Cleaning the temple

Source: Cleaning the temple

After the comforting scene of multiplying the wine at the marriage celebration at Cana we suddenly have the violent spectacle of Jesus chasing the traders from the temple. ‘Zeal for your house devours me’, as the psalmist put it. Jesus is provoking the people to realise ‘there is something new here’ as Mark had written in his first chapter. Religion had been tamed, degraded, into something ‘we can live with’, something we can bend to our purposes. The sting of its demands had been drawn, made harmless.


The people are shocked and the leaders outraged. ‘By what authority have you done this?’ Jesus isn’t going to get into an argument with them. He raises the level of the confrontation by referring to the new temple. ‘Destroy this one and I will raise another in three days.’ They don’t understand and neither do the disciples. They had to wait until Jesus rose from the dead.

It’s a dramatic moment, thrown at us in the midst of Lent. It expresses the extreme nature of the call to women and men to realise what they can be. There is a story on You Tube by the Russian writer, Tolstoy, about a poor cobbler who had one son left after his wife and all his children had died. He is in despair and sick with loneliness when this child too dies and he blames God for his misery. One day a man comes and the two talk and the cobbler shares his troubles. His visitor listens for a while and then invites him to believe God has a purpose for him.

The cobbler is touched and asks how he can discover that purpose. Ponder the book, says the visitor. The cobbler understands him to mean the New Testament and he starts to read – and ponder. Gradually he is touched by what he reads and he begins to look through the window of his little shop and notices the people outside. He sees an old man shivering from the cold and invites him in to sit by his stove and he gives him tea. He sees an old woman and her child with few clothes to keep out the cold and finds an old coat for her. He sees a child steal an apple and the fury of the vendor who wants the child chastised. He makes peace between them. The old cobbler ends his days a happy man.

Lent is that time when we invite Jesus into our shop. We ponder his coming to us, born as one of us, cold, hungry and lonely as we can be. We see how open he was to the poor and how he transformed their lives. He did not promise them riches or power or status. But he promised them deep joy and peace in their hearts, ‘a peace the world cannot give.’

3 March 2023 Lent Sunday 3B Ex 20:1-17 1 Cor 1:22-25     Jn 2:13-25