March 13, 2009

MARCH 13 – CHECKMATE IN THE TEMPLE

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By Sheldon Good, a senior communication and business double major from Telford, Pa.
SCRIPTURE: John 2:13-22 (NRSV) Scroll down for complete Scripture.

DEVOTIONAL: I can distinctly remember the accompanying picture in my children’s Bible from first grade about when Jesus cleanses (condemns) the temple. I remember considering what it would look like if Jesus came and overturned our tables at one of my church’s fellowship meals.

According to the Gospel of John, Jesus used a whipcord during his demonstration at the Jerusalem temple. The temple had become a marketplace for cattle and currency. To use today’s political rhetoric, the church and Wall Street collided — as if big business bailouts and stingy stimulus packages were being signed within the temple.

Jesus upended the tables and embarrassed the religious authorities. Check. Who gave you the authority to do this, the Jews quipped. Check. With his typical wit, Jesus challenged them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Checkmate.

There he goes again — Jesus and his double entendres. The double meaning of the temple as a literal house of worship and the figurative temple of his divinely incarnate body is clear to readers of John. But for God’s listeners, its full meaning wasn’t revealed until Jesus’ death and resurrection three days later.

God’s people had again lost their vision. They abandoned God’s vision of the temple as a “house of prayer,” as proclaimed in Isaiah 56:7. The Israelites rejected God’s house and would soon destroy God’s body. But we know that Jesus was raised from the dead, three days later, just as he foreshadowed.

As followers of the risen Jesus Christ, may we humbly place our cattle and currency in the hands of God. And may we re-orient our zealous temple worship toward God, our rock and redeemer.

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SCRIPTURE: John 2:13-22 (NRSV)

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After 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.

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Comments (12)

  1. THank you Sheldon, spoken like a young and excited believer.

    Pam Harrison March 13, 2009 |
  2. Well spoken, Sheldon. Your generation is doing some good thinking. You challenge us. Thank you.

    Mary K. Mishler March 13, 2009 |
  3. Nicely done Sheldon! Thank you for your meaningful devotion. I’m reading this at your alma mater, Christopher Dock, and I do not think they could be more proud of you here. Blessings as you move one day closer towards graduation.

    Jeff Hochstetler March 13, 2009 |
  4. Thanks for the challenge in the last line. I/we get very concerned, even pre-occupied with church finances. We have a chili supper fundraiser at church on Saturday and worship on Sunday. I’ll try to make Sunday the more important day.

    Rich Sisco March 13, 2009 |
  5. How nice to read these comments every morning when I turn on the computer. I would enjoy this throughout the year, but thanks at least for the Lenten thoughts.

    Grace K. Brunner March 13, 2009 |
  6. I agree with Rich, and wonder if the metaphor would be more that the church has begun to think and act LIKE Wall street and everything is a numbers game. The church planting numbers, the membership numbers, the building fund numbers… The mega church numerically is admired and held up for applause in unison with Larry King … if the “numbers” are not going up we see it as failure. hummmm

    Ann March 13, 2009 |
  7. Thanks Sheldon. Just one thing. When you talk about the Jews (like when the Jews questioned Jesus’ authority)…remember that Jesus was a Jew from birth to his death (and how his people saw him after resurrection). Talking about Jews instead of “religious leaders” could feed into anti-semitic thinking of some good church folks.

    barbara wenger March 13, 2009 |
  8. Thanks for the gentle reminder about priorities!

    ted March 13, 2009 |
  9. Perhaps the unintended message from Jesus and his band of reformers, coming out of hiding from John’s murderer Herod Antipas facing Caiaphas the Jewish leader and compromiser for money in the Temple, is a modern metaphorical story about the high energy cost of raising one pound of meat from cattle versus one pound of vegatables. The ratio is eight to one. “I am cutting down my consumption of meat,” I tell my many vegan friends.

    John Hackman March 13, 2009 |
  10. Right on, John (of the 21st C.) You got it. The Gospel of today for TODAY!

    judyjane1 March 13, 2009 |
  11. Sheldon, thanks SO much for mentioning Jesus’ wit and playfulness with words. I always think about the Lord as a fun and funny companion, despite his serious topics. It’s what I believe, and you nailed it!

    Maureen Nalezny March 14, 2009 |
  12. thank you so much. Perhaps it is not simply a double entendre but a triple or more. Perhaps today Christ would rebuild his body – the church. The Body of Christ certainly encounters destructive blows.
    well put within in our current life situation too. indeed the stimulus package and bailouts, penzie schemes and so much more compel us to trust deeply in a God whose economics defy every ‘wise’ one in our world.

    Rev. Stu Buisch March 15, 2009 |