Lectionary Year B
March 26, 2000
John 2:13-22

Step V: Distillation


(JFC) The focal point of this pericope might be the reference to the Temple as "my father's House". A close second place might be Jesus' body's being seen as the Temple. Jesus' response to the Jewish leaders' questioning his clearing the Temple could be a close third place vote getter as a salient feature. The theological center of gravity could be the result of the disciples' recollections of scripture and their recognitions leading to belief in Jesus and the Scriptures. Jesus' actions and the attitude(s) that motivated him to perform accordingly really deserve much less attention than the former elements in my current estimation. Hoskyns and Davey see Jesus' behavior as "not merely that of a Jewish reformer; it is (rather) a sign of a Messiah's Advent; it is both a protest against the irreverence and corruption of Jewish worship, it is also a sign of the end of animal sacrifices." The sign the Jewish leaders request is also less important than the other elements. The story is mostly about Jesus as the Christ.

(DR) This incident in the Temple would have to have occurred in the outer court, the only place that non-Jews were permitted to enter. Yet what they witnessed when they came into this area was profiteering, dishonest dealings and chaos. This, of course, was not what temple worship was to be. What kind of witness did the Jews make to the Gentiles who came seeking to know God? (Cf. God's covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12: "I will bless you...so that you will be a blessing to all nations.").

(DR) Possible Contemporary Illustration:

Imagine a contemporary worship service on Sunday mornings in a suburban church. It is designed to appeal to "seekers," those who do not have a church home or a religious background. The music is contemporary and upbeat and the service (by design) has a very "laid-back" and casual style. With this laid-back style and atmosphere there is always the risk that some may cross the line from reverential worship to irreverence in their behavior and actions. Every so often it is necessary to remind people of how to properly behave and conduct themselves in this service... because there are people visiting who do not know God and who will draw their image of God and how God should be worshiped by the behavior and actions of those who are there.

(DR) This story about Jesus being indignant (or angry) toward the conduct in the Temple where the Gentiles were seeking to know God corresponds in some ways to this illustration of the place of proper conduct in a contemporary worship setting. How would Jesus respond if he came into our contemporary service and saw what it is we do? How do we balance an obligation to communicate the dignity of God in worship with our own desires to have worship with contemporary relevance and tone?


      13 And since the Jewish Passover was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And in the Temple (there) he discovered some sellers of cattle and sheep and doves and some money changers seated (thereabouts), 15 and he made (like) a whip from ropes and he drove all the sheep and the cattle from the Temple, and of the money changers he scattered their small change and he overturned their tables, 16 and to the sellers of the doves, he said, "Be gone from here, do not make of my Father's house a marketplace." 17 Thereupon, his disciples recalled (that) it has been written, "The zeal of your house shall be consuming me".
      18 Then the Jews answered and said to him, "What sort of sign are you showing us saying that this is right for you to do?" 19 Jesus answered and said to them, "If you break down this Temple I will reconstruct it in three days." 20 Then the Jews exclaimed, "It took forty six years to build this Temple and you in (only) three days can rebuild it?" 21 But in this conversation, Jesus was referring to the Temple of his body. 22 Now after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this and so they believed the Scriptures and the words of Jesus.


Someone notes that, "Stanley Marcus, the former chair of Neiman-Marcus, is one of this century's greatest retailing geniuses. His secret? ‘Those who demand quality are likely to get it,' he says. A church that demands high levels of discipleship is likely to get it. A society that demands respect and love among its citizens is likely to get it." Is this what our Savior is doing in clearing the Temple, cleansing the Temple? Is he trying to differentiate between what really matters, i. e., that God's presence symbolized in the Temple deserves uncluttered cleanliness and uninterrupted clarity? Is he trying to clarify the vision of God's presence envisioned by neophyte Christians and observers thereof that God's House represents a symbol of divine presence supreme? People of our days and times are victims of consumerism run rampant. Commercial ventures, entrepreneurial endeavors and selfish greed occupy our contemporaries' attentions almost without exception. It hardly occurs to us to question what is most important in life, for every T-H-I-N-G seems to be of utmost importance. Can this pericope bring us back to a consciousness of God's participating in our lives, especially in the value setting attempts of life of the faith?

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