Commentary: 3rd Sunday Lent Year B

First Reading: Exodus 20:1–17

Journeying through salvation history — Noah 1st week, Abraham 2nd week — we arrive at a part of Moses covenant at Sinai in the giving of the 10 Commandments. These Commandments are the direct words of God. The 10 Commandments are really about holiness, how to be holy. God is calling his people to be a holy nation, a kingdom of priests, and the Ten Commandments are basically the code for living out a life of holiness

20 Then God spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me.

4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.

What makes not worshiping God on Sunday, or not resting on the seventh day, what makes it a sin is because God is the author of time. He set that time apart and so if we take it and treat it as if it’s ordinary, we effectively desecrate it. If we take what he has consecrated and say it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t have any significance, it’s not set apart, it’s just like any other day, and what’s more important is my work, or my money, or whatever I feel like doing, then we’re basically desecrating and profaning that holy time. And that’s really hard for us to get our brains around these days because we’re so influenced by secularism. The word secula means world or age. What it’s saying is that this world is all there is, and there’s nothing sacred about time, everything is secular. ~ Dr. Pitre

9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

12 Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

13 You shall not murder.

14 You shall not commit adultery.

15 You shall not steal.

16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

17 You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

The 10 Commandments are all about love — 1st tablet on love of God and 2nd tablet on love of neighbour. Since worship is an expression of love, Sabbath rest and Sabbath worship became the kind of quintessential expression of loving God, of taking time to lay down the labours of life and focus an entire day on your relationship with God through prayer, through hearing his word, and through worship.

Tablet 1: Love of God

  1. Sanctity of God 
  2. Sanctity of Divine Name
  3. Sanctity of Time

Tablet 2: Love of Neighbour

4. Sanctity of Fatherhood and Motherhood

5. Sanctity of Life

6. Sanctity of Marriage

7. Sanctity of Property

8. Sanctity of Speech/the Truth

9. Sanctity of another’s Spouse

10. Sanctity of another’s Property

Response: John 6:68c

Lord, you have the words of eternal life.

Psalm: Psalm 19:8–11

7The law of the Lord is perfect,

reviving the soul;

the decrees of the Lord are sure,

making wise the simple;

8the precepts of the Lord are right,

rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is clear,

enlightening the eyes;

9the fear of the Lord is pure,

enduring forever;

the ordinances of the Lord are true

and righteous altogether.

10More to be desired are they than gold,

even much fine gold;

sweeter also than honey,

and drippings of the honeycomb.

The Psalm is trying to help us understand that the commandments of God are not shackles that are meant to make us his slaves, but rather they are lights that are meant to help us see the truth, help us to live in holiness. They’re truth in a world of lies and they are perfect. They are from God, and if we go to them they can actually revive our souls, they can refresh our souls. And so for me, at least personally, I think this Psalm in particular is just really powerful because I have experienced over the years of studying Scripture, that the more I immerse myself in Scripture, the more it does refresh my soul, right. It gives me wisdom, it gives me insight, and it also helps me to see more clearly. Like it says here, the commandments are enlightening to our eyes. Because let’s face it, a lot of times we’re blind. We’re blind to our sins, we’re blind to the evils in the world, we’re blind to our faults. And immersion in the word of God, loving the word of God, coming to not just accept the commandments but ponder them and be grateful for them, meditate upon them and try to live them, is a way to actually find joy, and peace, and refreshment in this life. ~ Dr. Pitre

Psalm 19 says that the Law of God “refreshes the soul.” Have you ever had that experience of being refreshed when you read the Scriptures?

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:22–25

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

The only sign that God gives is the “one that is foolish” by men’s standards, the “weak one,” the Cross ~ Balthasar, LW, 177

Gospel: John 2:13–25

“The story of the cleansing of the temple is told in the middle of Lent so that we can give thought to what constitutes true worship and what a true house of God is… Each of the other two readings expounds the Gospel: the first reading explains the first accent, and the second reading explains the second” ~ Balthasar, LW, 176

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

The Passover was celebrated in the springtime, around March or April. This is our first connection to this Lenten season, as we prepare for the great Passover of Easter.

14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.

From what we know, the moneychangers appear to be performing a legitimate service, which would be to take the coinage of people who were coming from all over the world, and change it out for the Jerusalem coinage, so that people could buy sacrifices: oxen, sheep, turtledoves. These were the kinds of animals that could be offered and sacrificed in the temple. So the moneychangers are actually performing an important service to help the pilgrims who would come for Passover. The first century Jewish historian Josephus actually tells us that Passover is such a great festival of pilgrimage for the Jewish people, that up to 1 million Jews would converge on the city of Jerusalem. And so many of them were coming from far away so they couldn’t bring their animals with them in order to sacrifice them. It would be too difficult or the animal might be injured on the way. So what they would do is they would buy clean animals for sacrifice when they got to the city. So the money changers are performing that important service for the Jewish pilgrims, so that they can buy sacrifices and have them offered in the temple.

The problem seems to be where they are doing the selling. Scholars think that these Jewish moneychangers set up their tables in the outer court of Herod’s expanded temple — a place for Gentile “God-fearers” to worship the God of Israel. Therefore, the moneychangers are robbing the Gentiles of the ability to come and pray in the house of the father.

