Text: John 2:13-22
Date: Lent III + 3/8/15
It is partly because of the shortness of Mark’s Gospel that those who designed our three-year lectionary decided to share some time especially in Lent and Easter with the apostle John. Though the lectionary, the particular choice of scripture readings, is not divinely inspired nor inerrant like the Bible, it for the most part has been assembled with careful thought.
Today we hear of the first cleansing of the Jerusalem temple by Jesus. It is a wonderful addition to Mark’s Lenten witness because it not only tells of an early event in Jesus’ earthly ministry but it also echoes and agrees with Mark’s insistence of getting to his goal, namely to proclaim the gospel of the death and resurrection of the Lord. You will see the clear connection as stated by John. The goal of our consideration of this text on this third Sunday in Lent, therefore, is for the eyes of our faith to see Jesus as our mighty Messiah, the very Person of God who came and comes to be with us and for us so that we may be counted among the family of God and be with Him now and forever.
John records the first miracle of Jesus at the wedding at Cana. It was not done as some spectacular sign to meet some desperate need. Jesus turned water into wine simply to supply the further joy of the day and to save the host from embarrassment. Even the master of the feast didn’t know it was the miraculous gift of Jesus but only suspected that the bridegroom was a cheapskate withholding the good wine until the end.
What a contrast, then, with Jesus’ violent act just a few days later in Jerusalem! The need was great for it was to reestablish the proper worship of and faith in God. And it was very public.
All this hubbub started innocently enough merely to meet two practical needs. There was a foreign currency exchange and a supply of the animals needed to be offered in sacrifice. But how many things in the church begin only to meet a practical, even a pious, spiritual need but then take on a life of their own? Follow the money—to what extent did the selling of animals and exchange of currency become a profitable business with little concern for the prayer going on just behind them in the temple?
Jesus used a whip of cords or ropes with which you can be sure He made contact not only with the animals but also the merchandisers, turning over the tables, spilling the carefully stacked coins, and who knows the stampede of oxen and panic of sheep that resulted? He succeeded in driving all out of the temple mainly because His divine power caused fear among them all. How different from the gentle, even hidden miracle at Cana! “Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” Follow the money!
When confronted by the temple priests and guards they asked for some sign for His authority to do this. Well, what sort of “sign” would convince them? Pulling a rabbit out of a hat? Hardly. There is only one sign for unbelief, the final sign of judgment. So Jesus plants an enigma, a mysterious image that none would be able immediately to understand nor to forget until one of two things happened. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Those who think, like these men, only of the building they were standing in would not understand until it really happened when the temple was destroyed never to be rebuilt again for the glory of God had departed; rather, that glory had now been relocated in the temple of the body of Jesus. For, John says, “He was speaking about the temple of His body.”
One can know that only when one hears and believes that the Lord is risen from the dead. The three days, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday of the Great and Holy Week are celebrated not only every year at the end of Lent but every Sunday, every Lord’s Day especially as we proclaim the Lord’s death in the sacrament of the altar. So John writes, “When therefore 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.”
“Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” As the only Son of God He had the right and the desire to restore this place, His house, and the liturgy that took place there to be God’s house of prayer. So is the Divine Service that Biblical setting handed down to us through the ages specifically to be the means of God’s presence and the prayer of the faithful.
The temple was the place where God was present and could be found. It was the place where the prescribed animal sacrifices for sin was done. But the temple was only a type, as were the sacrifices, a promise of the fulfillment to come, namely, Jesus. Now the body of Jesus is the location of God as He said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” And now the body of Jesus would also be the fulfillment of all the animal sacrifices, the one and only sacrifice of blood able to take away the sin of the world. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. The blood of Jesus cleanses you from all sin. And we come into contact with the blood of Jesus in a way more than words or invisible faith but now according to His own reliable words in the sacrament of the altar. (I’m so glad that we will begin in today’s Bible class to review and learn about the sacrament).
Today we who believe that the Lord is risen from the dead are likewise to remember and believe. You see how welcome this little detail from John’s Gospel is to Mark’s concern from the very beginning: to proclaim the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus as “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).
The wonderful new hymn by Timothy Dudley-Smith summarizes.
No temple now, no gift of price,
No priestly round of sacrifice,
Retain their ancient pow’rs.
As shadows fade before the sun
The day of sacrifice is done,
The day of grace is ours.
The dying Lord our ransom paid,
One final full self-off’ring made,
Complete in ev’ry part.
His finished sacrifice for sins
The covenant of grace begins,
The law within the heart. (LSB 530)