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Lent Reflections Week  Three: God Will Do Something New

Lent Reflections Week Three: God Will Do Something New

Monday March 8

The Rev Stuart Love reflects on the Cleansing of the Temple

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”  His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (John 2: 13-22 NIV)

When I was younger, it was trendy for Christians to wear “WWJD?” bracelets. The point of these was to remind us to act in a Christ-like way: to be forgiving or loving. Of course, we took great delight in reminding one another that it was also valid to say that, to act like Jesus, we could make whips out of cords, overturn tables, and drive people off!

This is a remarkable moment in the life of Jesus, as He reacts to the misuse and abuse of the Temple. I think, from the outset, it is worth noting that while Jesus' actions are powerful and disruptive, they are not violent. He does cast out those who were using the space in the Temple inappropriately, but there is nothing in the Gospel account to suggest that Jesus caused any injury.

Why was Jesus so incensed by the misuse of the Temple?

The Temple was meant to be the place where people could connect with God through worship. Yet, instead of worshipping God, commerce had intruded, and people were focussing on the exchange of money and goods. I am sure we can understand this: how often do we allow our desires for wealth or material things to obscure our relationship with God?

I also wonder how Jesus would react if He walked into one of our Church buildings today? I am certain that He would not see the kind of buying and selling He saw in the Temple. But I wonder if He would be pleased, or distressed, by what He sees?

Jesus’ actions are questioned by the religious authorities of the day: the very people who really should have known better, who failed in their responsibility to maintain the focus on God in the Temple. In response to their questions, Jesus gives a cryptic answer, about destroying and rebuilding the Temple in three days.

John hints that the disciples later piece together what Jesus meant. They came to understand that Jesus, through His death and resurrection, became the new way that we can connect with God. We no longer needed a specific place to meet with God, like the Temple. By putting our faith in Jesus, we can have constant and unfettered access to God in Heaven, through Him. What a wonderful thought that is! To know that God is always accessible because of Jesus and our faith in Him.

By using the image of tearing down and rebuilding the Temple, Jesus was promising that God was doing something new, something better. In the Church of today, we are holding on to the same hope: God will do something new and something better.

Recently, it has been difficult to hold on to that hope, particularly as we have struggled through the restrictions made necessary by a global pandemic. Yet, as Jesus demonstrates, before there can be resurrection, there first needs to be death. That is difficult and painful, but necessary. We are, however, assured that God will be with us during the difficult times, while also promising that if we persevere, there is better to come. Let us, therefore, look forward in hope for the new, better things God will do!

The Rev Stuart Love is minister of Clincarthill Parish Church, Glasgow

Lent Reflections

Week Two
Week One