4 March 2018
Third Sunday in Lent
Lent 3B (RCL)
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John’s Gospel moves the Temple act from the end of Jesus’ ministry to near the beginning. If anything like the Temple act really took place, it seems unlikely that the Roman protectors (oppressors) of Jerusalem would have waited for a trial to crucify the instigator. It makes much more historical sense at the end of Jesus’ ministry, so we are forced to ask why John would move it to the beginning.
After the act, the authorities ask Jesus what sign he can give for doing this. Of course, this even takes place (in the narrative) immediately after the changing of the water to wine, Jesus’ first sign. The sign of the wine takes place at a wedding. Sacrifice creates kinship. At the foot of the cross, Jesus will create a new household of his mother and the beloved disciple (just before the blood and water come from his side). The Temple’s sacrificial system created the broad kinship system of the nation.
The laws in Leviticus required that the animal offered be from one’s own herd, and that the grain offering come from one’s own field. The priest then examined the animal and the offerer to make sure the offering was in accord with the commandment. Presumably, the priest might well ask if the offerer had harvested his field to the edge, or left some gleanings for the orphan and widow. Purchasing animals at the Temple (already inspected) subverted the offering of one’s own effort and the family economy. The Temple became a national institution, rather than a source of face-to-face economy. Commerce had replaced cultivation and husbandry.
Also, the buying and selling would have taken place in the court of the Gentiles, so the Temple would no longer be a house of prayer for all nations.
In the Ten Commandments, the word against idolatry and the word concerning the sabbath take up the most space. Commerce is an idol that replaces the offering of self and economy. The observance of the sabbath is a guard against the idol of commerce. Not even slaves or resident aliens can work on the sabbath. Everything necessary must come from close by. And the observance of the sabbath makes us imitators of God.
When the authorities ask Jesus what sign he can offer, he replies that he will tear down this Temple and rebuild it in three days. The word he uses for Temple is naos, which means sanctuary. He finds people buying and selling in the hieros, which means the Temple complex. Jesus’ Body become the sanctuary after his resurrection. His Body is the dwelling of God among humanity (much like the vision in the Book of Revelation, when the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven, without a Temple, because the dwelling of God is among mortals).
I wonder what we have to drive out of our Temple complex (the whole economic system that supports the centralization of the nation) in order to discover the dwelling of God in the body of Jesus.