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Gospel for Sunday, March 03: John 2:13-25

III Sunday in Lent B

13Meanwhile the Passover of the Jews was approaching, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14He found in the temple people selling oxen, sheep and doves, and sitting there were the money changers. 15Then he made a whip of cords and drove everyone out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen; he threw the money of the moneychangers to the ground and overturned their stalls, 16and to the dove sellers he said, “Take these things out of here and do not make my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it is written, Zeal for your house will devour me. 18Then the Jews took the word and said to him, “What sign do you show us to do these things?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20Then the Jews said to him, “This temple was built in forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22When he was then raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word spoken by Jesus. 23While he was in Jerusalem for the Passover, during the feast, many, seeing the signs he performed, believed in his name. 24But he, Jesus, did not trust them, for he knew everyone 25and did not need anyone to bear witness about the man. For he knew what is in man.”

Jh 2:13-25

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it). Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

An urban guerrilla action

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All four Evangelists report the resounding action of Jesus driving the vendors out of the Temple. This was a truly revolutionary, almost “urban guerrilla” action: armed with a whip (Jn. 2:15), Jesus overthrew the stalls of the money changers and animal sellers, effectively blocking access to the Temple. “And he did not allow things to be carried through the Temple” (Mk 11:16): the hieròn, the lobby of the pagans, where the scene unfolds, was used as a shortcut between the city and the Mount of Olives. “Do we think that Jesus’ violent action against the Temple merchants was marked by nonviolence, kindness, reason and measure? Of course not… Jesus, usually opposed to violence, here oversteps morality… His outburst… is not justifiable, not moral” (K. Berger).

It was not only permissible but necessary to have commercial organization in the Temple: money changers had to convert pagan coins (considered impure because they bore effigies of humans or deities) into Jewish coins, the only ones accepted for offerings in the Temple. The sellers provided whatever they might need for the sacrifices: lambs, doves, but also flour, oil, wine, incense… “From a purely moral point of view the sellers were right. But God is more and goes beyond our morality. His demands often clash with what we have pretended to be respectable” (K. Berger).

Overcoming the Temple

Jesus’ gesture is certainly a sign of purification, a protest like that of the ancient prophets (Jesus in fact quotes Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11) against the intermingling of religion and commerce, of spirituality and profit, of faith and finance.

But the gesture is meant to be a real overcoming of the Temple, the heart of Judaism, and its worship. By now Jesus will be the place where people will meet God: “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple (naòn), and in three days I will raise it up’… He was speaking of the temple of his body” (Jn. 2:19-22). Jesus uses the term naòs, which indicates the most sacred part of the temple, the “Holy of Holies,” where the ark of the covenant was kept, the very place of God’s Presence: by now Jesus himself is the Presence of God among men.

In the liturgical climate of Passover, in which the victims, the temple and the signs of the Exodus were the central themes, Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah who fulfills Mal 3:1-4 and Zech 14:21, entering the Temple at the end of time, and proclaims himself as the true Lamb, who replaces the ancient sacrifices. There will be no more need for animal sacrifices; Jesus will be the one “lamb who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29), the “lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet 1:19), the “lamb that was slain” (Rev 5:6).

Jesus, the ultimate Sign

Jesus moreover will be the ultimate sign. For John, the “sign” (semeion) is an event that must lead to Faith in Jesus. The sign can lead to Faith, but Jesus rebukes a Faith that is too sign-based: there is a fine play on words here, “Jesus did not believe in those who believed in his name by seeing the signs he performed” (Jn. 2:23-24; cf. 4:48; 20:28).

Woe to those who seek miracles and wonders in order to believe! To those who asked him, “‘Teacher, from you we want to see a sign,’ he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign!'” (Mt 12:38-39).

In Mark’s Gospel Jesus refuses to give a sign: “Why does this generation demand a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation” (Mk 8:11-13). In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus states that “no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah the prophet. As Jonah was in the belly of the cetacean three days and three nights, so shall the son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Mt 12:39; cf. Lk 11:29). In the Gospel of John, Jesus offers the sign of the temple, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up (lit.: awaken it)” (Jn. 2:19), and the author comments, “He spoke of the temple of his body. Therefore when he rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken” (Jn. 2:21). Both assurances refer to his resurrection. Only Jesus’ resurrection is “sure proof” (Acts 17:31) of Christ’s Lordship.

But “blessed are those who believe without having seen!” (Jn 20:29). In any case, it is the Word of God that is the foundation of Faith: for Jesus states, “For if you believed Moses (i.e.: the Bible!), you would also believe me; for of me he wrote. But if you do not believe his writings, how can you believe my words?”

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at migliettacarlo@gmail.com.

Source

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