In today’s Gospel reading from St. John, Jesus finds “in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there.” He angrily drives them from the temple area and it must have been something to behold: Jesus overturning tables, spilling their coins, whacking at things with a whip made of cord. And he tells reprimands them, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
I’ve shared before that when I imagine the temple as Jesus walked into it, I see note only people buying and selling and money changing, but also people cheating each other or haggling excessively over prices. People socializing and carrying on other business. People off in corners gambling, eating, drinking, and probably engaging in a lot of other activities that don’t seem very temple-like. What Jesus saw were people who had lost their focus, forgot the purpose for which they were there, a people whose focus ceased to be on God. I think that is what Jesus is reacting to when he laments what they have done to the temple, his father’s house.
But there is more than that going on. When asked for a sign, Jesus says to them “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Literally, that made no sense; as the people observe, it took 46 years to build that temple. How could Jesus rebuild it in three days? John goes on to clarify that Jesus “was speaking about the temple of his Body.”
John states explicitly what is implicit in Jesus’ words: There is now a new temple, a new place of God’s dwelling, and that temple is Jesus. Jesus’ own body replaces the physical temple as God’s dwelling. Jesus is where we go to worship, Jesus is where we go for solace, Jesus is the source of our salvation. Once the Word becomes flesh, Jesus is the the focal point; it is through Him that we are saved.
This passage invites us to think about how we approach the temple that is Jesus. Do approach Jesus so wrapped up in the world, so completely distracted by our worldly affairs – with what we are buying or selling or getting or not getting, that we cannot hear Him when He speaks to us? Do we approach with a grudge against our brother or our sister, so that our focus is on our own wounds and the injury done to us by another, unable to truly believe in the love our God has for us? Or do we approach with hearts full of love and joy to be in God’s presence?