Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
When I read through the scripture for the day, I had to look at the calendar again. All of a sudden I was transported towards the end of Lent. I had this feeling as though we had missed much of the story. I felt this way because the first three Gospels (or what we call the Synoptic Gospels) place this story near the end of Jesus’ ministry. In fact, this story in those three Gospels is what triggers the Roman authorities to be on Jesus watch. For these stories, this is the story in which Jesus’ life changes towards death. This is the point that causes conflict and chaos.
For the Gospel of John, however, the cleansing of the temple is placed near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In fact, this story marks a second profound glimpse into how Jesus’ ministry will be. The wedding at Cana kicks off Jesus ministry with his first sign, his first act of ministry. He turns water into wine. He turns water in purification jugs into wine. Just a few verses later, John presents us with Jesus’ first foray into public ministry with the cleansing of the temple.
But why does he do it and why now? Jesus appears in Jerusalem after staying in Capernaum with relatives for a few days (recovering from an awesome party?). It is Passover. This means the max amount of people will be present for this explosion. Jesus knows that he will catch the attention of the Roman authorities (the Johannine community is also dealing with the Roman authorities who have destroyed Jerusalem…loss turns into victory?) Jesus cries out injustice and calls them all a marketplace. But this is the way is has to be, right? In order to sacrifice, you had to have the exchange for animals. This was the offering to the location to God. Now is when we should remember that John is written after the destruction of the Temple. By Jesus calling out the injustice that lies in Roman rule and offerings, he is essentially claiming there is no need for the Temple once he has begun his ministry for the Johannine community. Jesus is the Temple. Jesus is the location for God. Jesus is the call to stand up for the poor and marginalized. Jesus is God’s justice to the world.
This whole encounter sets the stage for transforming where God is, what God does, and the tension between the upside down kingdom and the powers that be. This encounter also reinforces that the Word of God has become flesh in Jesus. What does this mean for us today? Jesus has set us on a course in John. Jesus has torn down the idea that God has to be in a specific location but God is all around us and out there. God is crying out to tear down walls of injustice. Jesus holds the marketplace accountable and instead pulls us out of our consumeristic cloud towards a more holistic spirituality. Our pull should be outward to partner with God in the midst of the world. By doing so, we reveal who God is and who God will be.
Quotes of the Week “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” ― Charles Darwin
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” ― Elie Wiesel
“People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.” ― Dorothy Day
John 2:13-25 (NRSV) 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.
23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.
Questions for the Week
Where have you had enough with injustice?
What are you willing to stand up for?
What would you think if you were a disciple watching near by?