“This was both His first public appearance before the nation and His first visit to the temple as the Messiah. He had already worked His first miracle at Cana; now He came into His Father’s house to claim a Son’s right” ~ Sheen, LC, 95

“The part of the temple out of which Our Lord drove the traders was known as the Porch of Solomon, the eastern side of the Court of the Gentiles. This section should have served as a symbol showing that all the nations of the world were welcome; but the traders were defiling it. He was now making it clear that the temple was meant for all nations, not for Jerusalem alone” ~ Sheen, LC, 96

15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!

And so Jesus drives them out and says stop making my father’s house a house a trade, because you can’t pray in a marketplace. You can’t pray whenever you’re surrounded by oxen, and sheep, and goats bleeding, and just the noise, and the busyness, and the bustle of a marketplace. So Jesus here wants to purify and cleanse that sacred space that was set apart, that was holy. In Hebrew, the word holy, qadosh, means set apart. This place was set apart for prayer for the nations, and they are turning it into a market instead. So that’s, I think, the real reason for the action of Jesus.

“He called the temple “My Father’s house,” affirming at the same moment His own filial relationship to the Heavenly Father” ~ Sheen, LC, 96

“He is the Lord the prophets said would come – to purify the temple, banish the merchants, and make it a house of prayer for all peoples (see Zechariah 14:21; Malachi 3:1-5; Isaiah 56:7)” ~ Scott Hahn

17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The disciples pick up on Jesus’ reason for doing this by remembering Psalm 69. In other words, Jesus loves the temple so much he can’t bear to see its holiness desecrated by turning it into just one more market.

18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?”

The word for “the Jews” is literally oi loudaíoi in Greek, it means the Judeans. It means the people of the South, the people especially of Jerusalem; as opposed to the Galileans, which Jesus and his disciples would’ve been referred to as Galileans. So both Galileans and Judeans are Jews. They all celebrate the same festivals, they all keep the same religious beliefs, they belong to the same religion, as we would say, but they’re from the north and the south. And there are tensions throughout John’s Gospel between Galileans and Judeans, or between the disciples of Jesus and the Jews. So just keep that in mind here

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

“The people who heard these words never forgot them. Three years later, at the trial, they would bring them up again in a slightly distorted form, accusing Him of saying: I will destroy this temple that is made by men’s hands, and in three days I will build another (Mk 14:58). They remembered His words again as He hung upon the Cross (Mk 15:29). They were still haunted by His words when they asked Pilate to take precautions in guarding HIs grave. They understood by then that He had been referring not just to their temple of stone, but to His Body (Mt 28:63-64). The theme of the temple was echoed again in the trial and martyrdom of Stephen, when the persecutors charged that (Acts 6:13). He was actually throwing down a challenge when He said to them: “Destroy!” He did not say, “If you destroy…” He was challenging them directly to test His kingly and priestly power by a Crucifixion, and He would answer it with a Resurrection.” ~ Sheen, LC 97-8

“It is important to note that in the original Greek of the Gospel, Our Lord did not use the word hieron, which was the usual Greek name for the temple, but rather naos, which mean the Holy of Holies of the temple… It is very likely that Our Blessed Lord pointed to His own Body when He spoke in this way” ~ Sheen, LC 98-9

20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?”

46 years — This refers to the King Herod’s expansion & beautifying of the second temple (that had been rebuilt already in the 5th century B.C. by Ezra & Nehemiah). Herod was trying to fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah would build a temple greater than Solomon’s.

“They may have been referring to the temple of Zorobabel which had taken 46 years to build. It was begun in the 1st year of the reign of Cyrus in 559 BC, and completed in 513, the 9th year of Darius. It is also possible that they may have been referring to the alterations of Herod, which had perhaps been going on for 46 years at that point. The alterations had begun about the year 20 BC, they were not completed until 63 AD.

21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body.

From a 1st century Jewish perspective, the temple was nothing less than the dwelling place of God on earth. So Jesus points to His divinity — Jesus identifies himself as the true temple, what he’s revealing is that he is the dwelling place of God on earth. And Jesus points to His resurrection — because they are going to destroy the temple of his body, but on the third day he’s going to rebuild it by being raised from the dead in the resurrection.

“No Temple was ever more systematically destroyed than was His Body. The dome of the Temple, His head, was crowned with thorns; the foundations of it, His sacred feet, were riven with nails; the transepts, His hands, were stretched out in the form of a Cross; the Holy of Holies, His Heart, was pierced with a lance” ~ Sheen, LC, 101

“Jesus’ body – destroyed on the cross and raised up three days later – is the new and true sanctuary. From the temple of His body, rivers of living water flow, the Spirit of grace that makes each of us a temple (see 1 Corinthians 3:16), and together builds us into a dwelling place of God (see Ephesians 2:22)” ~ Scott Hahn

22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

“Satan had tempted Our Lord in the desert to an apparent sacrifice by asking Him to fling Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. Our Lord rejected this spectacular form of sacrifice… His sacrifice would not be a piece of pointless exhibitionism, but an act of redemptive self-humiliation. Satan proposed that He expose His Temple to possible ruin for the sake of exhibitionism, for the sake of display; but Our Lord exposed the Temple of His Body to certain ruin for the sake of salvation and atonement” ~ Sheen, LC, 101

23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

This refers to a common theme in John’s Gospel — Jesus being reseted by his own people. So it’s kind of like a foreshadowing of the fact that Jesus is not going to give into their demands for a sign. He’s not going to entrust himself to them because he knows already who’s going to accept him, and who’s going to reject him; because he can read the hearts of human beings, precisely because he is the dwelling place of God on earth, he is the temple in person.

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