The Gospel reading for last Sunday was about Jesus cleansing the Temple. The sermon we heard here in Australia reminded us that Jesus continues to cleanse temples, overturning the tables and driving out the money changers in the Temple that is the church and the Temple that is the believer.
We attended Bethlehem Lutheran Church, a large confessional congregation with three services (ours was packed) in downtown Adelaide. Pastor Pfeiffer preached on this text:
14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore 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. (John 2:14-22)
The problem was not buying and selling sacrificial animals and conducting currency exchange. It was doing these things inside the Temple, which was supposed to be a house of prayer and a place of reverence. The Temple was the place where God was truly present.
Then the text moves to a reflection on “the temple of his body,” underscoring the truth that Jesus Christ is the true Temple, and His body is literally the dwelling place of God. When this Temple is destroyed at the Cross, in three days it will be raised up at His resurrection.
Pastor Pfeiffer pointed out that the New Testament speaks of other, related temples.
The Church, as the Body of Christ, is also referred to as a Temple:
You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19-21)
And the individual Christian, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, is also referred to as a Temple:
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
And Christ periodically cleanses the Temple that is the Church. The Reformation, in my view, was such a time. And church bodies and individual congregations, in the tribulations and conflicts they have to endure, may be experiencing Christ’s cleansing.
And Christ periodically cleanses the Temple that is “you.” He makes a whip, overturns our tables, and drives out what is worldly and corrupt in us.
The sign that He shows us for doing this things is His resurrection from the dead.
Painting by Cecco del Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons