The gospel reading for this week takes us further toward the cross as we walk our Lenten Journey. The reading from Exodus where Moses hands on the ten commandments to the people and Psalm 19 help us to reflect further on the same themes.
We are used to thinking of this event where Jesus overthrows the tables in the temple taking place in Jerusalem in the final week of Jesus’ life. After all, this is where Matthew and Mark and Luke’s gospels (known as the Synoptic Gospels) place it. John, however, places it in Chapter 2 – almost at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. It is worth wondering together why the writers of the individual gospels made different decisions about the placement of the story. How does it change/enhance the nature and meaning of the story?
In John, Jesus enters Jerusalem for the Passover feast early in his ministry. As for all pilgrims arriving in Jerusalem, the focal point of Jesus’ journey is the Temple: God’s Dwelling place. This is the site of worship, reconciliation and covenant renewal. As Jesus explains to the temple sellers, for Jesus the temple is not these things alone: it is also “my Father’s house” (v16). Hence Jesus’ anger and swift action taken to clear the temple, making the prophetic statement ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’(v19).
How then are we to behave? to live in Covenant with God?
The reading from Exodus reminds of God’s initial laws handed to Moses. These laws focus firstly on right relationship with God, allowing us to maintain our side of our covenant promises to God, and then on right relationship with our neighbour so we can love them, as we love ourselves. Psalm 19 meditates on this further, reminding us that it is not just our actions that can harm, but also the ‘words of our mouths.’
There is rich fodder in these readings for intergenerational engagement and meaning making!