Gospel Reading John 2:13 – 25
Vs.13 Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
Vs.14 and in the Temple he found people selling cattle, sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at
the counter there.
Vs.15 Making a whip out of some chord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over
Vs.16 and said to the pigeon sellers, “Take all of this out of here and stop turning my father’s house into a market.”
Vs.17 Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: “Zeal for your house will devour me.”
Vs.18 The Jews intervened and said, “What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?”
Vs.19 Jesus answered, “Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Vs.20 The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?”
Vs.21 But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body,
Vs.22 and when he rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed in the scripture and the words he had said.
Vs.23 During his stay in Jerusalem for the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he gave,
Vs.24 but Jesus knew them all and did not trust himself to them;
Vs.25 he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.
Historical Situation of Gospel passage for 3rd Sunday of Lent Year B: John 2: 13-25
The event of the cleansing of the Temple is to be found in all four gospels; evidence of its historicity and its importance for the early Christian community.
While we might have expected Mark’s account given that it is year B, the church (in its wisdom) has presented us with John’s account, and indeed in year B we also read from John on weeks 4 and 5 of Lent. In the weekday cycle we read from Johns gospel from week four of Lent right through to the end of the Easter season..
When did this take place? This happened before the feast of the Passover. the Passover was one of the great Jewish feasts which was celebrated annually to commemorate God’s liberation of His people from slavery in Egypt. In John’s Gospel Jesus went to Jerusalem on three occasions to celebrate this feast and many commentators believe that this radical and subversive gesture was the straw that broke the camel’s back and precipitated his arrest.
Where did this take place? This took place in the Temple grounds in Jerusalem. The Temple was the privileged place of God’s presence, hallowed ground, therefore, for the Jewish people. Different sections of the Temple facilitated different activities from the “Holy of Holies” containing the ark of the covenant, to the altar of blood sacrifices of animals, to the places of assembly(separate places for men and women and non-Jews), and in the outer sections all the activity around buying and selling of animals for sacrifice and associated activities. Appalled by the manner in which this was being carried out: boisterous haggling and bawling, greed and cheating, showing a total lack of respect and reverence for God’s presence, Jesus lashed out in anger.
Who was there? Jesus and his Disciples; the Jews (perhaps temple Priests and temple guards among them); the pilgrims who would have come from all over Galilee, Samaria and Judea, the Traders and the Money Changers – only shekels would have been acceptable in temple trade.
What happened? There are three parts to this Gospel : V 13-17 – the actual cleansing of the temple by Jesus. V18-22 – a dialogue between Jesus and the Jews, with a comment (V17) from his disciples. V23 – 25 – a description of the ministry of Jesus which is separate from the main story.
V13: “Jewish Passover” as above. V14: “people selling …and money changers – Animals were slaughtered and presented as sacrificial offerings. They were sold in the outer margins of the Temple so that Pilgrims travelling from outside Jerusalem did not have to take them with them. Roman coins could not be used in the temple grounds and so the money changers were necessary but they were often dishonest and charged exorbitant rates.
V15-16: “he drove them all out” – Jesus could not tolerate activities which entailed so much corruption and abuse (and no doubt exploited the poor) and ran totally contrary to God’s plan for his people. In his anger and frustration he lashed out physically overturning tables and verbally challenging them to respect the One in whose House they were.
V17: “zeal for your house” – now the disciples understood what Scripture meant – no man or woman of God can stand by and do nothing in the face of such desecration.
V18: “the Jews intervened” – the Jews represent those opposed to Jesus – those weak in faith, with wrong values, looking for signs.
V19 -21: the dialogue between Jesus and the Jews highlights two different understandings of sanctuary – the Jews are concerned with the physical sanctuary, the building, which they believe house God’s presence, and which took 46 years to build and whose destruction would be a disaster. Jesus, on the other hand is focused on a new understanding of sanctuary – the presence of God embodied in his human person (and by extension in people). The presence and activity of God cannot be stopped – it may be delayed, frustrated, crushed but it will always rise again.
V22: looking back in the light of the resurrection the disciples understood what Jesus was talking about.
V23 – 25: these verses are separate from what goes before. Jesus recognises those who are only interested in what he can give them. The perceptive discerning Jesus is not easily seduced by flattery, acclamation or success.
Suggested Guidelines for Meditation.
Can we remember an experience of a “Temple” –someone or something sacred – being turned into a “market”- misused, abused or desecrated?
The “Temple” of our Prayer life.
The “Temple” of relationships – friendship, family etc.
The “Temple” of the human body
The “Temple” of community life.
The “Temples” of Nature.
The “Temple” of the Church institution.
The “Temple” of a fair and just society.
Remember how some “Jesus” person was determined to cleanse it and restore it to its original sanctity? – “Take all of this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.”
Can we remember the experience of being consumed by shock, disgust, and anger at what we knew to be a terrible violation of people or place “zeal for your house will devour me”?
Can we remember an experience of seeing someone, or perhaps ourselves, confront a wrong, an injustice or an abuse with great determination, courage, and fearlessness ? –
“Making a whip..drove them all out..scattered..knocked over..and yelled…”
Can you remember an experience in life when certain “temples” – buildings(bricks and mortar), reputation, popularity, status, success – to which we had given too much importance were partially or completely destroyed, and we came to a newer, deeper and truer appreciation of more lasting “Temples”? – life, family, friendship, community etc.
Can we recognize and celebrate in our lives or in our world a “Jesus person” who has a wise and discerning heart, in the sense that he/she will not be seduced by praise or acclaim, and can perceive the intentions of the heart