THEMES: The story of God’s saving revelation is at the heart of the lectionary readings.
God’s gift of the law, and the value of God’s law which brings wisdom.
In the Old Testament the Lectionary has chosen the giving of the Ten Commandments to Israel.
The Ten Commandments in Exodus lifts up God’s gift of the law of Moses, through which Jews found righteousness.
This was the first step in God’s plan to turn the newly liberated slave-people of Israel into a God-reflecting community. The commandments were not meant to restrict the people. They were instructions to help them live in freedom—freedom from all of the oppression, idolatry and fragmentation of their lives in Egypt. The first four commandments called for love of God and the last six called for love of one another. Together the commandments were ten invitations into the freedom of love.
The psalm heralds God’s law: perfect, enlightening, and life-giving.
But Paul tells the churches at Corinth that while the Jews still look to the law, the fullness of God’s salvation is revealed in the gospel.
In John, Jesus’ action and prophecy in the temple courtyard underscores the notion that, with Christ, we have the fullness and successor to the law.
In the Gospel reading from John that is set for this week, we discover what happens when we choose slavery over freedom. Here Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers and animal sellers in the Temple, because they were operating corruptly, and the priests were getting a kick-back. The Temple was supposed to be the centre of Israel’s liberated national and religious life, but it had become a centre of oppression, corruption and exploitation. Jesus’ shocking upsetting of the whole system was a prophetic act calling God’s people back to the liberation of love.
2:13 The Passover celebration took place yearly at the temple in Jerusalem. Every Jewish male was expected to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem during this time (Deuteronomy 16:16). This was a weeklong festival—the Passover was one day, and the Festival of Unleavened Bread lasted the rest of the week. The entire week commemorated the freeing of the Jews from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:1–13).
2:13 Jerusalem was both the religious and the political seat of Palestine, and the place where the Messiah was expected to arrive. The temple was located there, and many Jewish families from all over the world would travel to Jerusalem during the key feasts. The temple was on an imposing site, a hill overlooking the city. Solomon had built the first temple on this same site almost 1,000 years earlier (959 B.C.), but his temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians (2 Kings 25). The temple was rebuilt in 515 B.C., and Herod the Great had enlarged and remodelled it.
2:14 The temple area was always crowded during Passover with thousands of out-of-town visitors. The religious leaders crowded it even further by allowing money changers and merchants to set up booths in the court of the Gentiles. They rationalized this practice as a convenience for the worshipers and as a way to make money for temple upkeep.
But the religious leaders did not seem to care that the court of the Gentiles was so full of merchants that foreigners found it difficult to worship.
And worship was the main purpose for visiting the temple. No wonder Jesus was angry!
2:14 The temple tax had to be paid in local currency, so foreigners had to have their money changed. But the money changers often charged exorbitant exchange rates. The people also were required to make sacrifices for sins. Because of the long journey, many could not bring their own animals. Some who brought animals had them rejected for imperfections. So animal merchants conducted a flourishing business in the temple courtyard. The price of sacrificial animals was much higher in the temple area than elsewhere.
Jesus was angry at the dishonest, greedy practices of the money changers and merchants, and he particularly disliked their presence on the temple grounds. They were making a mockery of God’s house of worship.
2:14ff John records this first clearing, or cleansing, of the temple. A second clearing occurred at the end of Jesus’ ministry, about three years later, and that event is recorded in Matthew 21:12–17; Mark 11:12–19; Luke 19:45–48.
2:14–16 God’s temple was being misused by people who had turned it into a marketplace.
They had forgotten, or didn’t care, that God’s house is a place of worship, not a place for making a profit.
Our attitude toward the church is wrong if we see it as a place for personal contacts or business advantage.
make sure you attend church to worship God.
2:15, 16 Jesus was obviously angry at the merchants who exploited those who had come to God’s house to worship.
There is a difference between uncontrolled rage and righteous indignation—yet both are called anger.
We must be very careful how we use the powerful emotion of anger. It is right to be angry about injustice and sin; it is wrong to be angry over trivial personal offenses.
2:15, 16 Jesus made a whip and chased out the money changers. Does his example permit us to use violence against wrongdoers?
Certain authority is granted to some, but not to all.
For example, the authority to use weapons and restrain people is granted to police officers, but not to the general public.
The authority to imprison people is granted to judges, but not to individual citizens.
Jesus had God’s authority, something we cannot have.
While we want to live like Christ, we should never try to claim his authority where it has not been given to us.
2:17 Jesus took the evil acts in the temple as an insult against God, and thus he did not deal with them half-heartedly. He was consumed with righteous anger against such deliberate disrespect for God.
2:19, 20 The Jews understood Jesus to mean the temple out of which he had just driven the merchants and money changers.
This was the temple Zerubbabel had built over 500 years earlier, but Herod the Great had begun remodelling it, making it much larger and far more beautiful.
It had been 46 years since this remodelling had started (20 B.C.), and it still wasn’t completely finished.
They understood Jesus’ words to mean that this imposing building could be torn down and rebuilt in three days, and they were startled.
2:21, 22 Jesus was not talking about the temple made of stones, but about his body.
His listeners didn’t realize it, but Jesus was greater than the temple (Matthew 12:6).
His words would take on meaning for his disciples after his resurrection.
They were offered as a liberating guide for the life of a free people. In the same way, the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus is a “foolish” act, undermining the corrupt systems of power and wealth that had crept into the religious and national life of God’s people. His act was a liberating, prophetic act revealing how a liberated people, a people of God’s Reign, should live.
When questioned about his authority, Jesus pointed not to power or wealth, but to the giving of his life for the sake of love.
The question that is posed then, this week, is whether we will embrace the foolishness of God’s law of love and live it out as Christ did in selfless sacrifice and service, or not.
That Christ so perfectly fulfilled this prediction became the strongest proof for his claims to be God.