Year B Third Sunday of Lent
John 2: 13 – 25
Father, you gave St Jerome and St Paula delight in their study of Holy Scripture. May we find in your word the flood of salvation and the fountain of life that you have promised, through Christ Our Lord.
Read John 2: 13 – 25 from your Bible. Do this a number of times so that you become familiar with the text. We often think that we know the text and thus fail to read it carefully. God has a message for us today, so do not block him by failing to listen to his Word.
Once more pray our prayer before praying Scripture.
This story must have been extremely important to the early Christians. It appears in all the Gospels. (Mk 11: 15 – 19; Mt 21: 12 – 13; Lk 19: 45 – 46) On the face of it what Jesus did should have been seen by the authorities as little more than a minor disturbance by a foolish conservative. At most, it deserved a few days in jail, ‘to allow this hothead to come to his senses’. It should have been seen as an empty gesture, after all, it was business as usual the next day. So why the extreme reaction:
“The chief priests were looking for a way to kill him”; Mk 11: 18
“The chief priests wanted to arrest him”; Mt 21: 46
“The chief priests kept looking for a way to kill him”? Lk 19: 47
Obviously we must look for a deeper, symbolic meaning if we are to understand this story. It is time use our imagination. See Jesus walking into the temple and looking at this scene. The temple worship was big business. At Passover 18000 lambs were slaughtered. Roman money with its image of the emperor “god’ on it could not be used in the temple. It made sense to have the money changers on hand and of course the profits from all these transactions went to the controlling family of the chief priests. At Passover, Jerusalem at least trebled its population so the profits to be made were great. It was not just this that made Jesus so angry. So what was it?
Let’s read our text to find the answer.
13Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, 14and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counter there (in the temple). 15Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over 16and said to the pigeon sellers, “Take all this out of here (the temple) and stop turning my Father’s house (the temple) into a market.” 17Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture, ‘Zeal for your house (the temple) will devour me.’
18The Jews intervened and said, “What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?” 19Jesus answered, “Destroy this sanctuary (the temple), and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews replied, “It has taken forty six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body,
22and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said. 23During his stay in Jerusalem for the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he gave, 24but Jesus knew them all and did not trust himself to them; 25he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.
Once again read the above text. This time note that it is framed between the Passover at the beginning and the end. It was at this time of the year that our Hebrew ancestors celebrated the covenant the God had made with them.
“I will take you away from the burden of Egypt.
I will take you for my people and you will know that I am your God.” Ex 6: 6-7
This is the same loving, life-giving relationship that should exist between God and Us.
You will notice that temple is mentioned eleven times. The temple is symbolic of our relationship with God. God was present in the temple in a special way. People believed that it was here that they came closest to their loving, forgiving and generous God – a God who gives his love to us at NO COST.
Jesus is angry because the essence of this relationship has been reduced to a matter of buying God’s love with sacrifices. As long as we fulfil a list of rules then we will be pleasing to God. Gone is the ever faithful, loving and merciful God. He has been replaced by a ‘computer’ God who records all our deeds both good and bad and who insists that we end up with a positive balance at the end of our lives.
Isaiah spells this out for us.
“ .. these people draw near to me with their mouths and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote. Is 29: 13 Mark also quotes this in Mk 7: 6-7.
However James tells us; “Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows in their hardship, and in keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.” Jm1: 27
Jesus warns the authorities:
“You are destroying the loving covenant between God and Humanity.”
“Destroy this sanctuary (the temple), and in three days I will raise it up.”
“I assure you that God will intervene,”
(this is what in three days means – God will step in and fix things)
“and restore his loving relationship with humanity.”
No wonder that Jesus was angry when he saw how the priests had turned religion into a heavy burden instead of:
“Taking away from you away the burden”
Lord there was a time when we made our relationship with you a matter of rewards for good works. We complained that you let us suffer, that you left our prayers unanswered, that others, we considered less virtuous than ourselves, were more blessed than we were. But all the time it was Jesus cleansing your house, driving away the baggage of the marketplace, so that we could come to you in humble adoration and trust.
Remind us, Lord, that the only sanctuary that counts is the body of Jesus, his love, his solidarity with the poor and the oppressed; and once we are truly his body in our society, we can rebuild in three days whatever the earthly powers destroy. 1 Amen
- De Verteuil M; Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels; Mark; p 55