When Jesus causes disruption in the temple the conversation shifts to the significance of the temple, and to the significance of his coming. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
13 Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, 14 and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. 15 Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers' coins, knocked their tables over 16 and said to the pigeon-sellers, 'Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father's house into a market.' 17 Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. 18 The Jews intervened and said, 'What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?' 19 Jesus answered, 'Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.' 20 The Jews replied, 'It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?' 21 But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, 22 and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said. 23 During his stay in Jerusalem for the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he gave, 24 but Jesus knew them all and did not trust himself to them; 25 he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.
Other readings: Exodus 20:1-17 Psalm 18 (19) 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
One of the features of the Gospel of John is that Jesus is frequently to be found in Jerusalem. The story about the ‘cleansing of the temple’ is placed by this evangelist at the start of Jesus’ ministry, while in the other gospels it comes as a trigger for Jesus’ arrest. The dialogue with the Jews about ‘the sanctuary that was his body’ is only found in John’s gospel. Jesus comes to bring a new age, a new time, a new form of worship. He is the Word among us. He reveals the way to God. It is not therefore surprising that when Jesus causes disruption in the temple the conversation shifts to the significance of the temple, and to the significance of his coming. Jesus speaks in terms which are not immediately clear. Later, after his death and resurrection, the full import of his words will be apparent. Just as the temple is soon to be destroyed, so too the body of Jesus will be brought to death. But the future lies in the new life of the resurrection. Despite this enigma the evangelist tells us that many in Jerusalem came to believe in Jesus’ name. From the start his words and person attracted those with the courage to see and understand.
What does the cleansing of the temple symbolise?
Is it helpful to see Jesus as the ‘new temple’?
Let us pray that our Lenten journey will be richly blessed.
Let us pray for the Jewish people, our elder brothers and sisters in the faith.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy