It is ironic in a sense that we find John’s version of the cleansing of the temple as our Lenten reading today. For John, written last, perhaps in the very late part of the first century, or into the second, moves the time of this event in Jesus’ life.
Instead of immediately preceding his arrest and trial and crucifixion, John places the event at the very start of his ministry. Let there be no doubt what Jesus came to do, John announces!
And John brings an added element of violence to the whole affair, introducing the whip to the story.
Jesus enters the temple and witnesses what were the normal goings on. The money changers were hard at work exchanging coin of the realm (Roman) for coin that was “legal” in the temple–coin that did not bear the idolatrous figures of Caesar on them. Animals, for purchase as sacrifice wander around in some disarray.
Jesus, sees that in some measure, what passes as worship has been reduced to financial transactions. Bonhoeffer would call it “cheap grace.” One buys one’s sacrifice, and presents it to the priest. Religious obligations fulfilled. No wonder Jesus was disgusted.
What Jesus is pointed to is that this building, this temple is not God, it is not even where God need by worshipped. He points to himself as the true temple, and prophetically indicates that he will be “raised up in three days.”
Of course, most of those who witnessed this event did not understand. John does, and he reminds his listeners that upon his death, his disciples remembered the words and fully understood at last that Jesus was the embodiment of God.
We are told too that we are “temples” of God.
We understand this since God is Spirit, and resides within us.
But we are not Jesus. We merely emulate him as best we can.
It thus stands to reason that our temple is prone to reflect that one in Jerusalem.
It is prone to contain all manner of extraneous stuff, adherence to rituals and practices that have become meaningless in their routine. We are prone to bringing into our temple those thoughts and beliefs not worthy of such a place. We bring our angers and our fears, our jealousies and house them in this holy place.
We allow our temple to be polluted with too much food and drink, and we fail to care for it in other ways. We lack the strength of will or physical ability to do the work we are called to do to welcome in the Kingdom.
Lent is a time of cleansing. It is a time of evaluating, of fasting, and reflection. It is a time of change, reordering, and prioritizing.
Are you cleansing your temple?
Isn’t it about time you did?
- The Final Temple (jamespfitzgerald.wordpress.com)
- “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (worryisuseless.wordpress.com)
- 3rd Sunday of Lent – B (johnmsfs.wordpress.com)
- Jesus: No more business as usual! (maryharristodd.wordpress.com)
- Third Sunday of Lent, Year B: March 11, 2012 (prayerbookguide.wordpress.com)