The Risen Jesus is our Temple

Lent 3B

John 2: 13 25

Introduction

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

A short quote from a great old scholar will help us understand this passage.

"In his first public act, Jesus honoured the service of God, and maintained the sacredness of the very building in which it was offered. But we shall lose much of the significance of this act if we forgot the part of the temple which he cleansed. It was not the Holy Place or Sanctuary, not the Court of the Priests, not even the Court of Israel, but the Court of the Gentiles, which the iniquitous rulers of the Temple considered as only half sacred, and so scrupled not to farm out its area for the sale of things required in sacrifice, and for the change of coin which, being defiled with the image of the Emperor, could not be lawfully put into the treasury. So here we have the first assertion of the equality of all people in Himself. The place where believing Gentiles worshipped, and by consequence the worship which they offered, was as precious in the sight of God as that of His chosen people".

(M. Sadler 1898)

Some Notes On the Text

Verse 13

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Throughout his Gospel account, John refers to three Passovers. Jesus attends each in the traditional manner. On the eve of Passover, the head of every family carefully collected all the leaven in the house, and there was a general cleansing. Jesus was doing in his Father's house what was being done in every home in Jerusalem.

Verse 14

In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.

As the diagram indicates, the Temple Sanctuary was surrounded by the Court of the Priests, the Court of Israel and the Court of Women. Around all of these lay the forecourt of the Gentiles.

The Temple was always crowded at Passover. The authorities made it worse by allowing both money changers and merchants to operate in the Court of the Gentiles. Thus non-Jews would have found it difficult to worship there, a space specified for this purpose. Ancient Israel had always provided for the "stranger" who wished to join Israel in the worship of God. But by the time of our Lord, many looked upon the Court of the Gentiles as profane. Jesus, by cleansing it, showed that it was holy, and vindicated for the Gentiles a rightful place in the true Temple of God.

So Jesus is really acting in the ancient tradition of Israel which taught:

"All who possess these three traits are without question of the seed of our father Abraham: mercy, shyness, and loving kindness (Yevamoth 79a)

MAP OF THE TEMPLE OF HEROD

Verse 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.

We see how the Spirit of Christ is not altogether a mild, gentle, quiet Spirit. Disturbing the peace in this way was not only justifiable but essential if justice and holiness were to be preserved. In this way our Lord models the just use of force.

Verse 16

To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"

Jesus' reference to "my Father's house" is a public claim before the officials, of being Messiah.

Verse 17

His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me."

The disciples are reminded of Psalm 69: 10. This Psalm is the most quoted in the N.T., and always with reference to the Messiah.

Verse 18

Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?"

Asking for a sign was like asking for a proof of a proof. His act was itself a sign which they should have interpreted. There was a wide belief, probably based on Malachi 4, that the Messiah should begin his work by just such a cleansing of the minutest stain in the Temple. The real point at issue is Jesus' authority for his actions. John argues that the authorities must look at what Jesus is doing, and then they will find the answer.

Verse 19

Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."

The word for Temple that Jesus uses here is different from the word in verses 14 and 15. Here he refers to the inner Holy of Holies. He is making his point very emphatically.

Verse 20

The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?"

Even at the time they were speaking, the Temple had still not been completed. They take Jesus very literally and two-and-a-half years later distort his words at his trial.

Verse 21

But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

Jesus' body may be truly spoken of as the Temple of God, because it was through the person of Jesus that God fully revealed himself, and it is through encounter with Jesus that we meet and worship God. Jesus' body for the new Israel was to be the Temple of God. In it was the true and abiding Shekinah-glory; the Presence of the Word.

For Us to Ponder

We take the following from the notes of George Reith (1889):

"The worship in the adjacent courts was disturbed; no proselyte of the gate could perform their devotion quietly and the scene and the noise must have been intolerable to Christ. The secularities of life are ever intruding into the domain and the service of God — the crowd of self-seeking worldly motives ready to encroach on the very holiest…..

It was a long established custom; no one knew when it had crept in or how…..We can very soon grow tolerant of an abuse which at first sight or when we see it in the perspective of history, we should condemn. There may be abuses in our church or worship, as well as in family or individual life to which we are through custom blind; and it is a great gift of God when one arises whose eye is spiritually open and single. The spirit of trade drives out the spirit of devotion, and religion itself becomes a tool for worldly and covetous practices. Some would convert their God into gold, and would desecrate the sacred day of rest for gain….. Our heart is the temple of the Holy Spirit and all its courts and chambers must be free of the profane traffic of evil. Admit its polluting touch even to the outmost of its precincts, and presently the shrine itself will be unholy."

In asking for a "sign" from Jesus, the authorities disclose their deep-seated opposition to the light. Instead of acknowledging their sin of tolerating abuses, and asking for Jesus to help to correct them, they took up an attitude of resistance. Sin pointed out to us often determines character by the way we receive the rebuke.

Like all true reformers, Jesus has reverence for the past. He does not say, "Let sacrifices cease. I am come". Rather he points out the immoral trafficking in holy things. Not by leaping down from the pinnacle of the Temple ( a bid for power), but by entering the Courts as a humble God-fearing worshipper (an appeal to conscience) did Jesus come. Sometimes to correct a plain abuse is the best if humblest method of preparing the way of the Lord in the Church or in one's own life.

Conclusion

As the resurrection will for all time proclaim, the temple of God is the glorified body of Jesus, as dwelt in by the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In spiritual union with him, all believers are members of his Mystical Body, and therefore, in a real sense, also dwell in his divine presence. This has implications for us in our daily prayer and meditation. When we stop to recollect ourselves and recall the presence of God, it is this image of us as members of his Body, the Church, which is so very important.

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