B Cycle – 3rd Sunday of Lent 21
Jn. 2: 13-25
I was wondering how God’s house got so far from worship and disconnected from God’s desires. What is described is more than a church’s effort to support itself with fund raising events. This was a money making scheme that involved the leaders of the church. The law’s established by God involved a sacrifice for the atonement of sin and began when God made a covenant with Abraham to be his God and Abraham and his descendants would become a people who would be blessed by this one God. Unlike the gods of the nation’s surrounding them who demanded sacrifices the God of Abraham only required their hearts and required them to commit to a way of living that acknowledged him.
God demanded loyalty and a total avoidance of falling into the trap of worshipping the gods of the inhabitants of the nations surrounding them. God has been very specific about what he requires of us from the beginning of our relationship with him. Every aspect of their lives was to be guided by being aware of how our lives reflect our beliefs. As God’s people We are guided by a code of living according to God’s standards. If you go back and read all the laws given to Moses, you will find they cover every aspect of our lives. Finances, family relationships, lending, sexuality, how grievances were to be settled, worship, death, taxes, success, and failure. We are to be living in a way that shows we believe in One God who desires a relationship with us.
We do not have many details about the Israelites from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, to David’s rule as king but we do have glimpses. Before the temple was built, the sacrifice for the atonement of sin was made on altars build of stones piled up upon each other. David had a tent where the sacrifice was mad and there was not any permanent building until Solomon built the temple. Somewhere after the temple was built the sacrifice changed in a manner that opened the door for the scene Jesus reacts to in today’s gospel. This decline seems to begin after the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and was later rebuilt by Herod the Great as a monument not to God but to himself. The corrupt religious leaders of Herod’s day saw an opportunity to enrich themselves.
Animals were needed for the ritual offerings; therefore, they began selling animals in the temple precincts. The temple tax had to be paid in Hebrew Scheckel’s, so money changers were available to change the Roman coins into shekels. Why all of this is important for us to know is because the actions of Jesus are not consistent with the compassionate, loving, merciful Jesus who came to show us the father. It seems out of character with the Jesus who constantly was pointing out the short comings of the Pharisees. In those instances, Jesus never shows anger. Instead, he points out their hypocrisy. Yes, he calls them whitewashed sepulchers but that is not the same as using a whip to plummet them and drive the money changers out of the temple area.
To understand this action of Jesus we only need to understand why he came and what he was sent to do for us. Everything Jesus does was foretold to us by the prophets and this day in the temple was foretold by the prophets. One of them, the prophet Zachariah tells us “…every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be sacred to the Lord of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the flesh of the sacrifice in them. There shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of host on that day” (Zec.14:21).
The mission of the Messiah was foretold by the prophets and he was to heal the broken hearted, give sight to the blind, set the captives free and proclaim a year of favor. Jesus came to reconcile us to the father and his action on this day was to fulfill what the prophets said would happen on the day the Messiah appeared. This event happens at the beginning of the Gospel of John. The beginning of his mission begins with John connecting the prediction of the coming messiah with the cleansing of the temple.
The faith of those sacrificing was not enhanced by the business of money changing, but now that the Messiah has appeared, they could return to true worship. In fact, this story challenges us to look at ourselves and examine how we come into the presence of God.
Has our worship become routine, automatic, and following strict rituals without engaging our hearts? Have we become Pharisees, focused on external appearances without ever thinking how God desires us to live our faith in the world by an internal conviction of knowing God is with us?
Does the crucified figure of Christ hanging in the Church sanctuary have meaning beyond a stature or is it something real that moves in our hearts? Would Christ drive us out of God’s house because we have become caught up in how well our church functions instead of how well we are growing in our love of God?
It was intentional that the story of Jesus cleansing the temple comes at the beginning of the Gospel of John. Think about that for a moment for he came to reconcile us to the Father and to start with cleansing the temple is telling us something about how we worship. Jesus was demanding it change for his zeal for his fathers’ house he now demands we change by giving God a true sacrifice of our hearts.