Seeking the Lord of the Temple- 3rd Sunday in Lent- John 2: 13-25


Seeking the Lord of the Temple- 3rd Sunday in Lent- John 2: 13-25

This episode of cleansing of the temple is placed right at the beginning of John’s Gospel immediately after the wedding feast of Cana. This is quite different from the synoptic Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark and Luke) who place the incident at the end of Jesus’ ministry and as one of the inevitable consequences of Jesus’ death.

John also adds many more details to the incident. He will write about “sheep and oxen” along with the doves. He has Jesus make a whip out of chord and then turns to address the dove sellers separately as he overturns theirs tables too. In John’s Gospel, it will be the raising of Lazarus that sets in motion the last nail of hatred in the intention of the Jews to put Jesus to death. So why does this evangelist narrate this incident so differently from the other three?

John wants to make a point. We are told that the occasion for Jesus presence in the temple is the Passover. It is but natural that the activities of commerce will go hand in hand with the activity of religion. The Jews of the diaspora and the Jews in the area were not allowed to bring in any graven image into the temple and the coinage at that time had the head of Caesar on it. Thus the official currency had to be exchanged for the Jewish shekel and a fee was involved. This explained the presence of the money changers.

Much has also been said about the presence of the sellers of sheep, oxen or doves that were used for the sacrifice. These birds and animals had to be without blemish and it is held that many of the priests were in connivance with the sellers to sanction only the purchase of sacrificial animals from within the temple, as fit for sacrifice.

Did all this lead to the righteous anger of Jesus? Not really. In the gospel of John, Jesus is not acting against corruption, or at least he is not only acting against corruption and we know this because of Jesus’ command to the dove sellers  which differs strikingly from the accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48). Instead of a concern for temple malpractices (“den of robbers”), Jesus orders that His ‘Father’s house’ not be made a marketplace.

The answer is in the first few words of Jesus when he calls the temple “His father’s house.” Jesus is redefining worship not merely as a place (the temple of Jerusalem) but in Him. In chapter four He will get into a dialogue with the Samaritan woman (4:21) where he will reiterate the point and say to her, “believe me; the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain (Samaria) nor in Jerusalem. Again, in John 9:35-38 when he heals the blind man who now can “see,” the response of the blind man is to “worship Jesus”.

In John’s Gospel, the very physical body of Jesus is the new ‘holy place.’ And Jesus is the ‘New Jerusalem’. Jesus’ body is the temple which would be torn down by the Jews but raised by the Father in three days. This is the point that John wants to make. So, Is there a take away from all of this? Most certainly yes!

Ask yourself this Lent; is your spiritual resolve to worship Jesus or to get caught up in some ‘temple ceremony? Is it the Lord you seek or the incidentals of cultic practice? Make no mistake; I am not diminishing the role of cult for it gives expression to our inner disposition of faith. The question is this; while cult is an integral part of worship, does it sometimes become for us greater than the reason behind the cult, Jesus himself?

The Lenten disciplines are a means to an end and not an end itself. I fast so that I may come closer to the Lord, I abstain so that I may give Him my fullest attention and I give alms so that I may be detached from all to be attached to Him. All worship is directed to Him.

Fr Warner D’Souza

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One thought on “Seeking the Lord of the Temple- 3rd Sunday in Lent- John 2: 13-25”

  • I could be wrong but hope I’m not. While I agree that Lenten disciplines are a means to an end I’ve realized that Lenten disciplines benefit only us. They do nothing to further God’s glory. Neither should they be used as a burnt offering to God during this Lenten Season to assuage our guilt and wrong doings in the eyes of God. They are means to discipline ourselves to being better human beings and to act as an atonement for our sins. Fasting helps us control our urges , almsgiving helps us reach out to others in need and prayer keeps us in touch with our Creator. In short Lenten disciplines only benefit us by making us better human beings. We would be a lost people without the beautiful seasons of Lent and Advent to jolt us out of our easy going “existence “ let us thank God for His mercy and love in giving us these beautiful opportunities to better ourselves.


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