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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Harvey

Jesus is Revealed as the New Temple: Sunday Gospel Reflections with Dr. Harvey


2024 Third Sunday of Lent’s Gospel: Jn 2:13-25 

(God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.)

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken. While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. 

(some will hear the Samaritan Woman at the Well instead)

My kids often seem to receive from this event the justification for getting mad or even throwing things. “If Jesus can flip a table without sinning, can’t I?” There is a degree of truth to this. Jesus shows us righteous anger, not sinful rage. He made his whip which means he took time to make it, to think about things, and to respond appropriately and not as the result of losing self-control. Yet, there is a lot more revealed here than the issue of anger. Like last Sunday’s gospel, the identity of Jesus is central in this gospel scene. 

For those reading in your Bible this event in John 2, did you notice anything odd here? Jesus goes from his first miracle to the cleansing of the Temple. What Matthew, Mark, and Luke place years later, John moves to the beginning of his gospel. How odd. Some scholars say that John is telling us that Jesus cleansed the Temple twice, once in the beginning and once in the end. I do not think this is likely because it would have resulted in an earlier execution. Some suggest that those copying the gospels in the early Church mistakenly relocated the event. I also do not think there is a lot of reason to consider that theory either. I think John intentionally moved it for theological reasons. Remember, John is writing after all the other gospels, and he is often adding details or theological insights not explicit in the others. This is one of them. He moves this scene here, and he alone adds an important detail to it in order to impact our reading of the rest of his gospel. The detail he adds that he wants us to consider throughout his gospel is the explicit profession that Jesus is the new and true Temple. John adds, “he was speaking about the temple of his body” (Jn 2:21). 

This identification of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Temple is central to John’s gospel (technically, John has several central themes). John often punctuates key events in Jesus’ ministry with an initial detail that describes the corresponding liturgical feasts occurring within the Temple at that time. This allows us to notice details in what follows. Some examples should help to make this point. 

During the days following the eating and drinking of the Passover, Jesus preaches on the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood (Jn 6). During the week with water rituals and light rituals for the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus invites those who are thirsty to come to him for drink (Jn 7) and says that he is the light of the world (Jn 8). It is within the celebration of the Feast of Dedication/Consecration (Hannukah) that Jesus indicates that he is the one consecrated by the Father. 

John’s gospel hits a high point in these comparisons when John provides us another unique detail that no other gospel gives. After he gives it, he stops the narrative to assert the truthfulness of the testimony. “He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth” (Jn 19:35). The astonishing detail he offers is that water and blood flow from Christ’s pierced side (Jn 19:34). Given that John has already, like the other gospels, pointed out that the Last Supper and Crucifixion occur within the days of the Passover celebration, for Passover was not a single day, then this means that the blood and water from his side mirror the blood and water that had just flowed from the side of the Temple mount in order to clean the Temple area from the blood of hundreds of thousands of Passover lambs. John’s point is clear. Jesus is the New Temple. Jesus’ death is no mere execution but a true sacrifice. 

What this means is that Jesus is the place of worship. As the Temple, he is the place where divinity and humanity are reconciled. Consider the language at Mass this Sunday. Notice how often the prayers are said to the Father, but through Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. As members of his mystical body, we pray and offer sacrifice in Christ. It is through him, with him, and in him that we come to the Father and the fullness of joy the Father desires for us.

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