28 February 2012

John 2:13-22

"Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (v. 19)


This passage is the story of the cleansing of the temple, where the temple made with bricks is contrasted with "the temple of his body" (v. 21).

Yesterday's reading of the miracle at Cana (John 2:1-12) laid down the marker that Jesus' ministry is about transforming things, and serving quality.

The cleansing of the temple repeats the message in a new key: transform and make worship better for all people.

The context introduces the deep conflict between the small Johannine Christian community (ie the first recipients of John's Gospel) and the temple authorities, not least around the identity of Jesus and his followers.

Quite apart from the issues around noise and money, Jesus requires a new approach to worship. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" is Jesus' challenge.

Then follows a comment of interpretation: "But he was speaking of the temple of his body" (v. 21). The Johannine Christian Community would have been familiar with the emerging theology of the Church as 'the Body of Christ'. In chapter 4 Jesus says to the Samaritan woman: "you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem ... but ... will worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (John 4:21, 23).

The body of Christ is flesh and blood, not bricks and mortar: worship is centred on God, not a building, and is accessible to all.

To Ponder

What do you do to make God's house into "a house of prayer" (Matthew 21:13, quoting Isaiah 56:7)?

What can you do to remember our own bodies are 'the temple of God' (see 1 Corinthians 6:19), the dwelling place of God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Inderjit Bhogal

Inderjit Bhogal is a Methodist minister with a wide experience at local, regional, national and international levels. He is a former president of the British Methodist Conference and is currently working as leader of the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland.