GOSPEL READING / JOHN 2:12-25
The Gospel Reading of the dramatic story of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple give us cause to consider anew what constitutes true worship and what is a true house of God.
The Gospel Reading for the 3rd Sunday of Lent recounts John’s version of Jesus cleansing the temple (John 2:13-25).
Unlike Matthew, Mark and Luke who place this episode right before Jesus’ passion near the end of their Gospels, John places it at the beginning of His Gospel.
In John’s Gospel, no sooner does Jesus miraculously turn water into wine at Cana, than Jesus leaves Galilee and travels to Jerusalem. As soon as he enters the temple, Jesus is sickened to see selfishness having supplanted right worship of God.
The tension quickly escalates. Making a whip out of cords, Jesus uses it to help drive out everything out of the temple, including the sheep and cattle (v. 15). Friends, the verb explaining Jesus’ dramatic action is the same word used elsewhere to describe what Jesus does to demons – to drive them out, to expel them, to cast them out, to exorcise them. The connection is unmistakable between Jesus’ cleansing action in the temple and his healing people possessed by unclean spirits.
Unique in John’s telling of the story, Jesus speaks directly to those selling dove and tells them, “to take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a market place” (v. 16). The exact same word “dove” appears in the previous chapter. Right after Jesus’ baptism, the “dove” descends on Him (cf. 1:32).
Since the story of Noah, “dove” symbolizes a new creation of God’s glorious design. In this instant, Jesus Himself appears as God’s new creation. The Holy One of God upon whom the dove descended goes to the temple and throws out those selling doves which represent false religion.
It all now is crystal clear: Jesus is the living temple of God (v 21).