Daily Devotion – March 8, 2021 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison
2:13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2:14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.
2:15 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.
2:16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
2:17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
2:18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?”
2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
2:20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?”
2:21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body.
2:22 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.
Because this story appears in all four Gospels, we are quite sure it actually happened. So uncomfortable or not, we must admit Jesus did this startling thing during Passover when the Temple was crowded with people making pilgrimages from everywhere. What is this big action about? Getting attention? Causing chaos? Provoking temple staff or the high priest or even Romans? Jesus may have been trying to do all those things. But certainly he had some bigger point in mind.
The Temple was the home on earth of God. It was a reminder of the covenants God had made with the people of Israel that God would always dwell with them, would be with them, come what may. The ancient Jewish feasts and celebrations and sacrifices had begun as simpler rituals but had grown over time, and the laws and ordinances governing them had grown as well. So had what pilgrims needed to buy to make these rituals and sacrifices. Since Passover was a time people came from faraway lands to be in Jerusalem, moneychangers were needed so that a person from Greece or Asia could buy a sacrificial dove or lamb and pay for it in local money. Rituals to the God who promised to be with the children of Israel were done in the Temple. So the Temple, the home of God, was the site of this action.
Surely there would have been honest sellers of animals and honest moneychangers, and surely there would have been dishonest ones too, making an extra buck off the foreigners in town for Passover. But maybe these potential dishonesties were not the main point of Jesus’s big action in the Temple.
The Temple was the mark of God with Israel. God living amongst humans. That is what the covenants were about. But Jesus, in his life on earth, is the new, living covenant. Jesus himself is the mark of God with Israel. God living amongst humans. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to God’s chosen people. Jesus, in his way, was the new Temple. We can hear and see God speaking for ourselves. We don’t need to sacrifice anymore. That old way of speaking to and atoning to God has passed away with the arrival of Jesus. Jesus even says he will be destroyed and raised again in 3 days. The Temple staff believes he is speaking of the building, but Jesus is the Temple, the mark of the covenant, that will fall and then rise again. His disciples figured this out when it finally happened. They remembered, and they knew later on the meaning of Jesus big action in the Temple.
Jesus is our way to God the Creator. Not sacrifices. Not rituals. Jesus himself. It is why we pray in his name, even today. Jesus is the Temple. The mark of God’s covenant with humanity. God with us.
Dear Lord, Thank you for loving us. Thank you for making Jesus the sign of God with us. Amen.