“The Tragic and Triumphant Cross Leading to Hope for Us All”
“The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 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. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him. ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 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.” (John 2:13-22)
The account of the cleansing of the temple is present in all four gospels, and in each gospel it takes place at the feast of Passover and is related to the passion and death of Jesus. Passover was the annual pilgrimage festival in Jerusalem which expressed Jewish hope for redemption and a new liberation. It was at the time of this feast that Jesus went u to Jerusalem “to depart from this world and go to the Father” by being lifted up on the cross.
Jesus describes the temple as “my Father’s house”. The Temple was not just a place of worship, but it was honored as the place on eaarth where the God of Israel, the Father of Jesus, dwelt. But the gospel episode is not really about the temple itself; it is about who Jesus is. He is the one who will replace the temple in Jerusalem as the place of God’s presence in the world. As the crowd challenges the actions of Jesus in the temple; he proclaims, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up”. The crowd applied the words of Jesus literally to the temple of stone which stood before them, an edifice that had been under construction for forty-six years. But the narrator offers us a correct understanding when he says that Jesus “was speaking about the temple of his body.” The destruction of the body temple is the passion and death of Jesus, the raising up in three days is his resurrection.
In John’s gospel the cleansing of the temple is not an attempt by Jesus to purge the temple of commercialism, but rather an expression of his zeal for manifesting God’s presence in the world. After the resurrection of Jesus the disciples are able to remember and believe both the scripture and the word Jesus spoke about the temple. The scripture was Psalm 68:9, “Zeal for your house will consume me” and the word Jesus spoke was “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The death and resurrection of Jesus enabled his disciples to comprehend the meaning and significance of his words and actions. Jesus was indeed consumed, even to the point of conflict and death, by his zeal for God’s house, for the presence of God in the world. But the divine presence did not require the physical temple of Jerusalem, for the Word had become flesh in the world. The temple that would be destroyed and rebuilt in three days was Jesus himself, crucified and risen, the new means of access to the unseen God, the new dwelling place of God’s presence in the world.
What needs to be expelled from the temple of you life so that you can better experience the presence of God?
Lord Jesus, you are the new temple not made with human hands. Accept the sacrifice of my life and unite it with your death and resurrection to become a perfect offering to the Father.