Clearing a Path to Worship
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In the gospel for today, Jesus discovers that the temple has been turned from a place of worship into a marketplace. The predominance of the selling of animals and the exchanging of money for profit overshadow what is supposed to be the main activity in the temple, worshiping God. The vendors and moneychangers seem to be more interested in serving their own interests and greedily filling their purses with coins than in serving God and God’s people. Instead of helping people worship God, they are getting in the way. The commercialization of worship means that those who cannot afford the costs are unable to offer their worship to God, and money becomes a god more valued than the God to whom the temple was dedicated.
Jesus finds this situation unacceptable. The first commandment clearly states, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:3). Jesus will not allow anything, especially money, to be given more devotion than God. In addition, Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was to take away the barriers between humans and God, so that all people might be reconciled to God through him.
John’s gospel is unique among the four gospels in that it places the story of Jesus clearing the temple at the beginning, rather than the end, of Jesus’ ministry. This placement shows how John’s gospel emphasizes that Jesus has come to replace the temple. No longer will God’s presence be confined to a place, the temple, but instead, God’s presence is now embodied in the person of Jesus. Jesus welcomes all to him, and erects no barriers or limits on who can be his follower.
Gospel: John 2:13-22
Jesus attacks the commercialization of religion by driving merchants out of the temple. When challenged, he responds mysteriously, with the first prediction of his own death and resurrection. In the midst of a seemingly stable religious center, Jesus suggests that the center itself has changed.
13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making 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. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After 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.