Psalm 127:1-2; John 2:13-25
Grace and Peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!
Our gospel today is called “Jesus Cleanses the Temple,” But I like to call it “Angry Jesus!” Because he certainly was more than a bit aggravated! Jesus comes to the outer court of the Temple and finds what he feels has become a Marketplace instead of a place for prayer. It would be like having a gift shop in our Narthex before you enter. And I have actually been in a church in Myrtle Beach where there actually was a gift shop in the entrance. It was kinda weird!
Now the gospel of John is written a little differently than the other gospels. John places this story during the time of Passover, and records two other Passover visits… the third being the time of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. In the 3 other gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, there is only one Passover visit to Jerusalem, and it is Jesus’s last journey, where he is arrested and led to a cross. John’s gospel is not as chronologically organized as the others. Instead, he tends to select miracles and teachings to emphasize key theological themes such as “Everlasting Life” (in John’s 5th chapter) or “Belief and Unbelief” (in chapters 4, 7, and 12). And his particular placement of stories allows him much greater opportunity to detail what he sees as key events and teachings in the life of Christ. And we, the readers and the listeners, are then able to get to know Jesus in much more depth—and discover how deep a relationship He had with His Father.
John begins with Jesus the Man, and not Jesus the baby as the other three gospels begin. First, though, John establishes God’s hand in all that was and is to be, with my favorite verses in John. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the Beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and this life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” You can almost feel a curtain opening and narrator continuing the prologue from center stage and then the story unfolding in front of you.
In today’s reading, we are only two chapters into John and we are already with Jesus the Man as he travels to Jerusalem for this particular Passover. As was customary, Jesus went to the Temple there. And what he finds makes his blood boil! He sees the selling of all kinds of animals for sacrifice in the outer courtyard of the Temple and money changers at tables with lines of people waiting. They are changing their secular money into the approved temple coins. And I bet the temple made a profit there! Everywhere he looks, he does not see people doing what the space was intended for—praying and worshipping! Our minds can see him as he charges at the people, overturns tables, and then—using a whip of cords before him that he swings in the air—he forces everyone to leave.
And he is yelling, “Get out of here, and take your belongings with you! This is MY FATHER’s house! And here, he is establishing who he is, for those who are listening. It is this relationship of Father and Son that gives Jesus authority to do what He is doing. Jesus continues, “This area is not a marketplace for your transactions!” Please note that there were no people or animals hurt in the making of this story… this is a really a symbolic cleaning of a sacred space. Even Jesus’s swinging of the handmade whip could have actually allowed the animals time to escape! And we have the knowledge of Jesus’s future to know that it will be Jesus’s final act of sacrifice on the cross that will forever change these sacrifices in the Temple.
John then has the crowd asking Jesus, “What sign can you give us for doing all this?” And Jesus alludes to His crucifixion and resurrection by saying, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up!” No one quite understands what Jesus is saying, and they remind him that it has taken almost 50 years to build the temple. How could he do it in three days? But Jesus’s words would come back to his disciples at the time of his arrest, and death. And they would then know exactly what Jesus was referring to—his promised resurrection. John has a unique way of tying up the story of Jesus’s life, as he reminds us of words that were in the Old Testament, and words that will reveal a future time and more of who Jesus was, is and will be in the future. In the background of this story are the religious authorities watching this all play out and knowing that Jesus was actually angry at their own abuse of power and they began to look at Jesus differently and know they need to stop his assault on their power.
People during this time loved signs and miracles and wanted more of this from Jesus… but Jesus did not want God’s message to be overwhelmed by these things. God’s message did not need the trappings of miracles, but had to speak to people’s hearts. Jesus had come to give all the glory and honor to God and to help God’s people learn, love, and live God’s Word. He had a very big job to do and it is amazing what he accomplished in his three short years of ministry.
John has put this story here because that’s where he needed it to be, so he could demonstrate the reactions of the authorities from the very start of Jesus’s ministry and, more importantly, to point out Jesus’s identity early on. We have the advantage of knowing Jesus. And we meet in this sacred place at DFLC, just as the Jews met in the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus stands beside us here and everywhere we go. We meet here in this place so we CAN get to know Jesus better and SEE God’s hand wherever we look. We meet here to UNDERSTAND why Jesus gave His life for us! We meet here to continue to DEEPEN OUR LOVING RELATIONSHIP with a God that is OUR Father also. We meet here to SUPPORT EACH OTHER as we struggle with synching our daily lives to the life God wanted for us. We meet here as PEOPLE JOINED TOGETHER in one mission, one faith, and one belief. And we seek our neighbors near and far to join us in our holy mission.
And the words John begins his gospel with now take on deeper meaning and I want to read them again here: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the Beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and this life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness DID NOT (and we add) WILL NOT overcome it.” And to that God’s people say: Amen!