Sunday of week 3 of Lent – Readings


Commentary on Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-25

THE GOSPEL PRESENTS a dramatic scene where Jesus shows himself as Lord of the Temple. It does not seem in character to see Jesus with a small whip of cords physically driving out the traders in cattle, sheep and pigeons – animals to be used in sacrifices. And the moneychangers. They were needed because only Jewish money could be offered in the Temple. Roman coins had the image of Divus Augustus (the ‘divine Augustus’) and so were regarded as idolatrous; they had to be exchanged for Jewish coinage.

Jesus objected not to the trade as such which was quite legitimate but to its being done in the temple precincts, “my Father’s house”. “Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.” Such business should have been carried on just outside the temple precincts but we know that in our own time hawkers try to get as close to the action as possible, especially if they have competition. It is also not at all impossible that the temple authorities connived at the practice and may have even benefited if the traders had to “rent” spaces in the Temple to do their business.

This would explain the priests’ anger at what Jesus was doing. “What’s going on here? What sign can you show to justify what you are doing?” Jesus replies: “Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.” They come back: “It has taken 46 years to build this temple and you can raise it in only three days?” This was indeed true and, in fact, the building had not yet been fully completed at this time.

But Jesus was speaking about another sanctuary, another temple where God lived – his own body. Through this event we are reminded during Lent of what we are preparing to remember and celebrate – the death and resurrection of Jesus.

A hard saying

It is the very heart of our faith. But, as Paul explains, writing to the Christians of Corinth, Jesus’ death to the Jews was (and is?) a stumbling block, a scandal, an insurmountable obstacle. It was impossible for them to accept that the Messiah, their Saviour and King, could suffer such an ignominious death at the hands not only of Israel’s enemies but even more of his own people. That just could not be; God could not allow it.

To the Gentiles, the pagans, it was meaningless. Power and domination and influence were what counted in their world. The idea that someone executed like and with common criminals should be worshipped as Lord was nonsense, it was something to be ignored and laughed at and rubbished – as it still is by many in our own society today.

God’s wisdom

But to those who have been called and who answer the call – be they Jews or Gentiles, men or women, slave or free – it is the power and wisdom of God. The death of Jesus to any objective observer seems like utter failure, to believe in such a Lord seems stupid but those with the eyes of faith can see the power of love in that death.

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