Third Sunday in Lent

by Crossings

Exchanging the Old Temple for the New Temple
John 2:13-22
Third Sunday in Lent
analysis by Michael Hoy

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 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. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After 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.

DIAGNOSIS: Change-making

Step 1-Initial Diagnosis: Selling
This text, “the cleansing of the temple,” is present in all four gospels, though John places it at the forefront of Jesus’ ministry. The problem, on the surface of things, that Jesus encounters in the temple (and the problem that those in the temple area encounter with Jesus) is not simply commerce, the business of buying and selling. In fact, the problem is less with the buyers as it is with the sellers — those both are incriminated in the whip of cords and the turning of tables. The problem is the sense of business as usual in the temple of God — the selling of sacrifices and paying temple taxes, etc. All of these things leave the temple a symbol of the old and passing era, within the realm of the ordinary (and old) economy of the “marketplace” — you get what you pay for.

Step 2-Advanced Diagnosis: What sign?
Almost all commentators on this gospel narrative agree that the people then and there may have had trouble understanding what Jesus was doing, in his seemingly fanatical behavior. The text says as much in the query of “the Jews”: “What sign can you show us?” It is a clear sign that then-and-there, the people did not know what Jesus was up to, and were no doubt offended by his action. When the kingdom of the new comes into conflict with our own business as usual, however, neither do we find it any less scandalous.

Step 3-Final Diagnosis: Razed
This action is not, in itself, the solitary reason for Jesus’ crucifixion, but it does set the tone for his message — and his eventual crucifixion, especially with his hostile words about the destruction of the temple, which were also misunderstood. There is a sure-fire indication that a threat is present in this Jesus. “The Jews” will find a way to deal with that, eventually. But for now, the threat is present that all that we hold sacred is threatened by destruction. What if God is, indeed, the one who brings it all to naught?

PROGNOSIS: Making a Change

Step 4-Initial Prognosis: Raised
Of course, what Jesus was speaking of in the destruction of the temple was the temple of his body. Not that the “old” temple would long endure either. But what is distinctive about Jesus’ temple (his body) is that it gets raised from the destruction — as the all new temple of worship. His temple endures the destruction of death and God’s destruction, and yet Jesus, speaking as God’s ambassador (“I”), claims that in three days it (he) will be raised — for all the world to see, for his raising is for all the world (both in death and in resurrection).

Step 5-Advanced Prognosis: Re-membering
The promise that Jesus had given about this temple-of-his-body is something the disciples “remembered” with the events that would take place. Whatever ignorance and unfaithful longing for other signs took place in the temple incident here, the disciples would not remain in the dark. They would remember that Jesus “had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” In faith, they are re-membered, reattached to this new temple-of-his-body.

Step 6-Final Prognosis: Consumed by zeal
What else did the disciples “remember” but the zeal of this new-ness, breaking in on the old. Indeed, no longer consumed by old-age consumerism, but by the newness of Jesus’ kingdom, they zealously went out and proclaimed this new Word. In so doing, they risked being hunted down as revolutionaries. But revolutionaries joined in the temple-of-Christ’s-body have a Word that cannot be retained — it is too good not to get out and infiltrate the world: you get what Christ paid for!


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