In today’s Gospel reading Jesus is back in the Temple, lashing out in anger at those who were trading there. This incident appears in all four Gospels: at the beginning of His ministry as written here in John and associated with the Passion narratives in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke).
A popular interpretation has been to see this incident as an example of Jesus’ humanity; He got angry, just like the rest of us. Actually, we have to be careful that in our eagerness to claim similarity and ourselves we are in danger of missing a much deeper truth.
John does not have to ‘prove’ Jesus’ humanity; after all he has already affirmed that at the beginning of his Gospel, “the Word became flesh”.
It’s much more important to realise the authority that the fully human Jesus claims for His words and actions
The traders that Jesus drove out were not gate crashers into the daily life of the Temple; far from it, they were essential to the whole operation of the Temple cult. Animals and birds were needed for sacrifices., and the money changers were essential because coins bearing the Emperor’s head were not acceptable within the Temple precincts. When the outraged Jews demanded to know by what authority Jesus did these things, He refers cryptically to His future Passion and death.
“Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up”
This was a revolutionary claim. For the Jewish nation, the Temple was the very place where God’s presence was among His people, the beating heart of their faith and worship.
But by referring to the temple of His body, Jesus was effectively claiming that the cult of the Temple was now in the past; the presence of God upon earth was now embodied, not in a building, but in Christ Himself.
The scandal and the challenge continue to this day. A great danger for the Church in any age is to fall into the trap of assuming that the authority of the Church is the same thing as God’s authority
When we think of our own Christian communities, what are the ‘sacred cows’, areas that we have closed off for discussion, declared non-negotiable, made impervious to the healing and renewing action of Christ’s Spirit?
The danger is there for all of us, whether we are part of a long-established church community or a new fellowship.
If we truly read and understand the authority challenging words and actions of Jesus, we can allow them to show us new ways of seeing God and the ways in which He seeks to draw us more fully into the depths of His love.
As with Saul, the scales fall from our eyes and we see things as if for the first time. The yardstick for all our Christian communities must be the revelation of God in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
How open are we prepared to be?