Purification of the Temple

John 2:13-22
Ez 47:1-2,8-9,12 / Psa 46

“Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” His disciples recalled the words of scripture: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
(John 2:16-17)

May our church be a font of grace,
Where we honor Christ’s sacrifice;
Don’t treat it like a marketplace,
True worship doesn’t have a price.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple courts people selling oxen, sheep and doves, as well as the money changers seated at tables exchanging money. So He made a whip out of cords, and drove them all out of the temple area, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. And to those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” His disciples recalled the words of scripture: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” At this 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 came to believe the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:13-22)

Reflection

This is one of the few incidents in the life of our Lord Jesus that is related by all the four Gospel writers. But while the synoptic writers (Matthew, Mark and Luke) placed this event near the end of Jesus’ life, John the evangelist, who was always in the Lord’s company, put the incident at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, just after His first miracle of changing water into wine at Cana. No biblical scholar can accurately explain this plainly ‘chronological discrepancy’, nor can anyone deny its historical validity. Suffice it to say that John was a mystic who was more concerned about the symbolic than the chronological in his Gospel.

In the wedding at Cana, Jesus “overturned” Jewish customs by transforming water used for purification (washing) into excellent wine. St. John showed our Lord’s zeal for maintaining the purity of the Father’s temple by driving out those who would desecrate it, just as He had saved the wedding at Cana from the disgrace of running out of wine. It is also significant to note that the miracle at the wedding in Cana was the first sign that Jesus performed, and after He drove out the traders from the temple area, the Jews asked Him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” We know that the sign Jesus referred to was His resurrection from the dead. In the same way, the miraculous changing of water into wine was a sign of our physical cleansing from water to our spiritual purification in the wine (the Blood of Jesus) in the Holy Eucharist.

Jesus reacted the way He did (quite violently) in driving out the animals and the money changers from the temple area to show God’s contempt for those who show no respect for the sacred. Instead of being defiled by the marketplace, where greed and corruption hold sway, we must preserve the sanctity and purity of our place of worship by reacting in the strongest terms against the evil influences of the world. By doing so, we are also making our bodies pure and pleasing to God (Rom.12:1). St. Paul said, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1Cor 6:19-20). Let us make our body “a house of prayer, and not a den of thieves.”

Lord, may we honor Your Church as we honor our body as the temple of Your Holy Spirit; make it a worthy tabernacle of the Holy Eucharist, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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