous for Jesus? How do you manifest it? What should have been the response of the Jews? What was their response? Why was their question stupid and wicked? What was the meaning of Jesus’ answer to them? Why did they not understand it? When did Jesus disciples understand it? What was the response of the people to Jesus’ signs during the Feast? Why wouldn’t Jesus trust them? How do you respond to Jesus’ omniscience about you? Do you want to be like Jesus, including His zeal?
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