Third Sunday in Lent
John 2:13-22 (NRSV) The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.One picture people have of Jesus is that his is a good teacher. Lots of people would agree to that. As Christians, we say he is much more than that. But even for people who aren't believers, it would be pretty rare for people to say he is less than a good teacher. Of course, the downside of this description of Jesus it that it makes him merely a wise and sage talking head and a nice guy with some nice things to say.
But in this passage, we see that he is far more!
Here we see the righteous anger of Jesus in his driving out the money changers physically and castigating them verbally.
I think one lesson we can learn from this is that there is a place for righteous anger. In the Gospel accounts Jesus is usually welcoming the unexpected person or giving the unanticipated teaching. But on a few occasions, his teaching is very pointed and as we read what he said we squirm probably as much as the listeners did who heard him. One example is when Jesus declare the "woes" upon the Pharisees and teachers of the law. We only have the text of that episode and we have no idea whether Jesus raised his voice when he said those words or did he say them in sorrow.
But here, make no mistake, we see the fury of his holiness as the temple is desecrated by the money changers.
This passage is also patently theological. The site of this event is the Temple and the whole conversation after the tossing over of the money changer tables is about the Temple.
I'm not a theologian nor do I play one in the movies but anyone reading Scripture has to "do theology" in the sense we have to think about what does this mean about who God is and what is He doing?
First off, the Temple was a place where God and humans meet. It is a special place and thus, the blatant disregard for this high purpose is why Jesus drove the money changers out.
But in the second part, Jesus then takes on the topic of the Temple and brings to it a new perspective by saying, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
The listeners were dumbfounded because they were thinking of the massive physical structure of the Temple that was before their eyes. But Jesus had another meaning which John clarifies, But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Jesus is the Temple!? Now, in Jesus, the idea of Temple is extended to mean a person where God and humanity meet. We get a glimpse of this idea from John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth."
Additionally, classic Christianity claims that the work of Jesus permits fallen and sinful humanity to have reconciliation with a holy God. Thus, in Jesus, he is the Temple but also in the work of Jesus he makes a space for reconciliation, a temple, between God and man
Thirdly, this idea of temple no longer being a place is extended further in the description of the church in Ephesians 2:20-22 where it is the collective persons of the Church with Jesus as the cornerstone is a temple, "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God."
Fourthly, by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, each believer is a temple as seen in I Corinithians 6:19-20, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body."
In the time of Lent, we are reflecting on and journeying with Jesus toward the Cross and the Resurrection. One stopping point on this journey for Jesus was this episode at the Temple, the meeting place of reconciliation between God and humanity. Jesus takes this on himself in himself and in his mission. When did all of this sink in for his followers, his disciples?
After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
I think this is where Christianity is unique. It is one thing to make theological claims. All religions do that. One can drop a theological textbook from the sky and have it say all kinds of interesting things. But Christianity rests on a historical event, an intervention from God into human history. And that's amazing! The problems of human beings are real and God decided to intervene into that reality through Jesus and that changed everything.