Third Sunday of Lent (B)
1 Clearing Out The (Old) Temple
The selling of cattle, sheep and doves, to enable people to offer sacrifice at the Passover shows us institutionalised, organised religion which has lost its way. God is no longer the focus of prayer and worship. These animals had to be purchased in the temple tours by pilgrims who had made the long journey to the Temple. It wouldn’t have been practical to bring their own animals with them, the rich bringing their bulls, and the poor, their pigeons.
And then there was the temple tax to pay and money would need to exchange hands so that the Tyrian coinage could be used. Unscrupulous money changers would see that as an opportunity to make a fast buck. Exploitation ruled. Getting rich at the expense of others, ironically, something the Jewish Law tried to prevent. The chief priest was sure to take his cut from all that was going on.
All of this took place in the Court of the Gentiles. Maybe the Jews thought it was ok for it to happen there. They were Gentiles anyway. Better there than in the Inner Courts, where the real stuff happened! But even the Court of the Gentiles was meant for prayer and worship. Gentiles were not allowed to pray anywhere else in the Temple and this would have made that very difficult, if not impossible. No wonder Jesus was angry and took action to clear out the temple court.
2 The Question of Authority
When Jesus’ authority to do this was questioned by the Jews, Jesus cuts to the chase. He makes the connection with what was currently happening in the temple courts with what would be necessary – his death and resurrection. That sign – and remember the Jews were demanding a sign – that sign would be the only sign that would bring the radical, ground shifting change needed to the whole religion.
3 Christ’s Body as the Temple
Jesus walked in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. He was 100% God and 100% human. The God man. God resided with him always and in that sense he was, and is, the temple of God. But Jesus knew that God would not be found in the commemorative sacrifice of animals and birds but in the giving up of his own life. His dying and rising would give birth to a new temple, where God would dwell by His Spirit, in all people. That’s why the Bible says, I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20), and in him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
4 Implications for our bodies
Christ must come into our lives on a daily basis to clear out the noise of institutionalism and consumerism and everything else that prevent us from prayer and worship – the excuses, the fear, the laziness, the pride, the anger. He needs to come in and replace all of this with his new life authority. He now reigns in all who will believe. His Spirit guides, and he will raise us up. The question is then, are our hearts places of prayer and worship or are they cluttered with consumerism and the rest?
Today, in the sacrament of communion, we have the opportunity to remember Christ’s sacrifice of his body on our behalf, and to receive the cleansing power of his blood and the nourishment we need in the living bread. We can come in obedience and in faith, and have our bodies better equipped to be temples where God swells by his Spirit. We can become more like Jesus, in this small act, which he has left us to do.
Come into the temple of my heart
Clear out the clutter and the mess
Forgive me once more
Take authority over my whole life
Fill my heart space with prayer and worship