Jesus Cleanses the Temple

March 7, 2021
by Pastor Charles Nyamakope

Third Sunday in Lent

Scripture Reading: John 2:13-22In today’s scripture reading, Jesus cleanses the Temple. This story does appear in all four Gospels, although, there is an important difference we need to note. In the Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – the story comes during Holy Week right at the end of Jesus’ ministry. But in John’s Gospel, the story comes right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

The Gospel of John puts this story at the beginning of his Gospel, because, for John, Jesus came to renew the Jewish faith and to challenge both the passion and purity of the worship of God. Passion and purity had been lost for a long time and, as we shall see from our Gospel reading, Jesus was standing in the line of Zephaniah and all the Old Testament prophets in condemning the people of Israel for their apathy towards God.

So, let us review this story and see what we must learn from it in our context today. Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Passover. This was the custom for all Jewish males to go at least once in their lifetime to Jerusalem for the Passover. So, when Jesus arrived in the city, there would have been thousands of people there; a huge crowd crammed into the narrow city streets and an incredible bustle and noise in the temple itself.

And Jesus walked into the Temple, into the midst of all the chaos and noise. He looked around at the pilgrims and the prayerful, the tradesmen and the touts, and his emotions rose to fever pitch. It would be wrong to suggest that Jesus got caught up in the heat of the moment. We read in verse 15 that Jesus made a whip of cords. He took time to reflect and time to make the whip: the actions of temple cleansing were not done in the heat of the moment. He had time to reflect and think through what he was going to do.

And then he drove out the sheep, he drove out the cattle, he scattered the money all over the floor, he overturned the tables, he threw out the dove sellers. No-one was spared the anger of Jesus in that moment. And then he shouts, “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”

Jesus was saying that the old way of doing faith was no longer appropriate, that the heart of faith had become lost in the ritualism, that it was passion for God that had sold out, not pigeons for sacrifice. Jesus is confronting the people of God with a deeply uncomfortable truth: this was a moment for them to re-assess. Was it enough for them to be tied to their ritualism or did they need to find the heart of their faith once more?

He was acting in the line with prophet Micah who, hundreds of years before had written: “Will God be pleased with thousands of rams, with 10,000 rivers of oil…God has told you what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:7-8).

Jesus was acting in the line with prophet Amos who challenged Israel with these words: “’Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them,’ says God, ‘but let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an overflowing stream” (Amos 5:21-24).

Jesus was acting in the line with prophet Jeremiah who proclaimed: “Do not trust in the deceptive words, ‘This is the temple of the Lord’. But act justly. Do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow. Do not go after other gods. Then I will be with you in this place” (Jeremiah 7:6).

In a few moments time, we will be sharing in Holy Communion and we will hear the words of Christ at the Last Supper: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Show compassion to one another. Forgive one another. Tell our friends and neighbors the Good News of salvation. And then the bread and the wine, which symbolize our union with Christ will be filled with meaning. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

In conclusion, Jesus wants the church to be the church. And we must start within ourselves. So, this week I am going to ask you, “What are you doing to grow spiritually within your own life?” What are you doing to cultivate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the famous fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5? How are you growing as a disciple? What have you planned to forgo this week in the spirit of the lenten season? Because if our church is to grow, revival must start with the Holy Spirit working within us, where ordinary people receive a new heart and are sent into the world as extraordinary agents of the reign and rule of God. Amen.