Atop the magnificent staircase, surrounding the entire temple complex, were the magnificent covered porticoes with huge limestone columns – weighing up to a hundred tons and reaching a length of 36 feet. One that broke in half on the way from the quarry to the temple, lying on its side, rose above my knee. Atop each column, there was beautiful carved stonework. No expense had been spared – slave labor doing almost superhuman tasks.
What Jesus saw in the midst of all that beauty broke His heart.
In the temple, Jesus found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. The sellers of souvenirs, prayer shawls and spices were by law restricted to the valley below and the pagan miracle cure priests were in their own temples nearby – all replaced by the temple officials’ cadre of merchants and money changers in the temple porticoes.
The temple money-changers shouting offers to potential clients mingled with the sounds of more livestock than a village of barns and their agents loudly competing for worshipers seeking the best possible price. It was a farmer’s livestock sale in the narthex of a cathedral. The sound, the smell and the refuse of the barnyard was everywhere.
And making a whip of cords, Jesus drove them all, with sheep and oxen, out of the temple, and He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.
Jesus took the cords being used to tether the larger animals and braided them into a whip with which He herded the livestock out of the porticoes. Then He threw over the tables of the money-changers – scattering the coins in every direction. And He told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; You shall not make My Father’s House a house of trade.”
The sound God seeks to hear in His House is the sound of His Word being proclaimed, of Psalms and hymns being sung, of praise and thanksgiving in our prayers and creeds. The fragrance God most cherishes, figuratively and literally, is the incense of prayer. The sight God cherishes is the joyful expression on the faces of people celebrating the wonderful relationship God has given each of us.
The temple merchants challenged Jesus, “What sign do You have for doing this?” How do you claim this Moral Authority? We are part of the organization that runs this place and are authorized to conduct this business by the high priest himself – by the CEO of the temple. Who are You to interfere in our work? “What sign have You to show for doing this?”
Jesus attacks an obvious abuse in the life of the temple and in the practices of its leaders – but Jesus – in His words and in His actions – is talking about something as basic as “Who does the temple belong to? What is The Church?”
Jesus answered them, “Destroy This Temple, and in three days I will raise It up.” The Judeans then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” Jesus knows the temple authorities did not understand – they rarely did.
Jesus spoke of The Temple of His Body. A temple is “a place considered occupied by God where people come to worship Him”. That certainly would include the temple where our text took place. It would also include modern and ancient edifices throughout the world. But – most significantly – The Temple is Jesus Christ Himself.
God is everywhere – no place could possibly exist without the Presence of God – but nowhere is the Presence of God more meaningful to our own relationship with God than in Jesus Christ – God as The vulnerable flesh and blood Christ is the ultimate place occupied by God. Jesus is This Ultimate Temple.
Jesus said, “Destroy This Temple, and in three days I will raise It Up.” After Jesus’ crucifixion, the Jerusalem temple would continue to exist another 40 years – but as Jesus was crucified He was already God’s Ultimate Temple. The Holy Christian Church is The Church because Jesus The Christ, The Son of The Living God - The Lord of His Church - is here as He promised and we are here to be with Jesus.
On the cross as The Lamb of God, Jesus is The Perfect Sacrifice for us and ended the temple’s symbolic sacrifice of atonement. And, as the only One Who could offer that Ultimate Sacrifice, Jesus is The High Priest. As Jesus breathed His last, the veil between the Holy and the Holy of Holies where only the high priest could enter and only on the Day of Atonement was ripped open from the top down. On the cross, Jesus is The Ultimate High Priest offering The only Possible Sacrifice for our Salvation.
When therefore Jesus was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this and they believed The Scripture and The Word Jesus had spoken.
“Tourist trap” theologies seeking converts by promoting sinful and faithless lifestyles regardless of what God’s Word says offer no salvation. Truth cannot be traded for politically correct falsehood.
On the cross, all of the world’s evil was unleashed upon The Christ, The Son of The Living God and The Temple of His Body was destroyed – but in three days Jesus rose from the dead and raised It up with the proclamation of Victory for us all. In 70A.D. the temple in Jerusalem was totally destroyed and the high priest and other temple priests were no more and the ritual sacrifices were no more. Jesus The Ultimate High Priest had offered Himself as God’s Perfect Sacrifice.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS – OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR. AMEN.
Third Sunday In Lent
March 4, 2018
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio