MARCH 13 – CHECKMATE IN THE TEMPLE
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.
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.