Reflection by Anne Taylor

First Reading Exodus 20:1-17

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 1:22-25

Gospel John 2:13-25





When I was younger, I remember being taught that this Gospel text was a good example of Jesus’ humanity and was one that we could all relate to; like us, Jesus had a temper and gets mad too! I now see that there is so much more to this text; it demonstrates Jesus’ divinity AS WELL AS his humanity.

The Gospel according to John is believed to have been written somewhere between 90-100 CE, later than the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, so this major and still raw event is the lens through which John tells the story of Jesus. We must also be mindful that these events are written after the death and resurrection of Jesus which the author wanted to highlight.

There is no familiar nativity text at the start of John’s Gospel. After the words, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (1:1), we quickly meet John the Baptist and read of him bearing witness to Jesus as the Son of God. Next comes the calling of the disciples and their invitation to “Come and see”. Then the Wedding at Cana and straight into Jesus Cleanses the Temple, our text of this Sunday and a text found in all four Gospels, though the timing of this event is different. Pretty quickly, John is getting into the serious business of inviting the reader, like the disciples, to “Come and See”; to get to know this person he clearly identifies from the outset as the Son of God.

But back to this week’s Gospel text. It would have been an interesting sight, thousands of Jewish pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the ritual of Passover, one of the key celebrations of Judaism. They would have gathered at the Temple, keen to offer sacrifice. Because many had travelled quite a distance to be there, the practice was to purchase cattle, sheep and doves from the merchants rather than bring them from home as the animals had to be free from blemish. This was the custom as was the paying of Temple taxes which needed to be paid with coins which didn’t have the Roman Emperor’s image, hence the need for the moneychangers.  A necessary evil, some might say, but one which was accepted as part of Jewish life…until Jesus challenged the status quo. While there was the initial shock of Jesus driving out the merchants and moneychangers, the great controversy was that Jesus identifies God as his Father and names himself as a new Temple, a sanctuary, the dwelling place of God, living and openly available to them. No longer is God to be found solely in the Temple building but in the person and mission of Jesus, an encounter which they were, and we are, all invited into. Jesus’ mission, his love for the Father, his love for all people, his sacrifice, cannot be confined between mere bricks and mortar. He reaches out to all the ends of the earth. Jesus is the new Temple where there is infinite room for all. But wait, there’s more! Jesus gives a clear indication of his own death on the cross which the disciples would only comprehend in hindsight.

Just to be clear, Jesus is not attacking the Temple or the systems which were in place, but rather offering a new way of living the faith; no longer only measured by keeping the commandments which we hear about in the First Reading (and the 613 laws found in the Old Testament regarding ritual, legal, and moral practices), now it’s about living as Jesus lived; at its core is the love of God and love of neighbour. It’s not dependant on Temple sacrifice and the various processes involved. It’s about embracing personal sacrifice motivated by love, such as the giving of time and talent, a listening ear, acts of service…when in reality, we may prefer doing something else.

As hearers of the word in 2024, let us be open to encountering God this Lent as we are reminded of the wonderful gift of eternal life which has been offered to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the sanctuary and Temple of God.