Friday, March 9, 2012
Temple of Christ's Body
The wall is all that is left of the Jerusalem Temple (the golden dome beyond is a Moslem shrine.) The Romans destroyed it in the year 70. In John's Gospel, written about 30 years later, Jesus offers his own body as the new temple where we can worship God (2:13-25).
In the obvious sense of the story, Jesus is angry at the merchants for doing business in the temple court. In John's Gospel almost everything is a sign of something else. At a deeper level of meaning, Jesus is also attacking temple worship itself. Animal sacrifice was part of the worship. It was almost necessary for the people to buy the animals for sacrifice at the site rather than to bring animals with them from wherever they were travelling. By driving those selling them out of the temple Jesus is making the sacrifices impossible.
From the perspective of John's Gospel the sacrifices were no longer possible since the temple had been destroyed 30 years earlier. So when John's readers, most of them Jews, hear Jesus say, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it," they would hear the Risen Jesus offering himself as the way for his people to offer themselves to God in worship.
The notion of being in Jesus would have been familiar to John's community. At the Last Supper in John's Gospel we hear Jesus say that he is the vine and we are the branches. John's community would probably also be familiar with St. Paul's image of the Body of Christ and we the members. It is in and through Jesus that we go to God.