Weekly Bible Reflection
Mark's Alternative Economy
Third Sunday of Lent
Text: John 2. 13-22. "Temple Demolition "
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Have you, or someone close to you, been involved in a public protest, challenging some form of authority? What was the issue? What was the outcome?
A Window on the Text
John places the Temple cleansing incident at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and not at the end as in the other three gospels. John’s gospel, organised in this way, presents right from the outset the deep sense of crisis and judgment that pervades all Jesus did. The gospel almost reads like the record of Jesus on trial.
Jesus sets out with his disciples and family on his way to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. The water-into-wine ‘sign’ that took place at Cana happened in private, now he goes public. Entering the Temple, Jesus drives out the traders and animals using a whip. He overturns the tables and scatters money everywhere. In the other gospels dishonesty is the issue, but here Jesus says that they have made his Father’s house ‘a market – a house of trade’ (v.16, see also Zech 14 v 21). Essentially, Jesus is passing judgment on the whole religious system as it is practised.
‘The Jews’, in their unbelief, ask Jesus for a sign. In reply, he says that if the Temple is destroyed, he will raise it up again in three days (v.19). Indeed, Herod’s Temple was destroyed in AD 70, and Jesus’ body, the One in whom the fullness of God dwelt, was crucified – but raised again in three days.
The community for whom John writes also understood the Temple as a reference to themselves. They, as a gathered community of Christ’s followers, are a renewed Temple; God’s dwelling place, those for whom Christ died (see also 1 Corinthians 3 v 16 and Ephesians 2 v 19-22). Since Jesus is the one true sacrifice for sin, the Jerusalem Temple is no longer needed. The sacrificial system is at an end. Religion is at an end.
At the time, the disciples made little sense of Jesus words. It wasn’t until after the resurrection that everything began to fall into place. Our understanding of the meaning of Jesus is something that grows with time. We need always to be open and ready to embrace fresh insights.
Responding as a community
- What do you make of the fact that John’s gospel places the temple cleansing incident at the beginning whilst the other three place it at the end? How would you explain this to someone who questions the reliability of the gospel material?
- Some churches place a great emphasis on signs and wonders as the way to convince people of the truth of Christianity. What view should we take in the light of Jesus’ response to the request from the Jews for a sign?
- Very often we think of the individual Christian as a Temple of the Holy Spirit but in the New Testament this is applied primarily to the Christian community. To what extent does your Christian community think of itself as a Temple? How might such an understanding change the way you are together?
- Do you think that Christians ought to be involved in public protests? Is it legitimate to used Jesus’ Temple action as the basis for such action? What kind of issues (local, regional, national or international) might your community protest about at this time? As Christians, what principles would you want to adhere to if you did agree to actively protest together on the streets?
- What do you make of the idea that in and through the death and resurrection of Jesus ‘religion’ is at an end?
Form a circle of prayer. Identify and then pray for all those who are suffering because of their willingness to protest about injustices in the world. Light tea lights as you name and pray for them.
You may wish to use forms of prayer that you have agreed as part of your Lenten discipline. Alternatively you might use Psalm 19:12–14 as a prayer.
Close by saying the Lord’s Prayer, using the words ‘do not bring us to the time of trial’ instead of ‘lead us not into temptation’. Pause for 10 seconds after the words ‘but deliver us from evil’ and then conclude the prayer.
Dan Clendenin says: ‘I read the cleansing of the temple as a stark warning against any and every false sense of security. Misplaced allegiances, religious presumption, pathetic excuses, smug self-satisfaction, spiritual complacency, nationalist zeal, political idolatry, and economic greed in the name of God are only some of the tables that Jesus would overturn in his own day and in ours. Church is more than a place to enjoy a night of bingo or to reinforce my many prejudices and illusions.’
See http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20060313JJ.shtml. You might like to use his questions in addition to those above.
- Concerning the question of Jesus’ use of violence in the Temple see the Biblical Theology Bulletin, Summer, 2003 by Mark R. Bredin, John's account of Jesus' demonstration in the temple: violent or non-violent’ which can be found at… http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0LAL/is_2_33/ai_103673630.
- See Brian P. Stoffregen’s Exegetical Notes at http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/john2x13.htm.
Mark's Alternative Economy - Discussion