Today’s Gospel reading is John 2: 13-25:
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for thy house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he spoke of the temple of his body.
When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did; but Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man.
In today’s collect we ask that God “look graciously on this confession of our lowliness, that we, who are bowed down by our conscience, may always be lifted up by your mercy.” And, in today’s Gospel, when St. John tells us that Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body, we rightly recognize a premonition of the Resurrection. But do we recognize the spiritual law inherent in that premonition? Do we, “bowed down by our conscience,” recognize in those words the promise of our own being “lifted up by his mercy”?
Forty-six years of human labor and the temple was not only unfinished, but corrupt. Imagine the human cost of a construction project of this magnitude in the ancient world! And now think about how, instead of being used for the glory of God, it was being used by unscrupulous money changers to perpetuate the burden on the poor, on whose backs the temple was necessarily built. Those who came to “confess their lowliness” were being swindled even as they sought reparation with their God.
But Jesus, who knows what lies within the human person, not only promises the destruction of such a system, but offers, in its place, a share in his body – the new temple that cannot be destroyed. The Resurrection of that body is the promise of the Resurrection for those made members of it. Those crushed by guilt and those crushed by the guilty, perpetrators and victims (and which of us is not both!), can be lifted above the cycle of violence and oppression. But only if they are foolish enough to forsake human wisdom and become members of the One whose weakness was stronger than human strength.
Adapted from Called to Pray: Lent and Easter with the Revised Roman Missal, Gilles Mongeau and Brett Salkeld, eds., p. 43.
Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto. He is a father of three (so far) and husband of one.