Text – John 2:13-22:
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. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After 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.
The cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem is discussed in all four of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) this event is presented at the end of Jesus’ ministry, near to Jesus’ betrayal and execution by the Romans.
However, in the Gospel of John this event occurs near the beginning of the Gospel so that it may be understood differently – as a theological event which calls attention to the cleansing of the temple as a Passover lesson for the church. Since Passover is March 27-April 4 this year, it is a good reminder to pay attention to what John is teaching.
First, this is a Passover story. It calls us to pay attention to Jesus’ passion and death. In the same way the Passover story of Exodus pays attention to the death of a lamb and the spreading of blood on the door posts of each Israeli house.
Second, this story highlights the conflict of values that Jesus has versus the values of those who are more concerned with the form of religion like the religious leaders of Jesus’ time and the keepers of religiosity today. Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple because of the way their attempt to merge commence with worship.
Finally, it is a lesson to John’s church and ours regarding our love of control. Loving the forms of religion such as the Temple and our megachurches, but hating the change and upending of our religious practices (by Jesus) so that we will kneel before God alone.
Dear Jesus, you make a mess of our tidy lives. When we felt so good about the neat order of our religious services and our beautiful buildings, you disrupt and overturn our lives. With the reminder from John, we ask you to continue this disruption and help us to see where authentic devotion to God leads us. In Jesus’ name we pray this. Amen.