Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

The 3rd Sunday in Lent
Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22

When we hear this story about Jesus turning over the tables and driving the livestock out of the temple grounds, we often use this as an example of Jesus’ HUMAN nature, as opposed to his DIVINE nature. There’s something comforting when we see this other side of Jesus; a Jesus who gets mad and starts throwing things. THIS is a Jesus we can relate to!

But I contend something very different is happening in today’s story.

First off, today’s reading comes from John’s gospel, which handles this event differently than the other gospels. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, the cleansing of the temple, as it is often called, happens near the end of Jesus’ ministry. He’s entered Jerusalem for the Passover and goes to the temple. But, in these gospels, the charge that accompanies the table-flipping is that the temple has become a den of thieves. And, it is this act in the temple that becomes the catalyst for his arrest and execution.

But that isn’t how John tells it.


In John’s gospel, the table-turning is at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus has just left Cana and the infamous wedding where water has been changed into wine.  Like the other gospels, he’s in Jerusalem for the Passover, but his actions in the temple grounds came not with an accusation of robbery, but instead carry an indictment that the Temple’s purpose has been usurped. They have turned a house of prayer into a marketplace. The temple had become a place of other things, and has lost its primary purpose – a place to meet God; to be connected with God.

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