Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle B

Third Sunday of Lent

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John 2. 13-25

"Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up"

The Jewish system of sacrifice had created a necessary but inappropriate market in the Temple area. Especially at Passover, merchants were necessary to sell victims for sacrifice, and money changers also were needed because Roman coinage was not acceptable at the temple. Unwittingly, the whole system of sacrifice and worship had fallen into disrepute; it lacked reverence, and ceased to serve the relationship between God and his people. The Temple had always been seen as the place on earth where God dwelt among his people. Jesus protested in word and action against this profanation of God's house.

Jesus' action was dramatic and the Jewish authorities asked for a sign to justify this attack on a long-accepted practice. Jesus replied with the cryptic saying about his raising up a destroyed temple in three days. They understood him to be speaking of the actual temple which had taken forty years to build, but for Jesus the temple being referred to was himself. In him God would be present to mankind in a special way and through him God would be worshipped in a new way.

Jesus, the risen Messiah, will take the place of the old temple and all it stood for. The centre of God's presence among his people would no longer be a building or a place; it would henceforth be a person. The new sanctuary would be the risen body of Jesus in whom would dwell all the fullness of the Spirit. Jesus is the foundation on which we are built: that same divine Spirit comes to those who believe and dwells with us, so that we too would become temples of God’s presence, one with the risen Lord. We are called to be ‘living stones’, to be not so much the building where God dwells among his people, but the people in whom and through whom God dwells in the world.