In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, the most holy city in Israel, to celebrate the Passover meal, the most holy meal for the Jewish people. It makes sense, doesn't it, that Jesus would go first to the Temple--the most holy place in all of Jerusalem--because in the Temple is God.
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.
What a scene! We can imagine the noise of the marketplace, people selling animals to others who want to make an offering to God. People call out to each other, arguing over prices. The cows rumble, the sheep bleat, the birds squawk. What a noise! And the smell! Those animals would be pooping right in the Temple courtyard. Disgusting! Jesus would be aware that people bring animals as an offering to God, but would he expect that buying and selling would take place right inside the Temple? How will Jesus react?
Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
In all that noise, how is Jesus to get their attention? The courtyard of the Temple is huge. When he ties cords together, he can whip them, making a loud crack. People jump and look around. Who is making that noise? We can imagine how startled they are when they see the look on his face. He has got their attention now. If somehow they don't hear the crack, they notice when their tables are turned over! They scrabble to grab their coins before they roll into the muck from the animals.
Why is Jesus so upset? The Temple is a holy place, a place set apart solely for people to be with God. And Jesus knows something more--it is his Father's house. These people seem to have forgotten that they are standing in the presence of God. Are the people acting in a holy way?
The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Some of the people get it. They get their things and get out of the Temple. They realize that they have been wrong. But others are just not impressed with Jesus. Who does he think he is, bossing everyone around? Does he think he is better than everyone else?
St. John calls this second group of people "the Jews." But all these people are Jews. Jesus is a Jew. His mother Mary is a Jew. Do you think "the Jews" is a good name for the people who have a problem with Jesus? We will have to remember that when St. John says, "the Jews," he does not mean all Jewish people. He means, "Those people who have a problem with Jesus."
Those people who have a problem with Jesus want Jesus to explain himself. They want a sign to show that he has the authority (remember that word?) to act like this.
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This Temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the Temple of his body.
Destroy this Temple? The people look around at the huge project. It has taken years to get this far--they do not have power tools!--and still the Temple is not finished. They have no plans to destroy it.
But Jesus knows that something holy will be destroyed. There will come a day when he will give his whole life; his body will be destroyed on the cross. Jesus wants them to think. True, places are set apart as holy. But so are people.
At Jesus' baptism, the Holy Spirit comes down upon him and remains. The Temple in Jerusalem may be his Father's house, but God has made his home in Jesus. And after Jesus offers his whole life on the cross, on the third day, God raises him to full life, never to die again.
After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
It is important for us to remember that we, too, have been baptized, and have received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes a home in us. St. Paul tells us that this means,
"your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you" (1 Corinthians 6:19)
We are Temples. We carry the Holy Spirit within us. Our bodies are holy places, places set apart for God. Mine is, and so is yours. Not a marketplace, but a Temple.
"My Father's house," Jesus says. A home for God.
Let's think about that for awhile.