Zeal For Your House

Text: John 2:13-22
Date: Lent III + 3/4/18
In this year of St. Mark today St. John joins in for our Lenten meditation. He doesn’t interrupt but expands and deepens what we have learned so far from Mark. He is answering in a deeper way the question put before us by Jesus last Sunday, “Who do you say I am?”

As you know John doesn’t present what we call a synoptic story of Jesus strictly in terms of the historical sequence of events of His earthly ministry as do the other Gospels. Rather the Evangelist relates the various words and works of the Lord from a point of view the disciples were not able to perceive at the moment they were spoken or happened. His point of view is from the fully informed knowledge of the completion of Jesus’ earthly ministry, that is after His suffering, death and resurrection were completed. That becomes obvious today, right off the bat. For already John tells us about Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, something that happened in the final week before His death. St. John is answering Jesus’ question, “who do you say I am?” John says, Jesus is the everlasting new temple of the Lord and its supreme sacrifice. John is preaching about Jesus as God “the Word” as he calls Him in chapter one, who has come as the fulfillment of all of God’s promises through the Old Testament.
The Passover John mentions is that final Passover of Holy Week that finds its fulfillment in Jesus, the Lamb of God, the one sacrifice for sin. The evangelist relates the story of the cleansing of the temple. With a whip of cords Jesus made of some ropes found there, He drove out not only the money-changers sitting there but also all the animals being sold to the people for their sacrificial offerings. Jesus said, “do not make my Father’s house a house of trade,” the Greek word is “emporium.” Then John points us back to Psalm 69 with the words, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” There are at least two significant things here for our consideration.
First is the reference to the temple as “my Father’s house.” We are to recall that great, seminal event when the Lord told King David that He would make of David a house, that is, “When your days are fulfilled, and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son…. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam 7:11-14, 16). Jesus was born “of the house and lineage of David.” The house of the temple was always the place where people could find God. Now it will be in the new temple of the Body of Christ.
The Jews asked for a sign to show His authority to do these things, themselves blind to the sign they just watched! He told them the sign, saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews, of course, could only continue thinking of the physical sacred building in which they were standing that took forty-six years to build. So, John tells us, “But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” You see, Jesus cleansed the physical temple to be rid not only of its misuse by money-changers, but even to be rid of every other sacrificial animal because He, in His body, would become both the new, eternal temple where God can be found and dwells among us, and He would also become the one, final sacrificial Lamb Himself. No more need of animal sacrifices.
John tells us that “His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’” They remembered these things, that is, only after the completion of His becoming that new temple and that final sacrifice in His suffering, death and resurrection.
Here John is remembering the promise of Malachi 3 which says, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple” (Mal 3:1). So, John has “the Lord whom you seek” suddenly coming to his temple already in the second chapter of his Gospel and cleansing the temple of both sacrificers and sacrifices. Underlying this entire event are those words, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Those words refer to more than just that violent temple cleansing but ultimately to the Lord’s death. For the Lord’s death is the place of the new temple of His body and of the final sacrifice for sin. This is how His “zeal for the Father’s house” did indeed consume Him as the paschal sacrifice.
Jesus, in His body, is the new temple where God must be found. “No one comes to the Father except through me” He said (Jn 14:6). Jesus, in His body, is the final sacrifice in payment for the sin of the whole world, the sacrifice that opens heaven and offers the forgiveness of sins to all. Furthermore, Jesus, in His body, dwells in you through the sacrament. Therefore, Jesus, in His body, is you, His body the Church. For here He dwells with you continually applying and supplying the forgiveness of sins and your new identity as literally being the people of God. Here His Word and sacraments stand, inviting the world to come to receive the salvation of God.