Skip to main content

Jesus' authority questioned - John 2:18-22

We left off with Jesus coming to the temple and clearing it out.  He was passionate and aggressive, but not violent.  He used a whip to run off the animals and he turned over the money tables, but he didn't harm anyone.  The scene was likely chaos, as people ran after their animals and clamored to gather their money.  He clearly expressed his distaste over a place of worship becoming a place of greed.

As the common folks clear, the authorities approach Jesus and they want to know who gave him the authority to do this.  They ask for a sign.  They see themselves as in charge, so this is likely a rhetorical question before they call for legal action from Rome.  Their response is interesting because they don't challenge his claim, they simply change the subject.  They make no attempt to justify the merchants taking advantage of those that have had to travel so far.  They make no attempt to justify the money changers making the problem worse.  They just change the subject to one of power.

Don't we do the same thing all the time?  "Who does she think she is..."  "Who are you to tell me..." Doesn't this sound familiar?  When we ask these questions, we are usually asking the wrong question?  We question authority and knowledge when we can't counter a claim.  We ask who they think they are, because their claim has merit, but we don't like that they had the guts to make the claim.  These are questions of defeat.

Jesus responds by getting right to the heart of their poor focus.  He tells them "destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days".  They had taken the focus away from the temple and onto him, by asking about his authority instead of challenging his claim.  They had no good reason to do this because any believer had the right to challenge greedy practices within the temple.   He kept the focus on him, giving them a traditional Jewish proof.  In the Old Testament God would protect those that were doing his work.  Jesus is essentially telling them that they can test God by trying to destroy him, and like Daniel in the lion's den, or Jonah in the whale, he will be protected because he is doing God's work.  They could not hear this because their focus was still on the material.

The Pharisees instantly started talking about how impossible of a task that would be because of how long the temple had taken to build.  They did not hear Jesus, they were focused on the material world while Jesus was focused on the spiritual.  Jesus had challenged the greedy practices of the merchants and money changers because they were out for material gain rather than helping people to practice their faith.  Similarly, the Pharisees had the same focus on the material so they could not hear Jesus' claim to be a prophet.  According to this story, even his disciples struggled to understand this until after his death.  Given his disciples focus on who would be in charge of the coming is understandable that they were stuck in the same mindset as the Pharisees at the time.

It is worth noting that Jesus eventually takes the place of the temple.  In fact, in John 4 we will read about him telling a woman that a day is coming when people will no longer worship at the temple, but they will worship in spirit and truth.  This little story might be leading us towards that truth.

Overall the common theme in this story is an urge to move away from the material and towards the spiritual.  I feel like this is a particularly important claim for our day when the material seems to be all we know.


Popular posts from this blog

Divine | Shame | Humans

Shame is often the only thing between our creator and us. Our reading this week is from Job 14:5-6: A person’s days are determined;      you have decreed the number of his months      and have set limits he cannot exceed. So look away from him and let him alone,      till he has put in his time like a hired laborer. Job is struggling with shame and judgement.  He is wondering why God is spending time paying attention to him, a tiny speck in the great universe, a blink of an eye in all eternity.  Why would God waste time casting a glance at us, let alone fostering us, raising us, and disciplining us?  He cries out "Why won't God just let us be, to live out our miserable existence?" A friend shared a post with me on Facebook this week.  It was a video of her dog who had stolen her donut.  The dog had been under the bed for two hours before she started the video.  The video begins with a clear view of the dog and the uneaten donut under the bed.  The dog casts glances from s

Justice & Privilege

The narrative lectionary reading for this week begins a 5 week series on the book of Job.  We focus on Job 1:1-12.  This first section sets the background for the parable.  It is important to note that this is clearly a parable, not a historical text.  This means we must look beyond the described events and towards a deeper meaning within the text.   The story goes like this: ___ There was once a man who thought he was good, an upright citizen, a religiously devout man.  He made good choices and avoided all forms of evil.  He was so pious that he made sacrifices in the name of his family members in case they had unknowingly sinned.  He had great wealth and privilege, and so this was evidence of his goodness.   God was so pleased with this great man, named Job, that he bragged about him to the accuser.  The accuser objected "Of course Job is good, you have provided him with wealth, power, and protection. He would curse you if he was not so privileged."  At this, God takes the

Fool for Christ

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 2 Corinthians 5.  Verse 13 stood out to me. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. - 2 Corinthians 5:13a (NLT) John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard churches did a famous sermon called "I am a fool for Christ, whose fool are you?".  Reading this week's text reminded me of this wonderful sermon.  Wimber's sermon reminds us that, as christians, we are called to something truly radical.  The christian walk is strange and counter cultural.  Jesus once explained this to his disciples in John 15 "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. You don't belong to this world, I have chosen you out of it.  That is why the world hates you."   Peter, in a letter to the church, later referred to all of us as strangers just passing through this world.   Do you feel like a stranger?  Do you feel like the world hates you?  Are you a fool for Christ? Here is the thing, you are going t