Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 11, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

John 2:13-25

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me.

At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The cleansing in the temple in Matthew, Mark, and Luke occurs at the beginning of the last week of Jesus’ life. For various theological and literary purposes that emphasize the intertwined nature of the Law, the Temple, and Jesus’ ministry, John places this incident at the start of Jesus’ ministry immediately after the Lord changes water into wine at the Wedding Feast at Cana. Scripture scholars, however, tend to believe that the Synoptic gospels get it right, that the event was close to the Lord’s passion and death and probably was the immediate cause of the Lord’s arrest, trial, conviction, and execution. John takes literary license in placing the event at the start of Jesus’ ministry. He uses the event as a sort of mission statement that sums up what Jesus was about.

The two pillars of Judaism’s religious practice in the early first century at the time of the Lord’s life were the Law of Moses and worship in the Temple in Jerusalem. Over and over during the Lord’s ministry, Jesus spoke of the emptiness of the scribes’ and Pharisees’ strict and superficial adherence to the Law. Here in this passage, the Lord takes symbolic action against the Temple itself. Jesus’ ministry was a challenge against the hair-splitting formalism of Israel’s religious practice, and the people who were responsible for overseeing that system must have felt threatened by both what Jesus was saying and doing.

Jesus, for his part however, was constructing meaning through his words and actions, constructing meaning on multiple levels. What he said and what he did not only challenged the existing framework but also addressed the deepest transformation of the framework through his death and resurrection.

In our own existence, then, we can ask how we achieve the ever so human mission of creating meaning. Are we people who go along to get along, never reflecting on our actions, never endeavoring to fill our lives with deep, rich, and universal stories? Or are we people who seek to fashion narratives that explain the trajectories of our lives in light of the Lord’s presence in both the mundane and transcendent moments of our existence. Jesus’ actions in today’s gospel cry out to us to be people whose lives are filled with the deepest meaning.

(A quite excellent alternative explanation of what the Temple incident as a Johannine mission statement for Jesus’ ministry may be found here.)

Spiritual reading: I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. (Ezekiel 36:26)

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